Twigs and Branches - 2020

A web of present and past events

These short articles are written to highlight connections of the plants, history and lore of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden with different time frames or outside connections. A web of intersections.

Dec. 31, 2020: Another bit of Minneapolis history involving the Martha Crone Shelter at the Garden - part 3 of our 50th anniversary review:

The woman in charge:
In 1971 Friends President Robert Dassett, concluded his recollections about being on the Friends Board by adding "and finally the rather feverish, hectic, but rewarding activity of the past several years when, under the leadership of the human dynamo, Cay Faragher, the new Martha Crone Shelter was planned, built and opened.”

That was an apt statement. On May 18th, 1968 Catherine (Cay) Farager joined the Friends Board of Directors and was elected President, succeeding Ken Avery who was president in 1966-1968. The Friends were already discussing a new office and shelter building for the Garden and the Friends would have to be the ones pushing the idea to the Park Board. Since Ken Avery was also the Garden Curator and Gardener he may have felt he should not be the one speaking for the Friends. Cay Faragher undoubtedly knew what she was about to help manage.

She brought Wilber Tusler and Harry Thorn, who were the subjects of part 1 of this history, onto the Friends Board. She scheduled meeting after meeting at her home with the building committee and Park Board representatives, made phone call after phone call and wrote frequently to our membership to orchestrate this whole affair. The notes she kept have allowed us to know details otherwise forgotten - like the facts that Superintendent Robert Ruhe was originally against the project; that her phone call to Lewis Crutcher, head of engineering for the Park Board, broke the log-jam when he let out that Mr. Ruhe was leaning toward an OK but only if the Friends would plan it and pay for it.

Her letters to the Friends membership were appealing and down to earth - one sentence of one letter read “There are only 200 of us; some will be unable to contribute, but those of you who can will be richly rewarded with the knowledge that you have helped to safeguard and keep for future generations the Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary.”

Cay faragher

The Friends, unfortunately, kept very few photos of anything back in the earlier years and the only photo we have of Cay is from a 1959 newspaper article when she was chair of the annual art solon at the Minneapolis Woman’s Club - a building that Wilber Tusler’s firm designed. She is speaking with sculptor Peter Lupori in that photo. The Woman’s Club was one of her many civic activities. These included being part of the Minnesota United Nations association and the 1976 Bi-centennial Commission. She was on the Friends Board until 1977. More details.

Dec. 27, 2020: Another bit of Minneapolis history involving the Martha Crone Shelter at the Garden - part 2 of our 50th anniversary review:

Alvin Witt
Alvin Witt

What was the first self-service grocery store in Minnesota and the first to use shopping carts? Who had the Great Buffalo Sale in 1945? The answer to both is Witt’s Market with several Twin City locations and main store at 705 Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. They also raised their own poultry on a farm near Osseo MN. One of the three brothers who owned the markets was Alvin Witt. He became a Friends director in 1963 and was the third person, acting as treasurer, on the Friends building committee for the Crone Shelter. In his spare time he collected autographs and speciality stamps. His entire collection was stolen in 1967 when it was valued at $19,000.

As to the Great Buffalo Sale, domestic meats were rationed in World War II but not buffalo, so in 1945 the Witt brothers contracted to acquire 100 head to have a “great buffalo sale,” but only 40 head were delivered and they sold out the first day, which was fortunate because meat rationing without advance notice was discontinued the next day. Alvin said in 1963 "That was a mighty lucky thing too. If we had gotten all of them we would still be selling buffalo meat.” The brothers had a piece of property in Golden Valley where part of the grounds were a picnic area that any neighbor could use. It was fittingly called “Witt’s End.”

Below: The Great Buffalo Sale at Witt's Market on Hennepin Ave.

Witt market
Witt Fountain
The memorial fountain for Bernice Witt.

Sadness also came his way as it did to Wilber Tusler who we discussed last week. Just after the Shelter was dedicated in May 1970, Witt’s wife Bernice passed away and memorial funds paid for that limestone fountain that bears her name right in front of the Crone Shelter.

Perhaps you never noticed but The Friends name contains ‘wild flower’ as two words and the Garden name has ‘wildflower’ as one word. For that we blame, meaning it’s his fault, Alvin Witt. In the Friends 1968 building proposal to the Board of Park Commissioners Witt inserted a request to add “and Bird Sanctuary” to the Garden’s name and he proposed “Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary” dropping the word “garden”from the original 1929 name of “Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden.” The commissioners approved in 1969 but it came out as ‘wildflower and bird sanctuary’ In 1986 the name was officially changed to todays name - “Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary” putting “garden” back in where it was originally. Meanwhile the Friends had already been formed in 1952 with “wild flower” as two words and have never legally changed the name.

Next posting I will write about the woman who organized this committee and orchestrated the whole event of building the shelter - Cay Faragher.

Dec. 15, 2020: A bit of Minneapolis history involving the Martha Crone Shelter at the Garden - part 1:

When Col. Theodore Roosevelt came to Minneapolis on Sept. 1, 1926 to address 3,500 people at the Hennepin County Sportsman’s Association, the group’s president wanted a stage decoration centerpiece that would make the colonel sit up and take notice, so he sent Wilber Tusler to northern Minnesota to find the oldest and most picturesque wigwam he could acquire and if anybody could find one he said, would be Wilber Tusler.

Wilber Tusler
Wilber Tusler

As we reach the end of 2020, which is the 50th anniversary of building the Shelter, I was thinking of the small group of the Friends that got it built and the interconnections between them. Tusler was chair of the Friend’s building committee and at the time was retired from his architectural firm of Magney & Tusler, a firm that did the architectural work on the main Minneapolis Post Office, the Young-Quinlan Building, the Minneapolis Woman’s Club, the Foshay Tower, Abbott, Swedish, Northwestern and Deaconess Hospitals and the Prudential Insurance Campus on Wayzata Blvd. So, who better to be in charge of building and getting the job done?

Tusler handled most of the contacts with the Board of Park Commissioners. The first problem was that Superintendent Robert Ruhe was cold on the idea as he thought the Friends wanted a nice building to use as a club house in a city park. After convincing him otherwise and that it was time to replace the 53 year old Garden office, the second problem was that the Park Board could not foresee budget money for this for at least a decade, so the Superintendent said show us your own plans for approval and have it built yourself Tusler was good at building big structures so he hired Hiram Livingston who was well known for designing homes in Golden Valley, to create a design for a “rustic” shelter. What you see today is what he designed - all for $12 per hour in fees.

Below: Hiram Livingston's drawing for the Garden Shelter. Click or touch image for larger version.

Shelter drawing
Harry Thorn
Harry Thorn

One other building committee member, Harry Thorn, took part in Tusler’s meetings with the Park Board. Harry was a retired executive of a large advertising agency and he was in effect the treasurer of the committee. He was also a great photographer of birds and flowers and offered photography classes to psychiatric patients at the Veterans Hospital. Since the Park Board had no budget funds, He asked them to finance it, but that wasn’t allowed either. First National Bank declined to finance it since the Friends did not own the land, but suggested he visit Prudential which had built the Wayzata Blvd. campus - the very one that Tusler’s firm had been design architect on - on what was acquired Park Board land, plus they were next door to the Garden, but that synergy did not work either.

So the Friends now had to raise the money themselves if there was to be a new building. Meanwhile, Wilber Tusler’s wife, Margaret, died during this planning stage and when you pass through the doorway into the shelter, her name is on the memorial lintel above the door. Livingston’s design is shown in the photo.

Margaret Tusler memorial

More next posting on the others involved.

Nov. 29, 2020: Bird Feeding in the Park
Probably only a few people are still around who remember the origins of bird feeding in Theodore Wirth Park and in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, starting with a single bird feeding station in the area of the Hemlock grove of the Wildflower Garden, then by the back gate, then inside the back and front gate and of course in many places around the Garden office and shelter. That first station was started by one woman, Miss Lulu May Aler, when Eloise Butler was still alive.

Every day in winter she walked a mile from her home to put out the feed, donated by Garden clubs, Audubon members and other individuals. She missed on the day of the Armistice blizzard, but shoveled her way through the following day. People saved their squash, cantaloupe and sunflower seeds to contribute in the winter feeding.

She was active in the Minneapolis Audubon Society, was president of the Society in the 1940s, gave talks on birds to many groups, was an expert photographer of birds and as far as we know, she was the first person to give weekly morning bird walks in Wirth Park.

In her other life she was the superintendent of the Minneapolis Maternity Hospital at 2215 Glenwood Ave. from the 1920s into the late 1930s. She was close friends with Martha Crone who was curator of the Wild Flower Garden during this period, but after that we lose track of her, other than we believe she moved to Ohio and probably died there. More details here.

Below: The main bird feeding station in Wirth Park circa 1936. 1936 bird station

Nov. 15, 2020: The 2020 Garden Season
Looking back on the past season at Eloise Butler and the operational changes made by the Garden Staff, Curator Susan Wilkins and the MPRB due to COVID-19, the conclusion made is that despite restricted entrance and restricted Garden activities, people were able to enjoy the Garden in a year when, as Susan states, the plants were flourishing. The staff produced a number of weekly streaming videos of plant tours and children’s activities. The photo shows the front gate entrance set-up this past season.

garden front gate in 2020

Parts of the wetland have become too wet for certain species - the red maples and ash trees especially, but more small trees and shrubs that like that environment have been added in recent years. Care and maintenance of the Garden went on despite COVID-19. In addition to plants provided by the MPRB, the Friends funded the planting of 2,664 herbaceous plants, ferns and sedges. This group included 36 different species. You can see the entire list at this link. Unfortunately, we could not provide any bus transportation to K-12 students this Summer due to visiting restrictions, but we hope 2021 might be less restrictive.

The Friends want to thank all of the people who have managed during this period of uncertainty in economic and employment conditions to continue their support of the Friends mission. We have committed additional reserves to the Garden in 2021 as it is a resource of plant and bird habitat in the inner city that is unmatched for contemplation, viewing and education.

Nov. 1 2020 - Diversity on a small lot:
I arrived at my current abode on a 1/2 acre lot 9 years ago. Beside the improvements there was a semblance of a lawn, numerous trees and two wooded areas filled with buckthorn. In the first summer the buckthorn was eliminated. Since then the following list of wild flowering plants have appeared on the lot - a few were hidden within the buckthorn, the rest have simply shown up as the years went by - from seeds in the soil, bird droppings or the wind. This list has over 60 species, not counting various small weeds and excludes the 100+ native species that have been planted.

One must marvel at the local area variety of plant species for this to happen, and most people going on local walks or tending their carefully manicured yards, seem to be oblivious to all this diversity around them as native plant areas are very uncommon. Here’s the list with common names. Adding Latin names would simple inflate the length of this note. You can lookup full information sheets on all of these plants on this website by accessing the plant Common Name List.

The list: Anise hyssop, anise root, arrow-leaved aster, bird's-fool trefoil, black medick, black nightshade, bland sweet cicely, burdock, burnweed, canada violet, canadian horseweed, catmint, clearweed, cleavers, climbing nightshade, common blue violet, common milkweed, common plantain, curly dock, dames rocket, dandelion, downy yellow violet, early meadow rue, eastern wood sedge, enchanter's nightshade, false solomon's seal, fragrant bedstraw, grape woodbine, ground ivy, hooked crowfoot, jack-in-the-pulpit, kidney leaf buttercup, lawn prunella, motherwort, mouse-ear chickweed, night flowering catchfly, oxeye daisy, pale woodland sunflower, pennsylvania sedge, philadelphia fleabane, poison ivy, red elderberry rough cinquefoil, solomon's seal, spotted touch-me-not, sprengle's sedge, stellate sedge, stinging nettle, tall goldenrod, thyme leaf speedwell ,virginia stickseed, virginia waterleaf, white clover, white panicle aster, white sweet clover, white vervain, wild geranium, wild leak, willowherb, yarrow, yellow oxalis.

Hooked Crowfoot

Following Eloise Butler’s early dictate that every plant has a place all have been tolerated - some for only a season however, then controlled every year otherwise chaos reigns - one learns from experience just as Eloise and Martha Crone did. Martha had written in her 1951 history “The original plan of allowing plants to grow at will after they were once established, and without restraint, soon proved disastrous. Several easy-growing varieties spread very rapidly and soon shaded out some of the more desirable plants.”

A few are kept in small places - like stinging nettle - because as Martha wrote “it’s educational.”

I am showing two of these that were really a surprise - Aniseroot (below) and Hooked Crowfoot (above).
Gary Bebeau.


Oct. 17 2020 - work in the Maple Glen:
On this afternoon the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) completed this seasons work the Maple Glen just Southeast of the front gate and parking lot of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. In 2013 it was revealed that there was a hidden Maple Glen there - hidden by a dense thicket of buckthorn and garlic mustard. In 2014 FIPAG, co-chaired by Jim Proctor and Kari Christianson, began to clear the area, exposing the maple slopes of the glen which is a natural amphitheater with a seasonal pool at the bottom.

The photo with all the green shows the impenetrable thicket along the service road to the Garden in 2014 that obscured the site. The current 2 photos show the hillsides devoid of buckthorn that would still be green-leaved in October. Many young shrubs are now growing along with native forbs. One entire hillside is an ancient swath of Interrupted fern similar to a similar hillside in the Wildflower Garden. To stabilize the hillside after removal of the buckthorn roots grasses, sedges and pollinator plants have been added in a few spots. Work will continue next year. If you wish to volunteer you can sign-up for FIPAG work notices on our "Volunteer" page

The only historical record of this area in relation to the Wildflower Garden is a 1938 aerial photograph that clearly shows the area and then in 1942 when Martha Crone reported that Mr. Whitney Eastman discovered a “western tanager” south of upper gate just west of "deep hole" that hole being the maple glen.

More about the Maple Glen

2014 maple glen 2020 MapleGlen Maple Glen 2020

Sept. 30, 2020 - A Friends project 25th anniversary

2020 is the 25th anniversary year of several improvements added to the Wildflower Garden in 1995. There are 3 fountains in the Garden, constructed with limestone bases, and the newest one, being referred to here, is up on the prairie near the large White Oak. The dedication plaque is to Dr. Daniel Nordquist. The fountain was built by LaMere Concrete & Masonry and funded by the Friends via a memorial from Dr. Nordquist’s mother and father. They also funded as a memorial, the wood bookcase that sits by the volunteer’s desk in the Garden Shelter.

nordquist fountain
Nordquist Fountain

There was never any drinkable running water in the Garden until 1947. Eloise Butler and others to that date had to rely on the nearby springs, one of which was within the Garden area until 1944. The first of the three fountains came in 1971.
More on Garden springs

A more substantial improvement was the back gate - the one you enter in if you come from Wirth Beach - at least you could if Covid-19 protocols had not closed it for this season. This construction was designed by Brower and Associates, built by LaMere Concrete, and funded by the Friends for $9,089. The original design included four columns, just like the front gate, but the cost was too high, so only two columns were built. Then the iron work on the gate, the wrought iron fencing in the immediate area of the gate, plus the wrought iron fencing that is currently around the front gate (photo below) was installed by Able Fence Co. and funded by the Friends for $8,300.

The back gate and surrounding iron fencing

Back Gate

The back gate work continued into 1997 with the stone work retaining walls completed by the MPRB. Then in 2005 the Friends funded the continuation of the iron fencing from the back gate area to the back corners of the Garden. The first fence of significance in the Garden was Eloise Butler's 1924 fence, which only enclosed the most precious parts of her Garden. The cyclone fence of 1938 was the first to surround the entire Garden as it was then constituted.
More on Garden fences. More detail on 1995.

The front gate and the extended iron fencing.

Front gate fencing

All these 1995 improvements have held up well these 25 years.

Sept. 16, 2020 - Bird migration:
At Eloise Butler the migration of birds has always been recorded - first in the Garden Logs of Eloise Butler and Martha Crone and later in notes by the Garden Naturalists.

The understanding that many species of small birds seasonally migrate was not established fact until the 19th century. In the 18th century it was much in doubt as Gilbert White (photo) wrote in a letter on Nov. 4, 1767 to fellow naturalist Daines Barrington:
"As to the short-winged soft-billed birds, which come trooping in such numbers in the spring, I am at a loss even what to suspect about them. I watched them narrowly this year, and saw them abound till about Michaelmas, when they appeared no longer. Subsist they cannot openly among us, and yet elude the eyes of the inquisitive: and as to their hiding, no man pretends to have found any of them in a torpid state in the winter. But with regard to their migration, what difficulties attend that supposition! that such feeble bad fliers (who the summer long never flit but from hedge to hedge) should be able to traverse vast seas and continents in order to enjoy milder seasons amidst the regions of Africa!" from A Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White.

There was one individual in the 18th Century that did expouse migration - Dr. Edward Jenner. A century before Charles Darwin, he was formulating his own ideas about evolution but we don’t remember him for that, another achievement overshadows them all - he was the discoverer of vaccination. A century from now people will look back at the 21st century and ask why we were so unenlightened on some contemporary topic.

Sept. 8, 2020 - Spirals in nature.
When Leonardo of Pisa (1180-1250), important Italian mathematician, wanted to know how fast rabbits multiply he derived a sequence of numbers that unlocked in later years some secrets in the plant kingdom. You may have noticed that many plants exhibit arrangement of parts in an increasing sequence of numbers such as leaves around a stem, number of petals or number of florets in the disc of aster family plants. Many of these parts are arranged in spirals, frequently two sets of spirals, winding in opposite directions. He was known as Fibonacci (”son of Bonaccio”) thus his sequence is known as the Fibonacci Sequence and it goes 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89 etc and is arrived at by adding the two previous numbers to get the next number. The number of spirals in the disc of a coneflower or a sunflower is usually a Fibonacci number as are the number of florets in each spiral for those who like to count such things.

Grayheaded Coneflower

You can see the counter twining spirals in the photos of the coneflower, the spruce cone and the vervain. This all has to do with spacing - so that each element gets the amount of exposure needed. Other examples from plants are a sequence of species with ever-increasing number of petals. Lilies have 3 petals, most buttercups have 5, delphiniums eight, and so it goes. Incidentally, the rabbit question posed in his book, Liber Abaci, was “How many pairs of rabbits will be produced in a year, beginning with a single pair, if in every month each pair bears a new pair which becomes productive from the second month on?”

Hoary vervain Norway spruce cone

Aug. 22, 2020 - A sensitive charmer.
One of the most charming upland plants that blooms this time of year is the Partridge Pea, also known as the Sensitive Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). It has a happy face with the bright red blotch at the base of 3 or 4 of the 5 petals and unusual in the Pea Family of plants (the Febaceae) in that it is an open face, rather than the reproductive parts being concealed within a pair of keel petals. You may notice that it resembles Wild Senna in whose genus (Senna) it was originally classified in Eloise Butler's day. It is an annual so it must scatter its seeds for regeneration which it does when the mature pod splits open with a twist, flinging seeds in all directions. As to the “sensitive” part of the name, Eloise Butler explains:
“The beauty of the large flower of clear, bright yellow is enhanced by a purplish brown eye formed by the stamens and the blotching of some of the petals. The delicate, fresh, green leaflets of the compound leaf close together when touched and also for protection from cold at night.”
She is correct on the night-time part as the leaves are sensitive to daylight and fold the leaflets toward each other with darkness. Sensitive to the touch is, shall we say, more touchy, as I have found it seldom works. It is known as Partridge Pea because the seeds are an important winter food for upland game birds. In earlier times it was considered the bane of pastures as it is strongly cathartic to browsing mammals, causing sickness, not only with fresh plants but with winter fodder that had Partridge Pea growing with it when harvested and stored. White-tailed deer however like it and are not affected.

Partridge Pea