Friends of the Wildflower Garden

A web of present and past events

graphic logo

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.

This month we look forward to the Wildflower Garden in October and the colors of autumn. We give some hints of what to look for on the boardwalk and in the upland. We provide charts of how to maintain stem-nesting bee habitat, a description of the changes in the Wildflower Garden perimeter and give details on our October 10th annual meeting and guest speaker.

This Month

Friends Annual Meeting


The Wildflower Garden in October


Fall Gardening for Bees


The Wildflower Garden Perimeter Changes


Friends Annual Meeting and Guest Speaker

Save the Date

Alan Branhagen
Alan Branhagen in the field. Photo. U of M

The Annual Meeting of the Friends will be at 7 PM on Tuesday October 10, 2023 in the Fireside Room of the Chalet in Theodore Wirth Park - 1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway. All are welcome. Bring your friends and neighbors to this event. No reservations necessary.

Our guest speaker will be Alan Branhagen, Executive Director of Natural Land Institute in Rockford, IL.

He will speak on “Looking Forward to a Livelier Landscape. Indigenous plant-based landscapes, the best is yet to come!” Until recently, Mr. Branhagen was Director of Operations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Prior to that he was director of horticulture at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden.

Mr. Branhagen has published three books for midwest gardeners: Native Plants of the Midwest, The Midwest Native Plant Primer, and A Gardener's Butterfly Book. Big Hill Books be at the meeting and have the Native Plant Primer available for purchase.

Required annual meeting activities, including election of directors, will be brief.

Wirth Park Chalet

Wirth Chalet - photo Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

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The Wildflower Garden in October

October is the end of the season at the Wildflower Garden. graphic of seed thumbnail page

The Shelter and Garden close for weekdays on October 15. The Shelter and Garden are open on weekends thereafter to the end of October. Fall colors are arriving on the trees and shrubs, while a few of the late flowers still offer blooms. Most prominent of the flowers will be the late asters, especially the New England Aster. While a few sun flowers and goldenrods are also blooming this month, October is a time of seed heads and fruits - the produce of the native plants.

Our autumn seed and fruit page shows some of the most common seed heads and fruits you will encounter. You can download a printable copy from that page.

Look for these three plants identified by their fruit:

Willowherb: As you walk along the boardwalk you will see a number of plants with an unruly twisted mess on top - see photo below. this is the Willowherb - Epilobium coloratum. You may miss it when the leaves are green and in flower, but not when going to seed. The flowers have a long, thin calyx tube which matures to long, thin seed capsules that split open in four segnments from the tip, like a gaping mouth, exposing small seeds which are attached to long fine white pappus (hair).

Below: Willowherb in fall dress. Photo G D Bebeau

Willowherb seed heads

A most colorful combination is offered by the deep blue berries of the grape woodbine, set against the plant’s red fall leaf color. Grape woodbine is similar to Virginia Creeper, but much more abundant in our area. The berries are larger and the cluster is 2x or 3x branched whereas creeper has a distinct central axis, usually not branched.

Color of a single shade, and that of cardinal flower red, is found in the seed capsules of the Eastern Wahoo. They resemble 4-cornered hats and hang in clusters on the shrub. They are in the woodland and the upland, but the upland will have the show if the sun and temperature are favorable this year.

grape woodbine fruit
Fall colors of Grape Woodbine
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Eastern Wahoo seed capsules
Seed capsules of Eastern Wahoo
Euonymus atropurpureus

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Fall Gardening for the Bees

seasonal graphic

Now is the time to provide shelter for native bees and wasps that seek shelter and nesting in plant stems.

Almost 90 of our 470 native bees nest in cavities in stems or wood. To maintain this bee population, we need to keep this years plant stems over winter. This seasonal chart, provided by Heather Holm, Colleen Satyshur, Elaine Evens and Sarah Foltz Jordan shows the simple steps needed to do this.

leaf cutter bee in a stem
Leaf Cutter Resin Bee, Megachile campanulae. Photo - Heather Holm.

Over 100 years ago Eloise Butler followed the practice of leaving plant stems in place over winter, except for those that turned slimy, were a pestilence, or looked like long black rat tails. Gardeners then moved to cleanliness but as more and more communities are advocating maintaining native gardens for the betterment of the environment, it is no longer considered unsightly to leave a few plant stems after the growing season.

The steps to maintain this habitat are clearly explained on the chart provided here. There are a large number of common native plants that our midwest bees prefer. That list is on the second chart. Both are provided the University of Minnesota BeeLab. Use the links below to download a full size pdf copy of each chart.

Download link for Habitat Chart.

Download link for Plant and Bee Chart.

bee habitat chart bees and plants used chart

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The Wildflower Garden perimeter changes.

There have been four times when the perimeter of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden changed, marking an increase or decrease in the size of the Garden, which then remained fixed for a long period of time.

1987 garden map
The Garden perimeter from 1946 to 1992 is shown on this 1987 MPRB plan map.

After the initial establishment in 1907 as 3 acres, concentrated in the wetland, the Garden expanded under Eloise Butler until by 1924, it incorporated about 25 acres of Glenwood Park (the name at the time). In 1924 Butler enclosed part of that with a partial, but usable fence. In 1938, a cyclone fence was installed as part of a WPA program and that fence eliminated some of the north meadow and primarily enclosed what is now the woodland/wetland part of the Garden - about 10 acres.

In 1944 the upland was added, adding 4 acres, but the north meadow was abandoned, and the new 4 acres were fenced in 1946. That remained the shape of the Garden perimeter, as shown on the 1987 map, for 46 years until 1992. Then, the back fence was re-positioned to where it is today.

modern garden plan map
This more current MPRB perimeter map shows the repositioned north fence, and the approximate lines of the 1993 and 2022 additions.

Between 1990 and 2005 the Friends provided funds for replacing the cyclone fence near the front and back gates with black wrought iron fencing. Replacement of the two gates to those you see today were also part of that effort. Neither change modified the perimeter area.

In 1993 an additional acre was added to the upland. This remained for 30 years until the winter of 2022/23 part of the upland cyclone fence was moved outward and replaced with new fencing.

2023: Now another change has been proposed by the Friends and Garden Curator Susan Wilkins. The change would add more new fence on the northeast upland and incorporate another acre or so into the Garden between the Fern Glen and the north gate. This area has been worked over by the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) and other volunteers and invasives have been reduced to reguire only regular annual control measures. There is no schedule yet for when this modification will happen.

For a more compete history of the Garden size and fencing see our history article at this link.

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Photo Note

Photos that are credited with a "CC " caption are used under Creative Commons license for educational purposes. The letters and numbers, such as "CC-BY-SA 3.0" refer to the license type. These photos may be used by others only for free educational purposes so long as credit is given to the original author whose name precedes the license type. You may learn all about the requirements on the Creative Commons webpage.

Previous articles

August 2013 - School Classes in the Garden

August 2013 - The Wildflower Garden in September

August 2013 - Beneficial Wasps

August 2013 - Black Saddlebags

August 2013 - American Lotus in the Garden

July 2023 - Friends Annual Meeting Guest Speaker

July 2023 - The Wildflower Garden in August

July 2023 - The story behind the name - Riddell's Goldenrod

July 2023 - Fruit for rooters

July 2023 - Happenstance at the welcome kiosk - A woman walks by . . .

June 2023 - Kids Visits to the Garden Need Support

June 2023 - The Wildflower Garden in July

June 2023 - Lilies of the Garden

June 2023 - The Butler Memorial Association

June 2023 - The Hottest Summer

May 2023 - Kids Visits to the Garden Need Support

May 2023 - The Wildflower Garden in June

May 2023 - Lady's-slippers of the Garden

May 2023 - The Indigos

All selections published in 2023

All selections published in 2022

Selections published in 2021

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