On The Garden Path: Trails

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STRIKING: Butterfly weed, above, is a plant that produces clusters of showy flowers.
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Wild geraniums are delicate flowers that create a beautiful display wherever they are planted.
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FLAMBOYANT: Marsh marigolds are a deep-yellow wildflower that bloom in early spring.

My love of walking has made me appreciate nature trails and county parks. I’ve always lived fairly close to Rice Creek, which meanders through southeast Anoka County, Minn., finally coming to the Mississippi River a few miles away. I’m thankful for the paths I walk, where there are many different flowers blooming.

Marsh marigolds are the first wildflowers to bloom in early spring. Their golden blossoms are showy and eye-catching. I found them by a tiny stream that flows into Rice Creek, which in turns flows into the Mississippi River.

I have a special fondness for egrets and great blue herons, which can be seen in the creek, strolling along looking for a meal.

When I see a Jack-in-the-pulpit or a trillium, which are rare these days, my heart beats a little faster because I used to see them all the time as a child, when they were common. Now, I’m happy to know that the park crew is careful to preserve them.

The wild geraniums I see are pinkish-lavender, with beautiful, deeply lobed leaves with many sharp points. I also find Canada anemones and spiderworts. The Canada anemones have white blossoms of five petals, with leaves similar to the leaves of wild geraniums. The spiderworts have blooms of three bluish-colored petals and leaves that are long and grasslike. Those blossoms are in clusters, but they open one at a time.

Solomon’s seal is a peculiar-looking arching plant, 1 to 3 feet long, with two or three small white, bell-shaped blossoms that dangle underneath at the leaf axils.

In the summer, I watch for the striking red-orange butterfly weed in the meadow toward Baldwin Lake. It thrives well in the sandy soil, and butterflies like it, hence its name.

I’ve been privileged to find a few evening primrose plants, too. They grow 3 to 4 feet tall and have clusters of yellow blossoms, which open in the evening. And this past year, I found some gentians for the first time. They had several blue, closed-tube flowers 1 to 1 1/2 inches at the top and at the leaf axils.

I’m glad the city and county have maintained these areas, where wildlife can survive. As I walk the paths, I hear various bird songs, and I see many bushes with berries on them that the birds like to eat.