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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Searching for Spring in the Arboretum

<an style="vertical-align: baseline">As we get well and truly into April, it’s starting to feel like spring will never come.  True, we’ve had some cold days, and the snow seems to never stop coming, but if you look closely, the signs of spring are cropping up everywhere in the Arboretum.  This last week, the student naturalists took a walk through the Lower Arb alongside the Canon to see what we could find to give us hope that warmer weather is on it’s way!

There may not be wildflowers covering the ground yet (though their leaves are starting to peek out here and there), but if you look up, there are signs of plant life all around.  Trees, especially maples, are beginning to put out buds. It’s the time of year when the sap flows up to the top of the tree to help grow new leaves. As a result, sugar maple tapping happens at this time of year, when there’s a high sap flow and a high sugar concentration.  

We got to see proof of this flow firsthand, where a beaver had taken down a handful of young box elders along the Canon River. Despite the name, box elders are maples, and can be tapped for sugar. Where the stumps of these trees stood, sap flowed freely from the chisel-like tooth marks.  It tasted more like water than syrup: the sugar is concentrated by boiling the water out of the sap.The plant life isn’t the only place we see spring arriving: the animal life also changes with the seasons.

Last week you read about the sandhill cranes arriving back in Minnesota, but they aren’t the only ones. As ponds begin to melt into open water, waterfowl begin to pour into the newly available feeding grounds.  Turtle Pond in the lower Arb is now melted, and has attracted mallards, teals, and dozens of wood ducks. If you want to see these beautiful birds, approach the pond quietly, maybe with binoculars, or all you’ll see is a blur of wings as the whole flock lifts off.

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