Friends of the Wild Flower Garden


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.

This Month

Friends activities: Fall Volunteer Events


Garden history bit: Plants from Isle Royal


Did you know: Bees have fun


An interesting Garden plant

Fall Volunteer Events

The Volunteer Appreciation Event Resumes

The fall season concluded with a successful Volunteer Appreciation Event held on October 30th. This annual event had been in hibernation during the Covid outbreaks and many were appreciative of being able to attend once more. The room at Lake of Isles Lutheran Church, food and beverages were provided by the Friends, desserts by Susan Wilkins. Thanks to Pam Weiner and Melissa Hansen for organizing.

Volunteers looking happy at the Volunteer Appreciation Event - photo (l-r) Melissa Hansen, Pam Lapham, Kimberly Ishkov, Jennifer Olson.

Volunteer appreciation event

The Friends held the very first Volunteer Appreciation Event in the summer of 1979. It was a picnic at the Garden. What happened was explained in the Fringed Gentian™:

The Board hosted a picnic for our many loyal volunteers on June 16th. Unfortunately the weather truly tried everyone's mettle. In the midst of driving rain and tornadic winds a small group of very loyal Friends assembled for a rollicking good time. An excellent feast was prepared by Marjorie Dean and Jane Hooper . . . and enjoyed by all. To the many volunteers whose intelligent caution kept them from joining our merry group . . . the BOARD does truly appreciate your hours of dedication in keeping the Martha Crone Shelter open during the season. Thank you each! Thank you all!

FIPAG events

Earlier in the month the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) held three Buckthorn removal events in the Volunteer Stewardship Area outside the Garden. This area around the Maple Glen has been cleared of much of the invasive plant growth and in addition to the natives re-emerging, the Friends have purchased seeds of native plant and grasses to restore the area. Thanks to Jim Proctor and Kari Christianson for leading this group.

Hauling removed buckthorn to the disposal pile during the October FIPAG event. Photo by Bob Ambler.

FIPAG event - hauling buckthorn

Back to the top.

A bit of history - Plants from Isle Royale

Isle Royale map

In the days of the Garden’s first two curators, Eloise Butler and Martha Crone, a number of rare plants from Isle Royale were added to the Garden. The first mention of this source was in Butler’s 1920 and 1921 Garden Log when she planted False Toadflax (Geocaulon lividum) and Devils Club (Oplopanax horridus).

Devil's Club
Devil's Club, Oplopanax horridus. Photo R. A. Howard.

She did not list who provided these but my guess it was her friend Gertrude Cram who was listed as the source of all later plants from Isle Royale. Mrs. Cram went to Isle Royale most summers in August staying at Rock Harbor Lodge and sent back plants for the Garden. She was one of the first persons to congratulate Martha Crone on assuming the Curatorship when she wrote on April 23, 1933:

“I have heard so much of you from Miss Butler that you seem like an old acquaintance. I am so glad to hear that you are to be in her beloved garden in her stead. - I trust for more than temporarily - for I am sure it is what she would have desired.”

Most of these plants of the north were either rare or not existant in Minnesota, so they fulfilled a desire of Eloise and Martha to plant whatever may be suitable for the local habitat to see if they could grow here. Most of course, were too far south and did not survive long term, but some did last well into the 1960s.

Mrs. Cram would mail the plants back to Minneapolis from the Island. An example of her humorous writing is the following from August 8, 1933:

“By the Wednesday boat I am sending you a box of things, a funny one. It contains a sample of a number of plants of which you may or may not want more. ... This is what Miss Butler used to call a ‘surprise’ package, I am sure. The tall yellow things on top of the box is (sic), I think, Lysimachia terrestis, (Swamp Candles) which Miss Butler asked for last year. The roots go to China. I don’t think I got much, for as I was groveling in the muck among sticks and roots I couldn’t seem to feel the ends of the ones I was blindly following.”

A list of the various plants from Isle Royale sent to the Garden over the years of the 1930s, other than those mentioned, includes:

Fairy Slipper Orchid, Calypso Bulbosa. Photo by Martha Crone.

Calypso Bulbosa, Fairy Slipper Orchid
Cryptogramma acrostichoides, American Rock Brake Fern
Dryopteris fragrans, Fragrant Fern
Gaultheria hispidula, Creeping Snowberry
Geranium carolinianum, Carolina Geranium
Goodyera oblongifolia, Western Rattlesnake Plantain
Goodyera pubescens, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain
Goodyera repens, Lesser Rattlesnake Plantain
Goodyera tesselata, Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain
Listera convallarioides, Broad-lipped Twayblade
Pinguicula vulgaris, the Common Butterwort
Platanthera clavellata, Small Green Wood Orchis
Primula farinosa, Mealy Primrose
Primula mistassinica, Dwarf Primrose
Saxifraga tricuspidata, Three-toothed Saxifrage
Viburnum edule, Squash berry.

Broad-lipped Twayblade
Broad-lipped Twayblade, Listera convallarioides. Photo R. K. Kupfer, Wisconsin Flora
Dwarf Primrose
Dwarf Primrose, Primula mistassinica. Photo Asa Thoresen, Wisconsin Flora.

Back to the top.

Bumblebees Bees have fun

Children play, animals are seen to play, even some birds play, but bees?? Decades of research indicate that bees will engage in play activity unrelated to any reward. The video linked here is great fun.

Bumblebees seem to have a ball rolling around plastic balls. The test of whether it is play or not is that it
(1) did not contribute to immediate survival strategies,
(2) was intrinsically rewarding,
(3) differed from functional behavior in form,
(4) was repeated but not stereotyped, and
(5) was initiated under stress-free conditions.

Below - Frames from a video of bees rolling round balls.

Bee activity

Initially the experiment was to train bees to roll a ball in order to access food, but the researchers noted that bees would roll the ball around for no apparent reason. Then they made food freely available at any time the bees wanted it and also provided access to a different chamber where they could play - many bees chose to play when they could - Furthermore - bees that had not had the early training would roll balls after observing others doing it.

This video link will show 90-seconds of their activity. The most fun part is at the end.

The main researchers of this work were Hiruni Samadi Galpayage Dona and Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University, London. Dr. Chittka has spent his entire career studying the habit of bees. He was always chagrined when colleagues in animal and bird research would report on play activity, so he decided it was time to experiment.

You can read all about the experiment setup and full results in the article recently published in Animal Behavior - link to pdf version of the study

The article and video are open access under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license
(creative commons licenses)

Do bumble bees play?
Authors: Hiruni Samadi Galpayage Dona (a), Cwyn Solvi (a, b), Amelia Kowalewska (a), Kaarle M€akela (b) , HaDi MaBouDi (c) , Lars Chittka (a)
a School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, U.K.
b Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
c Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, U.K.

Back to the top.

Garden plant spotlight

Wherein we link Helen of Troy, snuff, the elder Pliny and folk remedies.

Do these have any connection to a plant in the Wildflower Garden? Yes, but only when we talk about Sneezeweeds, one of which is found in Minnesota and in the Garden - Helenium autumnale, a 2 to 6 foot composite in the Aster family. There are 32 species of Helenium world wide, most with “sneezeweed” in the name. It seems that the pollen causes violent sneezing when inhaled and that powdered flower heads were used medicinally for that purpose.(1)

Sneezeweed flowers

As to Helen, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) is said to have assigned the genus name Helenium for Helen of Troy but he undoubtedly was only copying the ancients since the elder Pliny wrote in his Natural History

“that helenium had its origin in the tears of Helen and the plant juice is generally thought to have been used for improving the appearance, and to maintain unimpaired the freshness of the skin in females, both of the face and of other parts of the body. Besides this, it is generally supposed that the use of it confers additional graces on the person, and ensures universal attraction.” [The plant stem contains a sweet juice.](2)

Coming forward in time to the Garden, Eloise Butler, who introduced Helenium to the Garden in 1907, wrote in September 1911:

Helenium autumnale is a glorious, late composite in rich, low land. From now on it will unfold its golden disks as long as any flower endures. It blossoms freely and often attains a height of six feet. The soft yellow ray petals are divided like those of coreopsis and surround a convex disk. The leaves are pale green, just the right shade to harmonize with the flowers. They run down on the angles of the stem, making narrow, winglike projections. If the leaves are dried and pulverized they make a titillating powder as efficacious as snuff for those who enjoy sneezing, hence its common name, sneezeweed."

"Florists cultivate the plant and have produced from it varieties. It is excellent for formal gardens on account of its height, refined color and its late, profuse blooms. It never fails to respond under transplanting. A colony of sneezeweed in the wild garden of two successive seasons which was lifted when in full bloom has repaid the labor by continuing to bloom at its appointed time.”(3)

Gaius Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Elder. National Archives.

Pliny has more to say:

“They say, too, that, taken with wine, it promotes gaiety of spirit, having, in fact, a similar effect to the nepenthes,(4).. which has been so much vaunted by Homer, as producing forgetfulness of all sorrow. The juice of this plant is remarkably sweet, and the root of it, taken fasting in water, is good for hardness of breathing; 'it is white within, and sweet. An infusion of it is taken in wine for the stings of serpents; and the plant, bruised, it is said, will kill mice.”

Isn't it great to have such a useful plant around!

Learn to identiy Sneezeweed - here's our fact sheet.

(1) George, Ada E.–   A Manual of Weeds–   Macmillan   1914–
(2) Pliny wrote his Natural History mostly as a compilation of information already published, so please understand that these ideas were not necessarily his but they do demonstrate the tendency of the ancient writers to list a great number of attributes to certain plants. Pliny died at Stabiae in 79CE during the eruption of Vesuvius.
(3) Published September 3, 1911, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune.
(4) Scholars believe that Homer's reference is to what today is called opium.


Back to the top.

Previous articles

October 2022 - Propagation of species by mechanical explosive tension.

October 2022 - Plant census of a small plot

October 2022 - Garden photos from late October.

October 2022 - Eloise Butler gives garden clean-up advice.

September 2022 - A new invasive cattail.

September 2022 - Eloise Butler's last Garden project.

September 2022 - The Garden in late September.

September 2022 - Friends Annual Meeting highlights.

August 2022 - A vaccine for Poison Ivy -

August 2022 - Fountains in the Garden -

August 2022 - The Garden in late August

August 2022 - The Joe-Pye Weeds

All selections published in 2022

Selections published in 2021

Selections published in 2020

Back to the top.