BY PHYLLIS ROOT AND KELLY POVO
We’ve headed out on a road trip to Winnipeg to catch a plane to Churchill, Manitoba, to take a class on sub-arctic wildflowers at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. Our plane leaves soon, but we’ve left a few days early to spend some time in the aspen tallgrass prairie parkland and places en route. Rain hammers down as we leave town, but we’re hopeful we will drive through it. Kelly assures me the forecast is for the rain to end at three.
We’ve packed, unpacked, repacked, shopped for essentials (including bug shirts, our new favorite thing) and packed some more. Churchill’s weather will be cool and rainy, but Minnesota promises to be hot and sunny, a forecast that the cold rain pouring down clearly hasn’t heard. We drive on in hope toward Long Lake Conservation Center, where last year we hiked through the woods to see several rose pogonia and grass pink orchids. This time we’ve been offered a canoe to paddle down past floating bogs toward where we saw the orchids. Rain still falls as we don our new bug shirts under raincoats and launch the canoe at 1:30, but within five minutes the rain no longer matters, because we’ve come to a gathering of blue flag, pitcher plant, and rose pogonia—not just one rose pogonia, but many. We paddle on, past more and more rose pogonia, the occasional grass pink, bog rosemary, water lilies, yellow pond lilies, water shield, bog cranberries, water arum, and sundew with tiny, tiny buds almost ready to bloom.
We paddle back through a richness of flowers we had never imagined when we hiked out to see orchids last year. It all depends on your point of view, and the view from the water is spectacular.
And at three minutes after three, the rain stops.
Phyllis Root and Kelly Povo spent ten years collaborating on Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers: A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone in Between. Check back on this blog as they document their wildflower-seeking adventures this summer.