Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Milkweeds flourish at River Bend July 23, 2021

Bees feed on a milkweed flower at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

IN MY MESS OF FLOWERBEDS, which are anything but orderly, random milkweeds grow. Some sprouted in the lawn. Others simply popped up among the phlox and ferns and iris and greenery, seeds blown by the wind, dropping to the ground, rising now toward the sun.

Milkweeds thrive on the prairie at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Back in the days of my youth, I would have yanked these milkweeds from the soil under the direction of my farmer father. Remove those weeds from the corn and soybean fields. I know better now. Milkweed plants are essential to the monarch butterfly.

I love the dusty hue of the common milkweed. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

The milkweed is the host plant for the monarch. They lay eggs on the leaves, the larvae then feeding on those leaves.

The milkweed attracts more than just monarchs. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Without milkweeds, the monarch would become extinct.

Butterfly milkweed, although much less abundant, also grows at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

More and more, if you take note, you will see milkweeds growing. At River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, fields of common milkweed, dusty pink in color, grow, as do some of the more flashy orange butterfly milkweed.

The exceedingly brilliant butterfly milkweed, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I appreciate the value of this plant in the natural cycle, in sustaining the monarch butterfly population. This is but one example of how we are all intertwined. Every creature. One dependent on the other.

Milkweed and flowers flourish on the River Bend prairie. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I marvel at this intricate world God created. I love to watch a monarch butterfly flit through the air, settle on a blossom, drink its fill of nectar, then rise and fly. Delicate, yet sturdy. Dependent on milkweed and other flowers, yet free.

What a lovely and beautiful sight in a world where beauty is too often missed in the busyness of life, among all the weeds.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

More than a Christmas cactus December 11, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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MY CHRISTMAS CACTUS, snugged into a corner of my dining room, blooms heavy with fuchsia blossoms.

I haven’t figured out how to time the flowering closer to Christmas. Each autumn I move the plant indoors to the dark basement, hoping that buds will form and flowers open late in December. That never happens. By late November buds develop and so I move the plant upstairs into the light and warmth. By Christmas, the cactus is all bloomed out.

Yet, does it matter? What matters is that the showy cactus fills my house with a beauty unmatched. And with a reminder of the maternal grandmother who died 64 years ago on December 1, two months after my birth.

My cactus flourished as a cutting from Grandma Josephine’s Christmas cactus. I don’t know the history of the original cactus, which was passed to my mother. But it’s been the source of many cuttings by family members. A link to the grandmother who died too young at age 49. The woman whom I’ve been told was loving and kind and caring. A lot like my mother, Arlene…

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling