So green, so good

The St. Croix Valley is offering a short and sweet feast for the senses.




5 minute read

This is an important time. The trees are half-leafed, birds are defending territory and watching over eggs, and the woods are simply full of flowers. It is also a short season and I suggest you go see it.

Before the tree canopy closes for the season, there is a flurry of growth as numerous flower species growing on the forest floor try to gather sunlight while they still can. Meanwhile, insects are feeding on the fresh leaves and the flower nectar, pollinating the plants and providing food for the birds.

And it all sounds like the sweetest song in the universe, and it smells like life itself, and it feels cool and soft on your skin.

Spring is simply sublime. But the season will soon be something else.

It seems like bird migration just started, but most of the best territories are probably now claimed, and the birds are getting ready for chicks as quickly as they can. There’s no time to waste.

On the river, great blue herons are also on their nests, though I’ve heard no reports of chicks yet. My mom did spot a prothontary warbler in the Stillwater Islands. I have not yet seen one this year.

In the shallows, the white bass are gathered in swirling schools of frenzied spawning.

I was scrambling down a bluff on some old lost trail the other day, when some small flowers caught my attention. They had delicate leaves and little white petals, and yellow stamen I almost couldn’t see.

It seemed to be growing right out of exposed sandstone, which was green and covered in moss and other growth on this cool, shady, east-facing spot.

It was new to me, but with help from the phone app Seek, made by iNaturalist, I soon knew what it was.

The flowers were Arabidopsis lyrata, also known as Sand Cress, and also known as Lyre-leaved Rock Cress. It’s a native flower that is found up and down Minnesota’s eastern border, throughout Wisconsin, and much of the northern hemisphere.

Arabidopsis lyrata, St. Croix River bluff. (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Its first common name, Sand Cress, indicates where it likes to live. The plant likes dry, sandy soils, from dry prairies to these types of sandstone bluffs.

“[It] can be seen (among other places) along the St. Croix River, seemingly growing out of the solid rock of the cliff face along the river,” says the Minnesota Wildflowers website.

It is also known for not competing well with weeds, so only survives in relatively undisturbed areas — like these steep cliffs not suitable for grazing, plowing, or any other exploitation.

The flower’s second name, Lyre-leaved, alludes to its appearance, specifically the slender foliage. I’ve always liked the lyre, the harplike musical instrument of Ancient Greece, because of its role in classical literature.

Orpheus Charming the Animals, ca. 1600
(Josias Murer II, Swiss, 1564 – 1630)

The storied Orpheus, who almost rescued his wife Eurydice from Hades, was taught how to play the lyre by one of the greatest Greek gods, Apollo. Orpheus could play so beautifully it charmed animals into “subduing their innate hostilities,” according to curators at the Getty Museum, in text about the artwork above.

“The theme of Orpheus charming the animals was one of the most popular among artists living in Northern Europe in the 1500s and 1600s. During this era of intense political upheaval and religious strife, the story came to express the hope in the power of art and poetry to conquer, and even resolve, irreconcilable conflict.”

J.Paul Getty Museum

I digress, but these old stories still have messages for modern times.

The Lyre-leaved Cress knows none of the stories, none of the strife, none of the meaning. Neither do the birds, bugs nor trees. They grow, they give, they survive. Humans remember the stories.

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The title for this blog post comes from comments on an Instagram photo I posted yesterday. First, Dave Morlock wrote “So green!” then a few minutes later Linda Christianson wrote “So good,” and I just liked how it sounded.


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One response to “So green, so good”

  1. Mark Hove Avatar
    Mark Hove

    Very nice


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So green, so good