SNA Nature Notes - Fall 2012

Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas header

Fall 2012

Photo of CeCe Martin

In the Eye of the Beholder

Research is an important part of why Scientific and Natural Areas are established. Scientific is in the name after all! Cece Martin, a PhD student at the University of Minnesota, was granted permits to collect native plants on several prairie SNA sites in 2011. These plants were screened in labs at the University for antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Martin, her advisors, and Aveda Corp. are looking for compounds to be used in cosmetics and other products. The right plants could form the basis for an alternative agricultural crop providing both economic and ecological benefits to our region. To learn more about the project see the full article in Solutions, the online magazine from the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences.



Photo of patterned fen

Searching for Rare Emeralds in Sand Lake Peatland SNA

By Dave Grosshuesch, Biologist with the Superior National Forest

It was July, a time of year when the emeralds are shimmering, a time of year I find myself being drawn to bogs, and a time of year that focuses all my attention towards finding emeralds! The emeralds (Somatochlora spp.), dragonflies in the family Corduliidae, are known for their bold green eyes and bright metallic green bodies, which are unique when compared to all other North American dragonflies. Just ask any serious dragonfly nerd what their favorite group of dragonflies is and more often than not they will answer "emeralds!" We are fortunate in northern Minnesota to have abundant bog habitat, a favorite haunt for most emeralds, which means the region is home to several (9) species.

On this particular dragonfly search we were trying to locate one of the rarest in Minnesota, the Quebec emerald (Somatochlora brevicincta). In July of 2005 two enthusiasts documented the first known specimen for the state in Lake County. In 2006 it was confirmed that this species was breeding in the state by exuviae (shed larval skin) that was found in the same area. Since then there have been no other locations found in the state – until 2012! On July 14 a small group of folks made a trek into the Sand Lake Peatland SNA. Quebec emeralds are associated with patterned fen habitat elsewhere in North America and the Sand Lake Peatland SNA is known for its patterned fens.

With some careful planning, we hiked 2.5 miles into the SNA on an unusually hot summer day. Once in the black spruce bog several Somatochlora were observed flying about – some careful netting revealed delicate emeralds (S. franklini), lake emeralds (S. cingulata), and a brush-tipped emerald (S. walshii) . After what seemed like several hours, we finally found ourselves overlooking flarks (network of pools) intermixed with sedges – we were in the fen! Walking around the edge we noticed a pair of Somatochlora flying in tandem – they soon landed on a nearby spruce bough, and with a bit of luck they were netted. It didn't take long to realize we had stumbled on something different. After careful examination of photographs by other dragonfly experts, we knew we had found the second known location of Quebec emerald in the state!

The Sand Lake Peatland SNA is a real gem in Minnesota – and it is home to several rare plants, animals, and insects, and now includes another gem: the Quebec emerald.



Photo of visitor taking picture in a prairie

SNA Events Don't End With Summer

Fall and winter see continued volunteer projects and events at selected SNAs. Consider one of the following fun events. A full list is available on the SNA Events Calendar.



Moose Mountain SNA

Earthworms at Moose Mountain SNA


Felton Prairie SNA

History Hike at the Bicentennial Unit of the Felton Prairie


Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Volunteer Project: Seed Collection, Invasive Removal




Photo of family enjoying Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Site Highlight: Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

By Kelsey Olson, SNA and Park Naturalist

The late summer and fall season has already been a busy and beautiful one at Blanket Flower Prairie SNA. The SNA Program recently purchased 134 acres to add to the high-quality prairie that makes up much of this scenic site. A dedication ceremony for this addition took place on August 24th. The new unit, called the Ole Huseby Homestead Unit, is named after this early settler. His descendants sold the property to the DNR to preserve it for future generations.

On September 8th a group of visitors joined the SNA Naturalist for a guided hike to see fall colors on the prairie. When asked what colors came to their minds when they think of fall shouts of "Orange!" "Red!" and "Yellow!" were heard, but the prairie holds a vast array of unexpected color. The deep blue of the gentian flower was seen as were the last purple blooms of the rough blazing star. The prairie was a rolling sea of big bluestem and pink switch grass blowing in the wind.

And the season isn't over yet! You are invited to join in on a hike over the breath-taking vista of this prairie on Saturday, October 13th from 1:00-3:00pm. See this events calendar listing for more details and we look forward to seeing you!



Photo of debris on Lake Superior shoreline

Notes from Site Stewards

The SNA Program continues to focus energy on our "green swarm" of site stewards. As summer melds into fall observation reports keep rolling in. Here are some interesting notes from our stewards:

  • Bruce Ludewig, noted debris on the shore of Lake Superior (shown above) near Minnesota Point Pine Forest SNA in his July 9th report. He thought it probably washed up after the June 20th floods in the Duluth area.
  • Our resident dragonfly expert and site steward at Clear Lake SNA, Arne Myrabo, has documented a number of new occurrences of these odonata over the summer. He was pretty excited about a Frosted Whiteface and a Plains Clubtail which were new records for Sherburne County and his first sighting of these species!
  • Stewards are critical for reporting problems and illegal activities. Charlotte Hoffstrom relates in her August 20th report from Glynn Prairie SNA that she saw "some tire tracks through the prairie from either a car/truck or ATV." It turns out SNA staff were doing invasive species management work on the site, but observations like this would help us if illegal activities are found to be taking place and are much appreciated from our stewards.

Thanks stewards for submitting those reports, and keep them coming!



Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).