Natural Shore Technologies |  612-703-7581 
January Article

Winter Wonders in Your Restoration


Yes! We have quickly entered the heart of winter and are enjoying all its tundra-like wonders.  Back are warnings of polar vortexes, dangerous wind chills, and icy roads to navigate.  Just like most Minnesotans, we at Natural Shore embrace the season and focus on fun activities like skiing, sledding, and ice fishing.  Another activity we look forward to with the snow is walking through our restorations and observing the subtle and interesting ways wildlife use natural areas to survive our winters. Here are a few of our recent winter observations.



What are those tracks?


Many small mammals walk in and above the snow, often leaving an interesting matrix of tracks in prairie and shoreland buffer areas. This year, we have noticed many elaborate field mice tunnels crisscrossing back and forth

 throughout the landscape. Burrowing under the snow allows the mice to escape predators like owls and hawks. During periods of warm weather, these protected snow tunnels melt; leaving these little guys exposed when they are moving around.  It is likely that hawks and other avian predators take advantage of this and feed more successfully during these periods of thaw.


Tracks of other busy creatures can be seen in our restorations, showing how playful animals can be even during cold temperatures.  The tracks lay out a scene where multiple rabbits or fat squirrels run back and forth, hopping all over the snow.





That bird is still here?


We have also noticed a lot of feathered friends flitting in and out of upland buffer areas, landing on taller plants like big bluestem, prairie blazing star, and grey-headed coneflower. Birds actively search for the variety of seeds

our native plants provide all winter long.  Cardinals, Chick-a-dees, Blue jays, and many other songbirds are winter residents, and can often be seen landing on Bergamot, Pale Purple Coneflower, Black Eyed Susan, and other long lasting winter seed producers.


Other interesting observations?

Certain species of animals are pretty stealthy and difficult to spot.  Sometimes it's worth looking for the little "presents" that animals leave behind. Scat is a great indicator of the activities our winter wildlife residents are up to.  Many times you can identify an animal by their scat.  So if you have evidence of an unknown visitor to your restoration, identifying scat can be very useful in breaking the case!


We also love waking up to hoar frost, the build-up of ice crystals on a hard surface like a tree or native plant branch. The frost creates a picturesque landscape straight out of a classic holiday card.


What winter wonders have you noticed in your restoration? Share your observations on our facebook page!

Native Plant of the Month
Little Bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Moisture: Moist or Dry
Exposure: Sun or Partial Shade
Bloom: August-September
Height: 1-3 feet

Little Bluestem is a native perennial prairie grass that was once very common in our historic prairie landscapes. It grows in tight clumps in dry and sandy soils in prairies, roadsides, and other dry areas. It is a warm season grass, meaning it really takes off when Minnesota summer temperatures start rising. The leaves are a greenish-blue in the spring and summer but turn reddish in the fall which lasts through winter. The leaf blades are about a 1/4 of an inch wide and about 10-12 inches long with spikelets of flowers on the top. As the flowers produce seed they become white and feathery, with the seed eventually falling off. Little Bluestem  is a host plant for a variety of butterflies in Minnesota and is a very popular landscaping plant. 
Invasive Plant of the Month

Common Reed or Phragmites     

Phragmites australis subsp. australis


Moisture: Wet or Moist

Exposure: Full Sun

Height: Can grow over 15 Feet!

Blooms: July-September


Common Reed is a perennial wetland grass that is easily confused with a native species of Phragmites. It forms dense monocultures that produce a thick thatch layer that blocks out sun to native species. The large fluffy seedheads flower in July and will stay on through winter; unlike the native Phragmites which usually drop their seedhead in the fall. The leaves are dark green and very wide, about 1 1/2 inches thick. These leaves also stay on the stem through winter unlike the native species which shed their leaves. The native Phragmites also have bright red stems. The dense infestations of Common Reed become thicker and thicker over time as their rhizomes spread. This means it is important to control early infestations quickly with herbicide, prescribed fire, and mowing the seedheads off. Repeat treatments will likely be required. 

Pollinator of the Month

Eastern Bumble Bee

Bombus impatiens


Range: Eastern North America 

Habitat: A variety of urban and rural areas

Identification: Males and workers are smaller than the queens (queens are about 17-22 mm). Legs and head are black. Hairs on thorax are shaggy and a light yellow. Hairs on the abdomen are black. 

Pollination: The Eastern Bumble Bee visits many different species of native and non-native plants. Native plants this species visits include Joe Pye Weed, Boneset, Various Goldenrod Species, Anise Hyssop, Milkweed species, Aster species, Harebell, Coreopsis, Rattlesnake Master, Wild Geranium, Sneezeweed, Oxeye, Liatris Species, Purple Prairie Clover, and many more!

January 2015 Issue
Our Company
Retail Nursery News
Our Retail Nursery is closed for the season. Check our website for next year's retail dates and other updates.

Click and visit our website for current
Minnnesota Native Plant Brand ensures that plant species are native to Minnesota. 
Upcoming Events

Join us again for The Stearns County Shoreland Training at the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, MN. Thursday January 29th 8am-4pm

Join us again for the Wild Ones Annual Design With Nature Conference Saturday February 21st at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 40 Power Street, Minneapolis.