Parks update // Unusual flower offers rare bloom at Eloise Butler

A rare-for-Minnesota plant that local botanist and schoolteacher Eloise Butler discovered in 1924 in her namesake garden bloomed last month for the first time in at least a decade.

The Mountain Laurel, or Kalmia latifolia, opened its pink and white petals in early June in the same spot it was found 86 years ago, off the trail on a steep slope on the garden’s west end. The long-lived, leafy, evergreen shrub is native to the eastern U.S. and has been known to grow as close as Illinois, said garden curator Susan Wilkins. It was last seen blooming in the 1990s.

The garden, located at Theodore Wirth Parkway and Glenwood Avenue, was established in 1907, but Butler didn’t make a note of the Mountain Laurel until 20 years later.

“It’s all very interesting that she discovered this unusual plant growing here, but she herself didn’t plant it,” Wilkins said. “Who in the world would plant it? I’m not exactly sure.”

Wilkins has tried to plant other Mountain Laurels in the garden, but she said they haven’t done well. They’re hard to establish because they need acidic soil, partial shade and warmer temperatures. The original shrub, though, has grown steadily over the years to a height of 4 feet and a width of about 10 feet, which Wilkins said is typical in its native environment.  

Its bloom was nearing an end by late June. One theory for the strange bloom cycle, Wilkins said, is that the plant blooms after snowy winters, when it’s insulated from the cold.
The plant is visible from the trail and Wilkins said anyone looking for it could ask staff for help. To avoid damaging the Mountain Laurel and other species, visitors should not wander off the trail.

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Park Board to host meetings on public participation and engagement

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will host four public meetings this month to gather input for a new public participation and engagement policy.
The board’s goals are to increase responsiveness to the public, identify the needs of and strengthen the relationship with the community and future generations, improve public access to information, and define the roles of Park Board staff, commissioners and community members.

One of this month’s meetings will be in Southwest — on July 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Lynnhurst Park, 1345 Minnehaha Pkwy. W.

Paper surveys on the topic can be filled out and submitted at recreation centers throughout the city and an online survey is available in the lower left corner of minneapolisparks.org.

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Noted

David Fisher, Park Board superintendent from 1981–1998, returned as interim superintendent July 1, following the departure of Jon Gurban. Board commissioners unanimously approved hiring Fisher in March.

The board is searching for a new superintendent and hopes to have the position filled by October.

The Park Board will host a public meeting July 22 to discuss the possible addition of a much-anticipated off-leash dog area at Martin Luther King Park. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the park’s recreation center, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S.