Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Phenology Report, September 13 2022

 Curly dock and great water dock
Curly dock and great water dock

We are solidly into fall, and John's organized this week's phenology report into four sections: things that have fruit, things that are signs of fall, things that are still blooming, and everything that didn't fit in the other categories!

Things that have fruit:

  • Nannyberries: These fruits are still yellow-green. John has observed their unripe apple-green colored fruit all summer, but they've recently started turning yellow. They'll be a deep purple when they're ripe!
  • Black chokeberries: John's black chokeberry went years without producing any fruit, but the branches are laden with fruit this year. He reports that they taste astringent, much like a chokecherry (though they are very different fruits). John ate one on Sunday and compared its juiciness to that of a grape; now, they are a bit thicker, more like a fig. They're also less sweet than they were.
  • John reports that it's been a fascinating year to observe the interactions of fruiting plants and birds. The birds couldn't keep up with all the fruits and nuts available this year; Therefore, a much higher proportion of the seeds fell to the ground. For instance, John normally sees hazelnuts disappear within a day or two of ripening; this year, he saw them for a week or more. Similarly, his 40-year-old bur oak is a favorite of his local squirrels, and they harvest virtually all the acorns before they fall. This year, however, bur oak acorns made it to the ground! He saw the same thing in his white oaks, another favorite of the squirrels. Red oak acorns fall to the ground every year since they aren't as preferred by squirrels.
  • Oaks: Acorn production has been average this year. The oaks produced more acorns last year, which was a mast year.
  • Chokeberries: the birds won't move in to eat these fruits until all their preferred choices are gone; it'll be about the same time they start eating the high bush cranberries!
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit: These bright red berries are ripe and vibrant. Keep an eye out for them, and you'll discover Jack-in-the-pulpit plants that you may not have noticed before! If you're in a place that allows gathering, bring home a few seeds for your garden. They grow readily at John's place!
  • Northern Ash: These berries are bright orange but not quite at the stage that the birds start eating them.
  • Northern holly: These berries are starting to show a blush and will turn scarlet when they ripen.

Fall flowering plants:

Other observations:

  • Green darner dragonfly
  • Wandering glider dragonfly: John saw this dragonfly at Grand Rapids Riverfest, and it took the combined powers of John and his friend Dallas to identify it. The wandering glider dragonfly is golden, larger than a meadowhawk, and smaller than a darner. It is a migratory darner that comes up to Minnesota, is found on every continent on earth, and has been found onboard ships more than a hundred miles offshore!
  • Monarch butterflies: still present, will migrate south soon.
  • Mourning cloak butterflies: still present, will hibernate soon. Overwinters as an adult.
  • Compton's Tortoiseshell butterflies: still present, will hibernate soon. Overwinters as an adult.
  • Comma butterflies: Still present, will hibernate soon. Overwinters as an adult.
  • Milbert's tortoiseshell: John doesn't mention if this butterfly is present in the area, but it also overwinters as an adult.
  • Northern flickers: present in the area, likely in migration.
  • Pileated woodpeckers: John has observed young pileated woodpeckers near his house. He found two sitting in his driveway, "looking like ruffed grouse." His dog chased them, and they didn't take off until she was within 10 feet!
  • Hummingbirds: still present. John's latest record was the 18th of October in 2008, followed by the 10th of October in 2017. Last year, John saw his last hummingbird on the 20th of September. He recommends keeping your feeders only partially full so the sugarwater doesn't ferment. He also ups his ratio to three parts water to one part sugar to help the hummingbirds on their way south!
  • Barred owls: Calling at night
  • Ruffed grouse: increased drumming as the covey breaks up and males establish their winter territory.

Signs of fall:

  • Red maples are turning color.
  • Yellow birches are starting to get patches of color.
  • Some black ashes have turned entirely yellow, while others remain completely green. Trees in the lowlands tend to yellow earlier.
  • Common reed, found on the edges of lakes, is beginning to brown.
  • Smooth sumac is beginning to turn red.
  • Staghorn sumac is still green.
  • Ostrich ferns are beginning to brown.
  • Cattails are starting to turn brown.
  • Great water dock, found along water edges, is turning a vibrant red color. These plants are 4-5 feet tall.
  • Curly dock, found along roadsides and disturbed areas, is a dark coffee-colored brown.

See something noteworthy? We would love to hear from you! Get in touch with me ( or John (, or text 'phenology' to 218-326-1234.

For more phenology content, subscribe to our Season Watch newsletter!

As a mail carrier in rural Grand Rapids, Minn., for 35 years, John Latimer put his own stamp on a career that delivered more than letters. Indeed, while driving the hundred-mile round-trip daily route, he passed the time by observing and recording seasonal changes in nature, learning everything he could about the area’s weather, plants and animals, and becoming the go-to guy who could answer customers’ questions about what they were seeing in the environment.
Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.
Sarah Mitchell (she/they) joined the KAXE team in February of 2022. Sarah creates the Season Watch Newsletter, writes segment summaries for the website, and coordinates our Engaging Minnesotans with Phenology project. With a background in wildlife biology, Sarah enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, aquatic invertebrates, or the short-tailed shrew (did you know they can echolocate?).