Nestled in the southern corridor of Theodore Wirth Park is a natural botanic garden that serves as a city dwellers respite from Minneapolis. Just 3 miles west of downtown Minneapolis, you will find the entrance to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. For over a century, this garden has provided beautiful native wildflower displays and phenomenal birding opportunities for the curious visitor.
What Makes It Great
Offering 1.5 miles of well-maintained wood chip trails, this garden takes you through 3 distinct ecosystems: a wetland complex, a hardwood forest, and an oak savannah. Each section fosters varying plant and bird species. In the wetland complex, cattails line the path and redwing black birds are a common visitor. If you continue west through the bog, there is a rustic bridge that overlooks a pond. From there, you can see many different wetland plant species, such as Red Turtleheads or Jewelweed. The common name for Jewelweed is “Touch-me-not” because even the slightest touch will make its seed poaches rupture. Try it out!
As you continue on the trail, head east to find yourself surrounded in hemlocks. You have entered the hardwood forest. There are many benches to sit and rest your feet. The best spot to take a breather and to see the local wildlife is the Ken Avery Birding Terrace. Don’t forget to look up from time to time to see a Downey woodpecker foraging for food in the trees.
A skip-and-a-hop from the birding terrace, the trail begins to incline upwards, the conifer trees slowly disappear, and the surroundings transform into a sunny upland prairie and oak savannah. In this environment, you will see honeybees buzzing about, collecting nectar from the hundreds of different wildflowers. There is even a small loop that takes you through a fern glen, which hosts over 15 different fern species. After a mile of shaded trails, the upland prairie is a pleasant place to soak up the sun and smell the flowers.
While in the sanctuary, if you thirst for more knowledge about the bountiful plants and wildlife surrounding you, then you’re in luck. There are 49 interpretive stations dotted throughout the entire trail. These stations give the scientific and common name for most plants and a handful of them tell the garden’s history. It’s a great way to spruce up your knowledge about Minnesota’s abundant natural beauty.
For more information about the park, visit the friendly staff at the Martha E. Crone Visitor Center, found in the center of the garden. Open from April 1st to October 15th, you will not be disappointed by the seasonal flower blooms and birding opportunities of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.
Who is Going to Love It
Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the birdwatching and plant identification opportunities that Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary has to offer.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park is open from mid-April to mid-to-late October from 7:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset.
There are two entrances to the park: the front gate to the south and the back gate to the north. There is a parking lot at the front gate, but some spaces require Annual Patron Parking Permits, while others are metered parking. The locals park on Glenwood Avenue or at the Theodore Wirth Beach parking lot and then walk to the back gate.