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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

SHOWY LADY SLIPPERS

Flower patch decimated by county brusher

Neighbors fear attraction could be gone for good

David Colburn
Posted 7/1/20

GREANEY- Beryl Novak and Jim Prepodnik, who live on Sethers Rd. north of Greaney, have big soft spots in their hearts for showy ladyslippers, the state flower— and in particular a large patch …

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SHOWY LADY SLIPPERS

Flower patch decimated by county brusher

Neighbors fear attraction could be gone for good

Posted

GREANEY- Beryl Novak and Jim Prepodnik, who live on Sethers Rd. north of Greaney, have big soft spots in their hearts for showy ladyslippers, the state flower— and in particular a large patch that, until recently, used to lie along the road between them.
“I’ve seen them for over 50 years over here,” Novak said of the patch, which is at most a couple of hundred yards north of Prepodnik’s house.
Yet both the flowers and the two gentlemen’s hearts were ripped to shreds a little over a week ago when a county brusher came through and destroyed all but two of the blooming beauties.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Novak said. “It just chewed everything up. They were all along here. There’s nothing here now.”
“I heard them doing it,” Prepodnik said. “It didn’t dawn on me that anybody could be that stupid. I’ve lived here all my life. There was never any need to alter this hillside before now.”
The patch stretched about 20 yards, filling the ditch and going up a slope about five to ten feet to a tree line. On the end closest to a nearby stream a solitary tattered plant and bloom remained. Novak walked alongside the jumbled remains of shattered limbs.
“Look at how he dug in here, just cut way down in the ground,” he said.
He reached the far end of the patch and stepped up the hill, pointing out a second remaining bloom behind a tree trunk.
“There’s a survivor,” Novak said. “He couldn’t quite reach it to kill it.’
Trailing behind, Prepodnik surveyed the damage.
“This whole hillside was covered with them at times,” he said. “At other times there weren’t as many. This area here was covered with them.”
Novak said he had talked with a county road foreman who told him that the branches needed to be trimmed because strobe lights on service trucks were hitting them.
“Well, that’s up there,” Novak said, pointing up at chopped off limbs. Then he pointed to gouge marks at the base of several trees and in the dirt. “What do you call this?”
Novak said the foreman also told him that the county planned to remove some trees and reshape the ditch because the road was starting to wash out. To a casual observer, a segment of road appeared to show signs of recent water pooling and runoff, and portions of the ditch had either filled in or were higher than the adjacent road.
“That’s what he told me, ditch work,” Novak said.
Both men said the patch was well-known in the area, and that it was common to see cars parked on the road during blooms as drivers and riders got out to admire the flowers.
And when the showy ladyslippers aren’t in bloom, both men have pictures in their houses that let them enjoy the flowers year-round.
“My daughter had her graduation pictures taken in here,” Prepodnik said. “We had a professional photographer do it.”
Prepodnik had the photographer take pictures of his daughter, and also of the flowers by themselves.
“Those pictures are hanging all over the place. He really did a nice job on them.”
“I’ve got a picture of one at home, there’s 12 flowers on that one plant,” Novak said.
Novak noted the irony of the destruction, given the legal protections given the state flower.
“If somebody came in here and picked them or dug one up and tried to steal it and somebody caught them, you know what would happen,” he said.
Neither man held out much hope that the patch would reappear next year.
“They’re orchids, they’re not dandelions,” Novak said. “They’re not going to pop out of the ground again. They just plain killed the things.”
Novak seemed resigned to the end of a 50-year tradition of anticipating the blooming of the orchids.
“That’s the thrill of living up here,” he said. “You enjoy stuff as it comes. That’s the way we live up here.”
Prepodnik was equally dejected.
“I don’t expect to see any next year,” he said.

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