Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #192 through #199

As Summer makes its inexorable march toward Fall, so does my 2014 wildflower list march on toward 200 species.  After finding eight new species on Monday (28 July 2014), my count for the year stands at One Hundred Ninety-nine species!  My  goal for the year was to find 200 species and I still have at least two full months of searching yet to go.  The Asters and Goldenrods haven't even started flowering yet.

Here are my most recent finds from Mission Creek Woodland Park.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #192 Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Plants are producers - meaning that they make their own food through the process of photosynthesis.  Unless they don't...

A ghostly pale corpse of a flower

My first find of the day was one of those few species of plants that lacks chlorophyll and is therefore incapable of producing its own food - Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora).  Because Indian Pipe cannot produce its own food it must get it from other sources.  In this way it acts more like a fungus than a plant - it is often confused for a fungus.

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

To get food, Indian Pipe forms a parasitic (possibly symbiotic) relationship with myccorhizal fungi.  These fungi grow in and among the roots of other plants and help the plants gather water and receive sugars (energy) from the roots of the plants.  Plants that form myccorhizal relationships with fungi are much more effective at gather water and nutrients from the soil than those plants that do not.  The Indian Pipe takes advantage of the relationship that these fungi have with certain species of trees (especially American Beech and some species of pine) to skim off some of the sugars for its own use.

Indian Pipe - note lack of leaves and the single flower on each stem

Because Indian Pipe plants lack chlorophyll they are pale white in color.  This color has given them the alternate names of Ghost Plant and Corpse Plant.  Some populations of this plant are occasionally tinted pink.  As the plants age they may develop dark spots and a purple or brown tinge.

Indian Pipe - the purple splotches on these flowers indicate that they are not newly emerged

Indian Pipe plants may grow singly or in clumps.  Individual plants may be up to 12 inches tall with a single flower on each leafless stalk.  The flowers of Indian Pipe are bell shaped and nodding.  Once pollinated, the flowers turn upright.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #193 Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

The next plant is one that I profiled in August 2013 - Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum).  Common Boneset is one of four Eupatorium species that are found in Michigan.  It is the the most widespread of the four.  In Michigan, it has been collected in almost every county.  Overall its ranges across eastern North America and is present in every state and province east of a line running from Manitoba south to eastern Texas.  It is most commonly found in moist open habitats such as marshes, wet meadows, and prairies.

Common Boneset in a cleared area in a red maple swamp

Common Boneset - note perfoliate leaves, hairy stems, and small white flowers

Common Boneset is easy to identify.  It grows between 2 and 6 feet tall.  It has flat-topped panicles (branched flower clusters) of small white flowers.  Individual flowers measure about 1/4 inch across.  The leaves of Common Boneset grow in opposite pairs with the bases of the leaves joined so that the stem of the plant appears to grow up through the leaf - the perfoliatum in the plant's name refers to this appearance.  All parts of Common Boneset appear hairy.

Common Boneset - a closer view of the flowers

Wildflowers of 2014 - # 194 Hairy Wood Mint (Blephilia hirsuta)

This next flower is another one that is a new find for me - Hairy Wood Mint (Blephilia hirsuta).  I found this plant growing throughout the Red Maple swamp at Mission Creek Park.  It is not uncommon, I just rarely visit this location during the middle of Summer.  In Michigan, Isabella County is at the northern limit of its current range.  Nationally, the plant is found in as far west as Nebraska and Kansas and as far south as Alabama and Georgia.  To the north its range extends from Minnesota eastward to Quebec.  This plant can be found in both upland and wetland habitats.

Hairy Wood Mint (Blephia hirsuta)

Like other mints, the leaves of Hairy Wood Mint are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem.  The leaves are oval shaped and serrated around their margins.  The flowers of Hairy Wood Mint are white with purple spots.  They are arranged in whorls on a spike above the plants leaves (and occasionally between the upper pairs of leaves).  The tiered whorls of flowers resemble the tiered rooftops of Asian pagodas, giving this plant another common name - Pagoda Plant.  Hairy Wood Mint plants may grow up to 3.5 feet tall.


Hairy Wood Mint - a closeup of the flowers shows why this plant is also known as Pagoda Plant, also note the hairy stems

Wildflowers of 2014 - #195 Panicled Tick-trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum)

The next flower was growing in large mats along Mission Creek.  Panicled Tick-trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) is one of twelve native Desmodium species found in Michigan.  The "Tick" part of the name Tick-trefoil refers to the tendency of these plants to have "sticky" seeds which attach easily to clothing, fur, and feathers, allowing the seeds to be spread from the parent plant.  The "trefoil" part of the name refers to the plant's three-part compound leaves.  The final part of the plant's name "Panicled" comes from the fact that its flowers grow in panicles or branching stems at the end of the plant.

Picled Tick-trefoil flowers and seed pods

The individual flowers of Panicled Tick-trefoil are small (1/4 inch), pink colored, and have the typical pea flower shape of a banner, wings, and keel.  The flowers in these pictures are not completely open.  The seed pods of Panicled Tick-trefoil are composed of several triangular segments covered with hooked hairs.  The segments readily break apart.

Panicled Tick-trefoil - note the small size of the flowers; the banner, wings, and keel are all visible in the middle flower

Panicled Tick-trefoil is found across the southern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula - Isabella County is at the north edge of its current range.  Panicled Tick-trefoil is found in every state east of the Mississippi River except Wisconsin and Minnesota.  West of the Mississippi, the plant can be found from Iowa and Nebraska south the Texas.


Wildflowers of 2014 - #196 Cut-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

The fifth flower of the day was Cut-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata).  This plant is also known as Tall Coneflower and can grow up to twelve feet tall.  It prefers the wet soils of swamps, shorelines, floodplains, etc. and can be found across much of the Continental United States (except Oregon, California, and Nevada) and the lower tier of Canadian Provinces.  Like other "coneflowers" the yellow petals of Cut-leaved Coneflower droop from the cylindrical disc to form a cone-shaped bloom.  The flowers may be as much as four inches across.  The leaves of Cut-leaved Coneflower are deeply divided into 3 to 7 lobes.

Cut-leaved Coneflower - note deeply lobed leaves and cone-shaped flowers

Cut-leaved Coneflower - a closeup showing the yellow disc flowers and drooping yellow rays (petals)

For more information on this plant, please see this species profile from August 2013.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #197 Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)

Up to this point every flower that I have described has been native to North America, but the next two species have been introduced from Eurasia.  The first non-native species of the day was Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides).  This species can grow in many soil conditions ranging from moist to dry and grows in both sun and shade.  This adaptability, its non-native status,  and its habit of spreading by underground rhyzomes has caused this plant to be labeled invasive by some sources.  It is now naturalized across the northern two-thirds of the United States and the lower half of Canada.

Creeping Bellflower - note the bell-shaped flowers from which the common name derives

Creeping Bellflower plants grow 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall with alternately arranged leaves.  The leaves are oval shaped, measure 2 to 4 inches long, and have toothed margins.  The leaves on the upper part of the plant are narrower than those near the base.  The plant's flowers are arranged on one side of a single flowering stalk (raceme).  The flowers are bell-shaped, up to 1 1/4 inches across, and violet-blue or blue in color.  The flowers bloom in sequence from the base of the raceme to the tip.  The raceme may measure up to a foot (or more) long.


Wildflowers of 2014 - #198 Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)

I should get excited about finding an orchid in one of Mt. Pleasant's parks, but its hard to when that orchid is an aggressive introduced species.  Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) is native to Eurasia and North Africa, but it has naturalized across much of the eastern United States and Canada as well as being found in scatter locations along the Pacific Coast and in the Rocky Mountains.  In Michigan it is found in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas.

Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)

Helleborine can grow in a variety of soil types, but is mainly found in deciduous forests.  It grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet.  Helleborine flowers and leaves grow on the same stalk.  The leaves are oval and have stalks that clasp the stem.  Several parallel veins run from the base of each leaf to the tip.  the flowers are arranged in a raceme above the leaves.  Each flower has a typical orchid shape with six petals - two of which are fused to form a pouch or lip.  The petals (and sepals) are green of pinkish-green with purple veins or spots.  The lip is typically a pale pink or white.


Wildflowers of 2014 - #199 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

The final flower of the day and species one hundred ninety-nine for the year was another native plant - Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).  Also known as Bee Balm, this species is the most widespread of four Monarda species found in Michigan.  Nationally it has been recorded in all but four states (AK, HI, CA, FL) and across most of the temperate provinces of Canada.  It can grow in a variety of habitat including open woodlands, savannas, prairies, fields, dunes, etc.  It normally grows in dry habitats but is occasionally found in wetlands.

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Wild Bergamot is a member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae).  Like all other mints, it has stems with a square cross-section and opposite pairs of leaves.  The plants can grow to a height of 4 feet and are topped with a single flower head.  Individual flowers on the head are tubular and may be up to an inch long.  Flowers begin blooming near the center of the head first and continue outward to the margins.  Flowers are typically pink or lavender colored.  Wild Bergamot has a distinctive strong scent that reminds some people of mint and others of oregano.  Anyone who drinks Earl Grey tea will recognize this smell.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hope for Monarchs

Monarch Butterfly on Spotted Knapweed

There appears to be some hope that the Monarch population may be making a rebound after record low numbers in the past few years.  Everyone I know who works with butterflies is reporting Monarchs after seeing almost none last summer.  Last Friday I saw almost as many Monarchs at one time than I saw all last year - four (possibly five) flitting around the milkweed patches behind the office.  I haven't seen any caterpillars yet, but I really don't start looking for them until after August 1st. 

Fingers crossed...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #190 and #191

I did not get out at all during the week last week to look for flowers, but I was able to spend a short time searching on Sunday (27 July 2014) and was able to find two of my absolute favorite wildflowers.  This post is mainly going to consist of pictures because I have written about both species in the past.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #190 Spotted Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)

Both species that I found today were growing in wet soil along the Chippewa River at Mill Pond Park.  The first species is one of the most showy plants of the Late Summer/Fall wildflower season - Spotted Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum).  This species can grow up to ten feet tall under favorable conditions and has large flat-topped clusters of small pinkish-purple blooms.  It is found across the northern two-thirds of the United States and lower tier of Canadian provinces.

Spotted Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
 
This species has been renamed several times.  All of my wildflower books list this species as Eupatorium maculatum.  Last year when I looked up this plant it was listed as Eupatoriadelphus maculatus.  Now the name seems to be settled at Eutrochium maculatum.


Spotted Joe-pye Weed - note whorled leaves

For more information on this species please check out this species profile from July 2013.

Spotted Joe-pye Weed - note pink-purple flowers

Wildflowers of 2014 - #191 Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)

The second flower of the day was growing in the shadow of the Joe-pye Weed.  Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis) may grow up to five feet tall, but the ones that I photographed were about two feet tall.  This species can be found across the eastern United States, across Canada, and in the Pacific Northwest.  The tube-shaped flowers of this species are 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches long and attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.  The flowers are orange with reddish-brown spots.  A closely related species Pale Touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida) has pale yellow flowers.

Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)

Spotted Touch-me-not - note tubular flower shape

Spotted Touch-me note - note reddish-brown spots on the orange flower

For more information on Spotted Touch-me-not please look at this post from January 2013.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A new Black Swallowtail Butterfly meets the world

A few minutes ago, I walked out into the field behind our office to search for Monarch Butterflies.  I did find two adult Monarchs - I have already seen more Monarchs in the past two weeks than I did all of 2013.  Both of the Monarchs that I saw were very skittish and would not sit still long enough for a good photograph.

On the way back to the office I found something else...

A Black Swallowtail Butterfly - if you look very closely you can see its chrysalis

That dark shape near the center of the photo is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes).  As I walked closer, I noticed that the abdomen of this butterfly appeared swollen.  This means that it has just emerged (eclosed) from its chrysalis and is still pumping fluids from its abdomen into its wings to fully expand them.


This newly eclosed Black Swallowtail is busy pumping fluids from its abdomen into its wings.

If you find a butterfly that is doing this look nearby and you should find the now empty chrysalis.


Black Swallowtail chrysalis (empty)

In this next photo you can see the chrysalis near the top of the plant and the butterfly lower down, still pumping fluids into its wings.


Black Swallowtail Butterfly (below) and chrysalis (above) on Spotted Knapweed

Finally, here is one more photo of the Black Swallowtail as it continues to pump fluids from its abdomen to its wings.  Once the wings are fully expanded, the butterfly will need to allow them to harden before it is able to fly.


Black Swallowtail Butterfly - continuing to pump fluids from its swollen abdomen to expand its wings

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #182 through #189

On Thursday (17 July 2014) I headed to Mill Pond Park to look for wildflowers.  In about 90 minutes of searching I was able to find eight new species, bring the total for the year to 189 species.  Several of the species were first time finds for me.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #182 Common Evening-primrose (Oenothera biennis)

The first flower of the day was Common Evening-primrose (Oenothera biennis).  The flowers of Evening-primroses open at night to attract moths.  The flowers then close up during the course of the day.  Common Evening-primrose flowers are yellow, have four petals, and measure 1 to 2 inches across.  They grow in spikes at the ends of the plant.

Common Evening-primrose surrounded by White Sweet Clover


Common Evening-primrose plants may be up to six feet tall.  As their scientific name implies they are a biennial - flowering in their second year.  The plant's leaves are oval or oblong-shaped and measure 4 to 8 inches long.

Common Evening-primrose -  a closer view of the flowers and leaves

Common Evening-primrose usually prefers dry sandy soils found along roadsides, shorelines, forest edges, and fields.  It has a very wide species distribution and can be found from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts with the exception of Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #183 Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe)

The next flower is considered a noxious weed or an invasive species by many states.  Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) is a native of Europe that was introduced to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s.  It is now found in 46 states and seven Canadian provinces/territories.  Spotted Knapweed spreads aggressively by producing large numbers of seeds that remain viable in the soil for several years.  Once established it quickly outcompetes native species.

Spotted Knapweed bloom

Spotted Knapweed plants may grow up to five feet tall.   The purple flowers resemble those of thistles, but the plant can be distinguished from thistles by its complete lack of thorns.  The leaves and stems of Spotted Knapweed are grey-green in color.  The leaves are deeply lobed.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #184 Common Water Horehound (Lycopus americanus)

The third flower of the day is one that I have not found before - Common Water Horehound (Lycopus americanus).  This native member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) grows in wet soils along shorelines and streams, along the edges of marshes and swamps, and in other areas of low ground.  Also known as American Bugleweed, this species is found across most of North America south of the Canadian Arctic.

Common Water Horehound (Lycopus americanus)

Common Water Horehound may reach heights of heights of up to 36 inches.  It has leaves arranged in opposite pairs.  The leaves are 1 3/4 to 3 inches long and have coarsely toothed margins.  The plant's small white flowers grow in a whorl at the leaf axils.

Common Water Horehound - note whorls of white flowers in leaf axils and coarsely toothed leaves

Wildflowers of 2014 - #185 Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)

The next flower is another native member of the Mint family.  Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), which is also known as Heal-all, is found across the Northern Hemisphere in both North America and Eurasia. Unlike the previous species, this species has flowers that grow in a spike above the leaves.  The flowers may be purple, violet-blue, or even white.  Plants grow up to 20 inches tall.

Seld-heal or Heal-all

Wildflowers of 2014 - #186 Northern Water Plantain (Alisma triviale)

Northern Water Plantain (Alisma triviale) is an emergent wetland species.  It grows in shallow water in streams, ponds, lakes, ditches, marshes, etc.  It can be found throughout Michigan.  Overall it has a range that covers most of North America north and west of a line from Virginia to Texas.

Northern Water Plantain - note basal leaves and widely branching flower panicle

Northern Water Plantain plants have a basal cluster of oval shaped leaves on long stalks.  A flower stalk grows up from the central cluster.  This single stalk then branches many times forming a structure called a panicle.  The plants flowers grow on the tips of the many small branches of the panicle.  Although the whole flowering panicle may be three feet (or more) tall, the individual flowers are small, measuring 1/4 - 3/8 inch across. 

Northern Water Plantain - a closer view of an individual flower

The closely related Southern Water Plantain (A. subcordatum) has even smaller flowers that measure only 1/8 - 1/4 inch across.  To distinguish between the two species compare the length of the flowers petals to its sepals.  If the petals are longer than the sepals it is A. triviale, if they are the same length or shorter the plant is A. subcordatum.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #187 Willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum)

Like Common Water Horehound, Willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum) is another new species for me.  I found this plant growing in the floodplain area at Mill Pond Park.  This species is typically found in wet soils.  This species can be found across North America with the exception of seven states in the Southeast and the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

Willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum)

Epilobium species can be difficult to identify to the species level.  I based my identification of this plant on its height (greater than 3 feet), the size of its flower, size of leaves, toothed margins of its leaves, and locations of known populations in Michigan.  However, this species is known to hybridize with Cinnamon Willow-herb (E. coloratum) and the plants in this small colony may very well be hybrids.

Willow-herb - note flower with four notched petals and toothed leaves

Wildflowers of 2014 - #188 Ditch Stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides)

I found the next plant growing several feet away from the Willow-herb.  Ditch Stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides) is another wetland species, growing on the borders of streams and ponds, in marshes, and in other muddy habitats. This plant is found across eastern North America with several small, presumably introduced populations in the Pacific Northwest.

Ditch Stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides)

Ditch Stonecrop typically grows to a height of 1 to 2 feet.  It has narrow oval shaped leaves that are 2-4 inches long.  The leaves are arranged alternately on the stem.  The plant's flowers grow on a raceme - this means that individual flowers all grow on short stalks off an elongated stem with flowers growing from the base of the stem blooming before those at the top.  The racemes may be 1-3 inches long, but individual flowers only measure about 1/4 inch across.  The flowers are cream colored, with red fruit growing after pollination.

Ditch Stonecrop - note small cream-colored flowers (often lacking petals)

Wildflowers of 2014 - #189 Common Burdock (Arctium minus)

The final flower of the day was Common Burdock (Arctium minus).  This introduced species is a common weed of fields, roadsides, pastures, and other disturbed spaces.  Common Burdock (also known as Lesser Burdock) is native to Europe, but can now be found across most of North America with the exception of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic.

A large Common Burdock - note large basal leaves and purple flowers

Common Burdock plants can be identified by their large leaves (up to 2 feet long and 1.5 feet wide), purple flowers, and round burs.  The burs encase the plant's seeds and are used to disperse the seeds.  Anyone who has ever brushed up against one of these plants is familiar with how the hooked burs cling to clothing (or animal fur or feathers) and pull off of the parent plant.  Common Burdock plants may grow from 3 to 6 feet tall.

Common Burdock - a closer view of the flowers and burs

Monday, July 21, 2014

One Small Step...



Forty-five years ago on 20 July 1969 at at 9:56:15 PM EST, mankind stepped on the moon for the first time when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped down from the Lunar Module "Eagle" onto the a flat volcanic plain known as the Mare Tranquillitatus or "Sea of Tranquility".  Nineteen minutes later he was joined on the surface by Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.


Armstrong and Aldrin became the first members of the world's most exclusive club.  They were the first of only twelve men to ever set foot on the moon - the last was in 1972.

Landing astronauts on the moon inspired a generation of scientists and ordinary people to dream that anything was possible.  In 2004, the United States announced its intent to return astronauts to the moon by 2020.  Funding for this program was cancelled in the 2010 federal budget to the dismay of many including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  Today the dream of a child to become an astronaut and walk on the moon is only a dream.

Neil Armstrong died in 2012.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I wonder if John Deere makes a turtle baler?

Did you know a group of turtles is called a "bale"?  I just looked it up.  I have heard of bales of hay, straw,  cotton, wool, tobacco, even paper, but I never knew about bales of turtles until now.

Yesterday I saw this group of three Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera) sunning themselves along the Chippewa River.  Unlike Michigan's other turtle species, Spiny Softshell Turtles have a flexible rubbery shell instead of one composed of hard plates (scutes).  Because this is the most Softshell Turtles I have ever seen in one place at one time, I thought I would share the photo.

Three Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera)