Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #141 through #159

I am almost caught up with my Wildflowers of 2016 list.  On Tuesday June 21st, I found nineteen new species for the year.  I also found a different variety (color form) of a species that I had previously listed.  My day began at Mill Pond Park.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #141 Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

My first flower of the day was a non-native member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) - Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca).  Motherwort is native to Eurasia and was once commonly grown as a medicine.  It can grow in a variety of wet and dry habitats in both sun and shade and has naturalized throughout most of North America.

A colony of Motherwort


Motherwort can be identified by it pairs of opposite leaves with three sharply-pointed lobes.  Each pair of leaves grows perpendicular the pairs above and below.  The plant's pink (or white) flowers grow from each leaf axil.

Motherwort - note lobed leaves and flowers in leaf axils

Wildflowers of 2016 - #142 Border Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium)

The next species is another non-native - Border Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium).  This species is not native to North America, but is commonly grown as a landscape shrub.  Border Privet has escaped from these domestic plantings and is now naturalized in 20 states.  This a relatively new alien species, it was first recorded in the wild in Michigan in 1959 and the record of its occurrence is probably incomplete.  It is not listed by Michigan Flora for Isabella County.

Border Privet - a potentially invasive shrub

Border Privet is one of three Privet species found in Michigan.  I based the identification of this specimen on the size (small) and location of the flower clusters in relation to the rest of the plant.  Although these pictures do not show it well, these plants have flower clusters all along their stems and not just at the tips (a feature of Common Privet and California Privet).

Border Privet - note tubular flowers with four petals/lobes
 

Wildflowers of 2016 - #143 White Avens (Geum canadense)

My first native species of the day was White Avens (Geum canadense).  White Avens is a perennial that can grow up to 48 inches tall. It grows throughout the eastern United States and Canada as far west as Wyoming and Montana.  Part of the reason for this species' wide range is its adaptability.  While the plant is most commonly found in moist woodlands, it will also grow in dry woodlands or even open fields.

White Avens - note small white flowers and leaves with three leaflets


White Avens can be identified by its basal leaves which are split into three leaflets.  Plants have smaller leaves (also with three leaflets) growing alternately along the plant's rising stem.  The basal leaves resemble those of Wild Strawberry plants - I have White Avens growing in my garden at home that I only notice once it grows over the top of the surrounding strawberries.

White Avens flower - note five petals and five short sepals

The flowers of White Avens are about 1/2 inch across and have 5 small white petal with five pointed green sepals between the petals.  The sepals are shorter than the petals.  The flowers grow in one or several branched clusters at the end of the stem.  Flowers bloom sequentially from the lowest to the highest.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #144 Narrow-leafed Cattail (Typha angustifolia)

Mill Pond Park is named because much of the park fits within the former boundaries of the city's mill pond.  Water from this pond was once used to power a flour mill and a sawmill.  While the dams that formed this pond are now gone, the water that they held protected portions of the Chippewa River's floodplain from being developed.  Part of this floodplain is now occupied by a large emergent marsh.  The primary plants found growing in this marsh are cattails.  There are two species of cattails found growing in this marsh (and possibly hybrids of the two species).  I found both species growing within the confines of the floodplain, starting with the Narrow-leafed Cattail (Typha angustifolia).

Narrow-leafed Cattail


Narrow-leafed Cattail is native to North America, but is probably not native to Michigan.  It can be aggressive and will often out-compete Common Cattail (T. latifolia) when the two species are found together.  Some states list Narrow-leafed Cattail as an invasive species.

Narrow-leafed Cattail flower emerging from its protective sheath

Both species have narrow ribbon-like leaves.  However, the width of these leaves is not a reliable way to distinguish between the two species.  While Narrow-leafed Cattail generally has narrower leaves than Common Cattail, there is overlap in size.

Narrow-leafed Cattail - note the gap between the male (upper) and female (lower) flowers

The most reliable way to decide between the species in the field is to look at their flowers - the "cat tails".  The flowers of both species are divided into two parts with the male (staminate) flowers being located near the end of the stalk and the female (pistillate) flowers located further down on the same stalk.  On the Common Cattail, the two halves of the flower touch with no gap between them.  The male and female flowers of Narrow-leafed Cattail are separated by a gap.  Hybrids of the two species probably have a narrower gap, but there is not reliable way to identify hybrids outside the lab.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #145 Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a Eurasian native that has also naturalized across most of North America.  Also known as Catmint,  Catnip was widely planted during Colonial times for its medicinal properties.  Like most non-native species, it is most common in disturbed habitats.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Catnip grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet.  It has opposite leaves that are roughly heart-shaped with toothed margins.  The undersides of the leaves and stems are covered with dense whitish hairs - this gives the plant a grayish-green appearance.

Catnip - a closer view of the flowering spike

Catnip Flowers are arranged in a spike at the top of the plant and in the upper leaf axils.  The flowering spike may be nearly 3 inches long, but individual flowers are small (1/4 to 1/2 inch across)  The flowers are white with pink or purple spots.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Nesting Bees

Yesterday afternoon (26 June 2016), I noticed a lot of activity around our native bee nesting box.  Several dozen bees recently emerged as adults.  The male bees were buzzing around the nesting box trying to attract females.  Females were busy clearing nesting sites of last year's nesting materials, collecting pollen, and laying preparing to lay eggs.  Here is a short video showing some of the activity.


video

Friday, June 24, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #133 through #140

The following nine species were photographed between 10 June 2016 and 17 June 2016.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #133 Rough-fruited Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

Rough-fruited Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

I found Species #133 for the year at Mill Pond Park on Friday June 10th.  Rough-fruited Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) is a native of Eurasia, but is now found across most of North America with the exceptions of the Desert Southwest and Canadian Arctic.  It grows on roadsides, in fields and meadows, and other weedy places.
 
Rough-fruited Cinquefoil is easily identified by its distinctive lobed leaves
Rough-fruited Cinquefoil - note pale yellow flower with heart-shaped petals

Of the fifteen Potentilla species that are found in Michigan, Rough-fruited Cinquefoil is one of the easier species to identify.  It has pale yellow flowers with five heart-shaped petals - giving it the alternate name of Sulphur Cinquefoil.  The compound leaves are the most distinguishing characteristic of this species.  Each leaf has 5-7 leaflets arranged palmately (radiating outward from a central point) with coarsely toothed margins.

Wildflower of 2016 - #134 Moonseed (Menispermum canadense)


The next plant was also found at Mill Pond Park.  Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) is a species that is typically found in floodplains and other moist wooded areas.  It is found across eastern North America as far west as as a line running from Manitoba down to Texas.  In Michigan it is found exclusively in the Lower Peninsula, with the exception of Menominee County in the Upper Peninsula.

Moonseed - note leaf shape, small flowers (upper left) and climbing vines

Moonseed is a native vine with lobed leaves that bears a resemblance to Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata), but while Wild Cucumber climbs with the aid of tendrils that wrap around objects for support, Canada Moonseed uses its main stem to twine around supports.  Moonseed vines may grow to a height of 6-20 feet.  The small white flowers of Moonseed have six petals and are borne in hanging panicles.  After pollination small (1/4-1/3) round berries will develop.  These berries are purple-blue to purple-black and are covered with a white waxy bloom.  Unfortunately these berries look a lot like wild grapes.  I say unfortunately because Moonseed berries are toxic and can be mistaken for edible grapes.  

The small flowers of Moonseed

Wildflowers of 2016 - #135 Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum)

Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum)

Silky Dogwood - a closer view of the flowers

My next species was found on Monday June 13th at Pickens Field.  Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) is the second Dogwood species that I have identified this year.  Red-osier Dogwood (C. sericea) was species #70.  

Silky Dogwood - if you look closely at the underside of the leaves you can see the fine hairs that give the species its name

Superficially, Red-osier and Silky Dogwood can be very difficult to distinguish between; both have similar leaves, flowers, and bark that can be either green or red.  Although the color of their fruit is different, this is not helpful early in the growing season.  One major difference between the two species is the color of the soft pith at the center of their twigs.  Red-osier pith is white, while that of Silky Dogwood is brown.  This plant had brown pith so I identified it as Silky Dogwood.

Brown pith = Silky Dogwood

For more information about how to distinguish between these two species read this post from 2013.

The next five species were photographed on Friday June 17th at Mission Creek Woodland Park.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #128 through #132

I'm two week behind on posting my Wildflowers of 2016 list and trying to play catch-up.  The following five species were photographed on Thursday June 9th.  My first stop was at Pickens Field where I found three new species for the year.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #128 Garden Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Garden Asparagus

My first flower of the day was Garden Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis).  This species is originally from Europe but is grown as a garden vegetable across North America.  It commonly escapes from cultivation and can be found growing in the wild in every state but Alaska and Hawaii, and across the southern tier of Canadian provinces.

Bell-shaped Garden Asparagus flowers

Garden Asparagus flowers are small (1/4 inch) and bell shaped.  They dangle from the plant's branching stalk either singly or in pairs.  The flowers may be greenish-white, yellow-green, or maroon colored.  The plant's leaves are very small and scale-like.  This species can grow as tall as 6 feet.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #129 American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)

I will admit that my next find had me stumped for a while.  It didn't look quite like any species that I recognized.  Eventually I decided that I needed help.  So I sent my photos to a local plant expert.  Eventually our combined efforts came to an identification of American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens).

American Bittersweet


American Bittersweet is typically a climbing vine that can reach lengths of 30 feet.  On occasion, it will grow as a shrub - this is part of what caused my confusion.  The plants that I found were not climbing, but instead seemed to be a cluster of shrubs.

American Bittersweet - note ovate leaves and green flowers

The leaves on this species are ovate (egg-shaped) with serrated margins.  They taper to a pointed tip.  They grow alternately on the plant's branches/vines.  American Bittersweet flowers are small (about 1/4 inch wide), and have five green petals with five green sepals and five yellow stamen.

American Bittersweet flowers - note five petals

This species is found across the eastern United States a far west as Montana, Wyoming, and west Texas.  A  related species Oriental Bitterweet (C. orbiculatus) has been introduced from Asia and is considered an invasive species that is regulated by at least five states.

Thank you Cathy Murray for the identification help.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #130 Mossy Stonecrop (Sedum acre)

Mossy Stonecrop in a lawn

Have you ever driven by a lawn and seen a large patch of yellow.  There's a good chance that you have seen a patch of Mossy Stonecrop (Sedum acre).  This native of Europe is commonly grown as garden plant.  It tolerates dry soil soils very well and often escapes cultivation.  It grows low to the ground (1 to 4 inches tall) and forms moss-like mats.  The yellow flowers have measure about 3/8 inch across and look like five-pointed stars.

Golden stars - Mossy Stonecrop up close

Upon leaving Pickens Field, I went to the south end of Island Park to photograph two more species that I had been waiting on.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #131 Western Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

Michigan is home to two distinct species of Poison Ivy.  Eastern Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) most commonly grows as a vine, using hairy rootlets to climb nearby objects.  Less commonly, it will grow as a low shrub.  Western Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii) does not have hairy rootlets and grows only as a shrub.  Another difference between the two species is that the leaves of Eastern Poison Ivy are usually flat while those of Western Poison Ivy are often folded at the mid-rib.

Western Poison Ivy thicket

The flowers of both species are small (1/4 inch) and have five yellow-green or greenish-white petals.  The flowers grow is loose clusters called panicles that may be 4 inches long by 4 inches wide.  Upon pollination, the flowers develop into small waxy white berries that are eaten by many species of birds.

Western Poison Ivy - note how many of the leaves are folded at the mid-rib

The plants that I photographed at the south end of Island Park were growing as bushes, lacked aerial rootlets, and had folded leaves - leading me to identify them as Western Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii).  To confuse matters more, the two species are suspected to hybridize.

Western Poison Ivy flowers up close

I have written about Poison Ivy several times in the past - here is an index to those articles.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #132 Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

My final species of the day was Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum).  Also known as Common Dogbane or Flowering Dogbane, Indian Hemp is one of two Apocynum species found in Michigan.  The other species Spreading Dogbane (A. androsaemifolium) appeared on my Wildflowers of 2014 list, but Indian Hemp did not.

Indian Hemp - note opposite leaves, white flowers, and reddish stems

Indian Hemp plants grow 1 to 5 feet tall.  Plants may have a single stem, but often branch out.  The stems are often red.  Their leaves are arranged alternately along the stem, are oval or elliptic in shape (broader in the middle than at the ends), and measure 2 to 4 inches long.  Indian Hemp flowers grow in a loose upright cluster called a panicle.  Individual flowers measure 1/8 to 1/4 inch across, and have five pointed white petals.

Indian Hemp - a closer view of the flowers

Indian Hemp is found across North America.  It grows in a variety of upland and lowland habitats.  In Michigan, it has been recorded in fifty-six of eighty-two counties.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #120 through #127

The following eight species were photographed on Wednesday June 8th.  The first four species were recorded at Mission Creek Woodland Park and the final three were found at Chipp-A-Waters Park.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #120 Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) is considered an invasive species or noxious weed by twelve states.  It was long planted for erosion control and for wildlife habitat, but has spread when wildlife consume its fruit (hips) and deposit the seeds in their droppings.

Multiflora Rose

Multiflora Rose can be distinguished from other Rose species by its many white flowers - multiflora means "many-flowered".  Most native species produce single pink blooms.  Many of the other introduced species also produce pink flowers.  Individual Multiflora Rose blooms have five petals surrounding a yellow center.

Multiflora Rose - note compound leaves and curved thorns

Mutliflora Rose has compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets (sometimes as few as three on the upper part of the stem).  The leaflets have serrated edges.  The plant's woody stems are covered with curved thorns.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #121 Northern Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris)

Northern Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris) can be found across eastern North America, as far west as east Texas north to Minnesota and Ontario.  In Michigan it is found in locations throughout the state.  It grows in a variety of wet and dry habitat types, ranging from prairies and dunes to hardwood forests and the edges of swamps.


Also known as Common Dewberry, this species grows as a trailing or arching canes that may be up to 15 feet long (trailing) or 4 feet tall (arching).  Vines are covered both with hairs and curved thorns.  Compound leaves are arranged alternately along the canes.  Leaves typically have three leaflets (sometimes five) with serrated margins.  Leaflets measure up to three inches long and one inch wide.  The flowers of Northern Dewberry have five white petals, five green sepals and measure about 1 to 1.25 inches across.  The petals are wrinkled in appearance and are longer than the sepals.


Wildflowers of 2016 - #122 Common Black Snakeroot (Sanicula odorata)


Common Black Snakeroot

Right now the area along Mission Creek is overgrown with Common Black Snakeroot (Sanicula odorata).  There were hundred, possibly thousands, of these plants lining the trail.  While there are four Sanicula species found in Michigan, this is the only one with yellow-green flowers.  The other species have whitish-green blooms.

Common Black Snakeroot - note compound leaves

 Each globe-shaped flower cluster is small, measuring about 1/2 inch across.  The flowers grow in clusters of one to five from the leaf axils and at the upper part of stems.  Because of this feature, this species is also known as Cluster Sanicle.  Another feature that can be used to identify this plant is the deeply lobed leaves with either five parts (low on the plant) or three (higher on the plant).  

Common Black Snakeroot - note compound leaves and globe shaped flower clusters

Wildflowers of 2016 - #123 Northern Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)

Northern Blue Flag

Two species of Blue Flag can be found in Mid-Michigan: Northern Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) and Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginica).  Identification of the two species is difficult, with different resources providing conflicting information.  I identified these plants as Northern Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) based on the purplish base of the plants (I. virginica bases are usually brown), the short cauline (stem) leaves and the prominent veins on the flowers.


Northern Blue Flag - a closer view of the flower

More information on this species can be found here.


Wildflowers of 2016 - #124 American Speedwell (Veronica americana)

I found my next species growing around and among the Northern Blue Flag.  American Speedwell or Brooklime (Veronica americana) is widely distributed across almost all of North America, with the exception of five Southeastern states and Nunavut and Labrador.  Some sources list this as as a variety of European Speedwell (Veronica beccabunga var. americana).

American Speedwell


This is a wetland species and is commonly found in swamps and along streams.  It has small blue flowers (1/4 to 3/8 inch wide) with four petals.  These flowers grow on racemes (elongated clusters) that rise from the leaf axils.  The plant's leaves vary in size from 0.5 to 3 inches long.  Plants measure up to 40 inches tall, but the ones that I photographed were much smaller (up to 12 inches).

American Speedwell - note small size of flowers and four petals


Wildflowers of 2016 - #125 Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

After leaving Mission Creek Park I went to Chipp-A-Waters Park.  Flower #125 was growing on a bank along the trail.  Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is one of six Bindweed species that can be found in Michigan - a seventh species Macoun's Bindweed (C. macounii) was collected on time in the 1930s.  Of those seven species only three are native to Michigan including Hedge Bindweed.

Hedge Bindweed climbs nearby vegetation

The flowers of Hedge Bindweed are trumpet shaped and have five petals.  The flowers can grow up to 2 3/4 inches across.  Flowers may be white or pink and bloom between May and September.
 
Hedge Bindweed - note trumpet-shaped flower

Like most of the other Bindweed species, Hedge Bindweed either trails along the ground our uses its stems to twine up surrounding vegetation.  It can be distinguished from all of the other Michigan Bindweed species by the shape of its leaves.  Hedge Bindweed has arrow-head shaped leaves with a sharp tip and blunt rear points (basal lobes).  The leaves may be 2-5 inches long.
 
Hedge Bindweed - note arrowhead shaped leaves (left)

Hedge Bindweed grows in a variety of sunny habitats in both wet and dry soil.  In Michigan it is found throughout the southern half of the Lower Peninsula and along the shores of both Lakes Huron and Michigan and in scattered locations throughout the Upper Peninsula.  Overall, the plant can be found throughout North America with the exception of the Canadian Arctic.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #126 Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium)

A Green Dragon popping up above a carpet of Virginia Creeper - note flower at base of Green Dragon stem

The community of plants that can be found at Chipp-A-Waters Park is changing rapidly, and unfortunately not for the better.  Dead and dying ash trees have left large gaps in the canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor.  This allows seeds that had lain dormant in the soil to sprout.  many of these seeds belong to invasive shrubs such as honeysuckle or buckthorn.  Garlic Mustar
d is also running rampant.  These non-natives are crowding out many of the native species. 

Green Dragon flower
 
A few years ago, I found two dozen or more Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium) plants.  This year I had a difficult time finding any.  Eventually I found about 10 plants, but only two were in bloom.  This is one of the coolest, most unique flowers found in Mid-Michigan.  It would be a horrible shame to lose it due to habitat loss.  For more information on this species, please see this profile from June 2013.

Green Dragon flower

Wildflowers of 2016 - #127 Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium

Common Yarrow - note white flat-topped flower cluster and feathery leaves

My final flower of the day has a circumpolar distribution - this means it is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in both North America and Eurasia.  Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) can be found in every single American state and Canadian province.  Some of the plants are native, some of the plants are introductions from Eurasia, and some are hybrids that contain genes from both.  Yarrow easily grows in almost any type of habitat but is most common in Mid-Michigan in dry habitats like roadsides and old fields.  Common Yarrow can be easily identified by its flat-topped flower clusters made up of many small (1/4 inch) white flowers and also by its feathery leaves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Native Pollinator Garden Updates (20 June 2016)

Yesterday being the first day of Summer, I decided to take a little time to drive around to the various Native Pollinator Gardens.

Saginaw Chippewa Academy

The garden at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy underwent a major transition this year.  The portable classroom that previously bordered the west side of the garden was removed this spring.  This means that the garden is no longer receiving lots of runoff from the building's roof.  It is also nor getting full sun all day long.  These two factors mean that it should be much drier this year than in the past.  What the long term impact will be remains to be seen.

SCA Native Pollinator Garden

Lance-leaf Coreopsis is almost done blooming

Lance-leaf Coreopsis

Harebell with a bee nesting tower in the background

Harebell

Cup Plant leaves





Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum

This is the first site that people see a the enter the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum.  It gets lots of foot traffic on its path.  It also gets a lot of runoff from the roof - enough that erosion can be a problem.  The plants here are expanding to fill empty space, but they still have a long way to go.   Coreopsis is threatening to overgrow the path on the west end - other plants are spreading more slowly.  I did see lots of the Museum's honey bee visiting the garden while I was there.  Overall, I am pleased with the progress this garden has made.

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum Native Pollinator Garden

Black-eyed Susan will eventually give way to other plants

Common Milkweed

This garden is certified as a Monarch Waystation (as are the other three)

Hoary Vervain

Prairie Dock leaves

Winn Elementary

This garden has two distinct zones.  The part tucked back in the corner of the school is partially shaded and gets lots of runoff from the roof.  The north end of the garden doesn't get as much water and receives more sunlight.  As a result, the plants on this end have never really taken off as I had hoped.  In the long run I will need to add more plants here to fill in the empty spaces.

Winn Elementary Native Pollinator Garden

The north end of the garden

New Jersy Tea

Coreopsis along the sweeping edge of the garden
 
The south part of the garden
 
Coreopsis

Morey Public School Academy

This garden is one of the younger gardens (created in 2013 along with the Discovery Museum garden).  It gets full sun and a small amount of runoff.  The most striking feature of this garden is the Prairie Dock.  There are a couple dozen of these large plants.  By late summer, their leaves may be two feet long and the flower stalks may be eight feet tall.  Despite being rooted in clay, the plants that survived here are generally thriving.  I need to transplant a number of plants that have self-sown in the walkways.

Common Milkweed and the Monarch Waystation sign

Common Milkweed

Runaway Lance-leaf Coreopsis

Prairie Dock (left) and Lance-leaf Coreopsis (right)

Prairie Dock leaves