Friday, April 11, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #1 Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

One of my goals for this year is to photograph as many species of wildflowers as possible.

I am limiting myself in this goal to flowers that I find in a specific location.  I have a very long list of wildflowers that I have identified in the local parks system (over 200 native and non-native species), but I lack photos of many of them.  Many of the flowers are species that I see every year.  Other species are ones that I have only seen a few times over the course of more than 10 years.  Also, I know that some of my efforts at identification have been wrong over the years.  I want to see how many species I can find and photograph in one growing season.

The first flower on my list is the first one that I would expect to find - Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).

Last year I was able to find this flower on March 7th as it was poking up through the snow at Mission Creek Woodland Park in Mt. Pleasant.  This year there was still a couple of feet of snow on the ground as of two weeks ago.  By yesterday, much of snow had melted down in the swamp along Mission Creek.

Cedar Swamp at Mission Creek Park

With the snow gone, there were Skunk Cabbage flowers everywhere.

Skunk Cabbage flowers emerging at a seep

A cluster of Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage bloom - these flowers were attracting honey bees

Skunk Cabbage flower emerging through the leaf litter

I had two other "firsts" on the day.  I found my first reptile of the year, a Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).  Actually I found three of them sunning in a clear area in the woods.  Two of them can be seen in the next photo.

Common Garter Snakes sunning at Mission Creek Park

Common Garter Snake - note the red tongue
Common Garter Snake - these snakes were each about 2 feet long

I also saw my first butterfly of the year, a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa).  I actually saw two Mourning Cloaks, the first one flew past me at high speed and disappeared into the distance.  The second one landed near a small pool of water and unfurled its long proboscis.  It appeared to be seeking out minerals in the mud along the pool and remained in place for many minutes.  These photographs were taken by "zooming with my feet".  this butterfly was so involved in mudpuddling that I was able to approach within two feet.  The Mourning Cloak is one of the few species of Michigan butterflies that overwinters as an adult, so it is possible to find these beautiful chocolate brown butterflies even on warm winter days.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

Mourning Cloak butterfly - this butterfly was mud-puddling (obtaining minerals from the mud)

Mourning Cloak butterfly - note the chocolate brown wings with creamy yellow margins and a row of pale blue spots

Mourning Cloak butterfly - this butterfly overwinters as an adult resulting in this slightly tattered appearance

No comments:

Post a Comment