Wildflowers of 2014 - #2 Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
The first tree that I found blooming was a Betula (Birch) species. After much investigation, I decided that this was most likely a Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). There are several species native to Eastern North America that are similar, including Sweet Birch (B. lenta) and River Birch (B. nigra), but those could be eliminated based on certain characteristics.
|Yellow Birch flowers and catkins|
The twigs of both Yellow and Sweet Birch smell and taste like wintergreen when crushed or scraped, River Birch does not have this smell/taste. The twigs of this tree smell like wintergreen, eliminating River Birch as an option.
|Male flower and mature catkins of Yellow Birch|
Sweet Birch can be eliminated by looking at its range. Although it is found in 21 states and the province of Ontario, Michigan is not in its native range. The closest it is found to Michigan is in eastern Ohio. This leaves Yellow Birch as the most likely identification for this tree.
|Male flowers of Yellow Birch (Betula aleghaniensis)|
Wildflowers of 2014 - #3 Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
The second tree that I found blooming was a Pussy Willow (Salix discolor). Pussy Willow is native to 29 states and most of Canada (except Yukon territory and Nunavut). This the first willow species to bloom in Mid-Michigan. It is easily identified by the fuzzy immature catkins that resemble and feel like cat fur.
|Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) branches and catkins|
|Pussy Willow - identifiable by the fuzzy immature catkins|
|Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) catkins|