Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #46 through #55

Yesterday I shared pictures of several birds that I saw on a trip to Mission Creek Woodland Park.  While it was exciting to see the Scarlet Tanagers, the real purpose of my trip was to seek out several wildflowers that I have either been waiting to blossom or that I have been unable to find up to this point.

One nice thing about searching for wildflowers at this time of year is that while you may be searching out one species, you will often find several others that you either had not expected or for which you were not searching.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #46 Common Yellow Wood-sorrel (Oxalis stricta)

The first plant that I found was Common Yellow Wood-sorrel (Oxalis stricta).  This small native plant is often treated as a weed .  It grows in dry open soils, so it is often found along roadsides, in garden, and in other disturbed places.  This individual was growing in the dry sparse lawn at Mission Creek.

Common Yellow Wood-sorrel prefers dry open habitats

Up close Common Yellow Wood-sorrel is actually quite attractive with lemon yellow flowers and compound leaves with three heart-shaped leaflets.

The heart shaped leaflets of Common Yellow Wood-sorrel

Wildflowers of 2014 - #47 Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

The send flower that I found was growing under an old apple tree in a portion of the park that was once an orchard.  This plant is Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).  This is the second Fragaria species that I have found this Spring.  The first one was Woodland Strawberry (F. vesca).  Wild Strawberry can be distinguished from Woodland Strawberry by its leaves.  On Wild Strawberry the tooth at the tip of the leaf is much shorter than the teeth to either side; on Woodland Strawberry the terminal tooth is as long or longer than the teeth to either side.

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) - note the short tooth at the tip of the leaf

Wildflowers of 2014 - #48 Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum)

Both the Wood-sorrel and Wild Strawberry were found in upland areas of Mission Creek Park.  The next three flowers were found in the low wet areas along Mission Creek or along the edge of a section of Red Maple Swamp in the park's lowlands.

Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum) is one of my favorite Spring wildflowers.  It is one of two species of trillium that I have found in Mt. Pleasant.  Unlike the better known Large-flowered Trillium (T. grandiflorum), the flowers of the Nodding Trillium droop below the leaves.  This makes the flowers more difficult to see.  Nodding Trillium prefers wetter habitats and is often found growing along stream banks, as it does along Mission Creek.

A colony of Nodding Trillium - the purple/blue flowers underneath are Common Blue Violet

Nodding Trillium flowers droop below the plant's three leaves

Nodding Trillium can be identified by its purple anthers

A closer view of the Nodding Trillium

Nodding Trillium - note the upturned petals and sepals which expose the pistils and stamen to pollinators

Wildflowers of 2014 - #49 Early Meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum)

The next flower was also growing along the banks of Mission Creek.  Early Meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum) is one of five Meadow-rue species found in Michigan.  It can be distinguished from the other species by looking at its leaves.  Three of the other four species have leaflets with three or fewer lobes - Early Meadow-rue has leaflets with 5 to 9 lobes.  The other species with leaflets with more than three lobes (T. venulosum) is not found in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Early Meadow-rue

The drooping flowers of Early Meadow-rue are found on branched clusters known as panicles.  Male and female flower are found on separate plants.  Male flowers have four purplish-brown or greenish-white petals with many yellow stamen dangling underneath.

Early Meadow-rue - note the leaflets with 5 to 9 lobes

The male flowers of Early Meadow-rue dangle in loose panicles at the top of the plant

Early Meadow-rue prefers rich soils

The dangling flowers of Early Meadow-rue resemble a cloud of jellyfish

Wildflowers of 2014 - #50 Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) was the reason I was searching for flowers at Mission Creek Park.  Every year I find a few scattered plants along the margins of the park's Red Maple swamp.   Wild Blue Phlox can grow to a height of 20 inches, but most of the plants that I find are usually under 12 inches tall.  I have one location where I can reliably find this plant almost every year, but I was beginning to wonder if any would bloom this Spring.  If I had not been searching for this flower I probably would have missed it, but the pale blue color caught my eye and I found a single plant.  Often that is the key to finding a specific flower.  Don't look for flowers.  Instead train your eyes to look for splotches of color that stick out from the greens and browns of the background.  When you see the color you are searching for, the flowers will appear.

A single Wild Blue Phlox can be difficult to spot

Wild Blue Phlox - note the flowers with five petals and the opposite leaves

People often confuse Wild Blue Phlox with another flower - Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis).  The two plants are easy to distinguish if you look at the flowers.  Dame's Rocket, a non-native member of the Mustard family, has flowers with four petals.  Wild Blue Phlox has flowers with five petals.

A closer view of the Wild Blue Phlox

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Wildflowers of 2014 - #51 Small-flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus arbortivus)

The next flower was found in the young deciduous forest that borders Mission Creek.  I was walking along the train overlooking the creek and a small spot of yellow caught my eye.  Small-flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus arbortivus) has small flowers that  rarely grow larger than 1/4 inch across.  This species of Buttercup prefers upland sites, but is sometimes found found in wet locations.

Small-flowered Buttercup is also known as Kidney-leaved Buttercup because of the shape of its basal leaves

Basal and stem leaves have different shapes on the Small-flowered Buttercup

My hand gives a sense of scale to this diminutive flower

A closer view of the small flowers of Small-flowered Buttercup

Wildflowers of 2014 - #52 Downy Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum pubescens)

While photographing the Buttercup, I looked off to one side and saw a small Downy Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum pubescens) in bloom.   The flowers of Downy Solomon Seal dangle beneath the plant's arching stem.  The tubular pale green to white flowers grow from the leaf axils and are arranged either individually or in groups of two to three.  Downy Solomon's Seal can be distinguished from the closely related Smooth Solomon's Seal (P. biflorum) by the small hairs which grow along the veins on the underside of the leaf.

Downy Solomon's Seal - this small plant was only about 12 inches tall

Downy Solomon's Seal - the bell-shaped flowers dangle singly or in pairs from the leaf axils

Downy Solomon's Seal flowers

Downy Solomon's Seal from above - the flowers are just visible dangling under the slightly zig-zagging stem

The fine hairs that give Downy Solomon's Seal its name are barely visible in this photo

Wildflowers of 2014 - #53 Small Pussytoes (Antennaria howellii)

The next flower is often found in dry fields, lawns, open woodlands, and other open locations.  Small Pussytoes (Antennaria howellii) grows from 4 to 16 inches tall and can easily be overlooked.  Its clusters of small furry white or pink flowers resemble little cat's paws - giving the species its name.

Small Pussytoes prefers open dry habits

Small Pussytoes - note the hairy flowers, leaves, and stem

"... on little cat feet"

Wildflowers of 2014 - #54 American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana)

The next wildflower of the day was a flowering shrub - American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana).  There were several of these shrubs growing in an area previously used to dump brush.  The shrubs may originated from brush that was dumped there, or from seeds left behind in bird droppings.  I have seen several other Mountain Ash trees/shrubs along the Chippewa River in Mt. Pleasant.

Michigan Flora does not list American Mountain Ash in Isabella County, but after close examination I am convinced this is American Mountain Ash and not European Mountain Ash (S. aucuparia) or Showy Mountain Ash (S. decora).  The clues that led to this identification have to do with the overall shape of the leaves (lanceolate - about 4 times as long as wide) and the elongated tips of the leaves.

American Mountain Ash can be either a shrub or a small tree

American Mountain Ash flowers will eventually give way to orange berries

American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana) can be distinguished from other Sorbus varieties by the elongated tips of its leaves

Wildflowers of 2014 - #55 Purple Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)

The final wildflower of the day was a non-native member of the Mint (Lamiaceae) Family.  Purple Dead-nettle (Lamium purpereum) is a common weed of lawns, fields, gardens, roadsides, and other disturbed habitats.

Purple Dead-nettle is a non-native member of the Mint family

The flowers of Purple Dead-nettle attract long-tongued bees such as certain Bumble Bee species

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