Monday, July 7, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #162 through 167

Time to get caught up on the flowers that are blooming this past week.

All six of these flower species were found blooming in the cedar swamp at Mission Creek Woodland Park.  The first two species were found on Sunday 29 June 2014 and the remaining four species were found on Wednesday 02 July 2014.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #162 Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

The first species that I sound on Sunday was Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata).  Water Hemlock can grow up to six foot tall - these examples were 2 1/2 to 3 foot tall.  It has purplish stems, compound leaves, and white umbel shaped (flat-topped) clusters of small flowers. These flowers bear a resemblance to those of many other species, and may result in tragic cases of misidentification.  Water Hemlock is considered on of the most poisonous plants in North America, and is toxic to both humans and livestock. Death may result from ingesting even a small piece of this plant.

Water Hemlock - note the purple stems and compound leaves

Water Hemlock commonly grows in moist habitats such as swamps, marshes, ditches and wet prairies.  It is found throughout Michigan but is more commonly reported in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.  It has a nearly continent wide distribution, with samples being identified in 49 states (not Hawaii) and all Canadian provinces and territories with the exceptions of Labrador and Nunavut.

Water Hemlock can be easily mistaken for other plants in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
Water Hemlock -  a closer view of the flower umbels

Wildflowers of 2014 - #163 Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense)

The second plant on the list is one that I was very excited to see.  Over the past decade I have found a total of less than five individual Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) plants.  Imagine my surprise to find a thriving colony of these plants at Mission Creek.  Based on the number of plants, and the presence of old stems and seed pods, this colony has been growing here for some time.  Like many of the other plants on this list, my failure to find it in years past has been a matter of not being in the right place at the right time.

Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense)

It is not easy to overlook Michigan Lily.  Large specimens may grow to a height of nearly ten feet!  However, they are more likely to grow to heights of 1 1/2 to 4 feet.  Leaves are arranged in whorls or rings along the stem.  Each whorl may consist of 3 to 7 leaves.

Michigan Lily - note the whorl of leaves and the dangling flower

The flowers of Michigan Lily dangle from long stalks at the top of the plants.  Plants may have one or more (as many as six) flowers.  Mature plants will typically have more flowers than younger ones.  The flowers have six tepals (a term used to describe petals and sepals that can not be distinguished) that are yellow-orange to red-orange in color.  Each tepal is dotted with purple spots.  The tepals curve strongly upward upon opening, exposing the flower's six long stamen and single pistel. 

Michigan Lily - the flower's tepals (petals and sepals) curl upward exposing its stamen and pistil

Michigan Lily prefers high quality, undisturbed sites with abundant soil moisture such as swamps, bogs, floodplains, wet prairies, etc.  It will grow in both sun and shade.  In Michigan it is found in scattered locations throughout the state, but is most common in the southern Lower Peninsula.  Overall it can be found in 20 states centered on the tallgrass prairie region.  It grows as far west as a line running from eastern South Dakota to eastern Oklahoma.  In the east its range is restricted by the Appalachian Mountains.  It can be found as far north as Minnesota, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Ontario.  In the south the species' range extend to northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia

Wildflowers of 2014 - #164 Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis)

Anyone who has ever encountered the next species is not likely to forget it.  Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis) plants are covered with fine needle-like hairs that break off on contact.  The needles are filled with a combination of chemicals (including acid) that cause and itching burning sensation anywhere the hairs puncture the skin.  This delightful sensation can be found throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada.  Wood Nettle prefers moist habitats such as shorelines, moist woodlands, floodplains, and swamps.

A colony of Wood Nettle growing over other wetland plants

Wood Nettle can be distinguished from non-native Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) by the placements of its leaves.  The leaves of Stinging Nettle are arranged in opposite pairs while those of Wood Nettle are arranged alternately

Wood Nettle - note the alternate leaves and whitish-green flowers

The flowers of Wood Nettle are inconspicuous.  They are small, greenish-white, and grow from the leaf axils.  The plants do not have to be conspicuous because they rely on wind instead of insect pollination.

Wood Nettle - note the many small stinking hairs

Wildflowers of 2014 - #165 Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata)

I found the next flower growing within feet of the last two species.  While photographing the Wood Nettle, I looked down and saw a Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) plant between the legs of my tripod.  Fringed Loosestrife is on of seven native Lysimachia species that can be found in Michigan.  Like the majority of those species, this plant is a wetland resident.  Fringed Loosestrife can be found in wet locations such as floodplains, shorelines, streamside, swamps, and wet meadows.  It is more commonly found in shaded locations than sunny ones.  Fringed Loosestrife can be found across much of North America (45 states and 9 Canadian provinces/territories).

The yellow flowers of Fringed Loosestrife

The leaves of Fringed Loosestrife are oval shaped, measure up to six inches long and arranged in pairs.  The stems of the leaves (petioles) are conspicuously hairy or fringed - giving the species its name.  The flowers grow on individual stalks from the leaf axils.  The flowers are yellow with red centers and have five petals.  The edges of the petals have irregular serrations or teeth.  The flowers nod slightly.

Fringed Loosestrife - note the drooping flowers growing from the leaf axils

Another view of Fringed Loosestrife flowers and leaves

Wildflowers of 2014 - #166 Tall Agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala)

The next flower on the list could easily be overlooked.  Although Tall Agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala) may grow up to 5 feet, its yellow flowers are small.  Each flower is only 1/8 to 1/4 inch across.  The flowers have five petals and grow on racemes (spikes) that branch off from the main stem of the plant. 

Tall Agrimony growing along a trail

Even with the small size of the flowers, Agrimony plants are easy to identify.  At this time of year there is no other flowering plant in the woods that resembles Agrimony.  There are seven different Agrimony species found in Michigan of which Tall Agrimony has the widest distribution.  In addition to its yellow flowering raceme, Tall Agrimony can be identified by its hairy stems and compound leaves (5 - 9 large toothed leaflets, with small leaflets in between the large leaflets).  At the base of each compound leaf is a pair of kidney shaped leaves.

Tall Agrimony - note the small flowers and hairs covering the stem, the mosquito in the photo gives a sense of scale

Tall Agrimony is most commonly found in upland habitats such as deciduous and mixed forests, but will also grow in wetter soil.  I found this plant growing along the trail through the cedar swamp at Mission Creek.  Tall Agrimony can be found in widely scattered locations across North America, but the core of its range appears to be the Great Lakes and Northeast.  This leads me to believe that many of its disconnected populations are probably introduced.

Tall Agrimony - note the small yellow flowers with 5 petals

Wildflowers of 2014 - #167 American Lopseed (Phryma leptostachya)

The final flower is another that would be easy to overlook because of the small size of its blooms.  American Lopseed (Phryma leptostachya) has small tubular flowers arranged in opposite pairs on one or more spikes (racemes) that rise above the plant's leaves.  Individual flowers are up to one inch long, but only 1/4 inch across.  The flowers bloom in sequence from the bottom of the spike to the top, with only a few pairs blooming at any one time. The flowers are white with a pinkish tint.  After pollination, the plant's seed pods droop downward until they are parallel with the stem.

The leaves of Lopseed are roughly ovate or egg-shaped with coarsely toothed margins and a pointed tip.  The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs and each leaf may be up to 5 inches long.  The plant itself may be up to three feet tall.  Another distinguishing feature of this plant is the purple color of the plant's stems.

American Lopseed - note opposite leaves, purple stems, and white flowers

American Lopseed is the single plant in its genus (Phryma) in North America.  Its range is primarilly in the eastern half of the continent, being found in every state east of a line from North Dakota to Texas.  There is also a connected population in northeast Colorado and an unconnected (probably introduced) population in one county in Northern California.  Canadian populations can be found in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

American Lopseed - a closer view of the flowering spike

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