Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #192 through #199

As Summer makes its inexorable march toward Fall, so does my 2014 wildflower list march on toward 200 species.  After finding eight new species on Monday (28 July 2014), my count for the year stands at One Hundred Ninety-nine species!  My  goal for the year was to find 200 species and I still have at least two full months of searching yet to go.  The Asters and Goldenrods haven't even started flowering yet.

Here are my most recent finds from Mission Creek Woodland Park.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #192 Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Plants are producers - meaning that they make their own food through the process of photosynthesis.  Unless they don't...

A ghostly pale corpse of a flower

My first find of the day was one of those few species of plants that lacks chlorophyll and is therefore incapable of producing its own food - Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora).  Because Indian Pipe cannot produce its own food it must get it from other sources.  In this way it acts more like a fungus than a plant - it is often confused for a fungus.

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

To get food, Indian Pipe forms a parasitic (possibly symbiotic) relationship with myccorhizal fungi.  These fungi grow in and among the roots of other plants and help the plants gather water and receive sugars (energy) from the roots of the plants.  Plants that form myccorhizal relationships with fungi are much more effective at gather water and nutrients from the soil than those plants that do not.  The Indian Pipe takes advantage of the relationship that these fungi have with certain species of trees (especially American Beech and some species of pine) to skim off some of the sugars for its own use.

Indian Pipe - note lack of leaves and the single flower on each stem

Because Indian Pipe plants lack chlorophyll they are pale white in color.  This color has given them the alternate names of Ghost Plant and Corpse Plant.  Some populations of this plant are occasionally tinted pink.  As the plants age they may develop dark spots and a purple or brown tinge.

Indian Pipe - the purple splotches on these flowers indicate that they are not newly emerged

Indian Pipe plants may grow singly or in clumps.  Individual plants may be up to 12 inches tall with a single flower on each leafless stalk.  The flowers of Indian Pipe are bell shaped and nodding.  Once pollinated, the flowers turn upright.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #193 Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

The next plant is one that I profiled in August 2013 - Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum).  Common Boneset is one of four Eupatorium species that are found in Michigan.  It is the the most widespread of the four.  In Michigan, it has been collected in almost every county.  Overall its ranges across eastern North America and is present in every state and province east of a line running from Manitoba south to eastern Texas.  It is most commonly found in moist open habitats such as marshes, wet meadows, and prairies.

Common Boneset in a cleared area in a red maple swamp

Common Boneset - note perfoliate leaves, hairy stems, and small white flowers

Common Boneset is easy to identify.  It grows between 2 and 6 feet tall.  It has flat-topped panicles (branched flower clusters) of small white flowers.  Individual flowers measure about 1/4 inch across.  The leaves of Common Boneset grow in opposite pairs with the bases of the leaves joined so that the stem of the plant appears to grow up through the leaf - the perfoliatum in the plant's name refers to this appearance.  All parts of Common Boneset appear hairy.

Common Boneset - a closer view of the flowers

Wildflowers of 2014 - # 194 Hairy Wood Mint (Blephilia hirsuta)

This next flower is another one that is a new find for me - Hairy Wood Mint (Blephilia hirsuta).  I found this plant growing throughout the Red Maple swamp at Mission Creek Park.  It is not uncommon, I just rarely visit this location during the middle of Summer.  In Michigan, Isabella County is at the northern limit of its current range.  Nationally, the plant is found in as far west as Nebraska and Kansas and as far south as Alabama and Georgia.  To the north its range extends from Minnesota eastward to Quebec.  This plant can be found in both upland and wetland habitats.

Hairy Wood Mint (Blephia hirsuta)

Like other mints, the leaves of Hairy Wood Mint are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem.  The leaves are oval shaped and serrated around their margins.  The flowers of Hairy Wood Mint are white with purple spots.  They are arranged in whorls on a spike above the plants leaves (and occasionally between the upper pairs of leaves).  The tiered whorls of flowers resemble the tiered rooftops of Asian pagodas, giving this plant another common name - Pagoda Plant.  Hairy Wood Mint plants may grow up to 3.5 feet tall.

Hairy Wood Mint - a closeup of the flowers shows why this plant is also known as Pagoda Plant, also note the hairy stems

Wildflowers of 2014 - #195 Panicled Tick-trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum)

The next flower was growing in large mats along Mission Creek.  Panicled Tick-trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) is one of twelve native Desmodium species found in Michigan.  The "Tick" part of the name Tick-trefoil refers to the tendency of these plants to have "sticky" seeds which attach easily to clothing, fur, and feathers, allowing the seeds to be spread from the parent plant.  The "trefoil" part of the name refers to the plant's three-part compound leaves.  The final part of the plant's name "Panicled" comes from the fact that its flowers grow in panicles or branching stems at the end of the plant.

Picled Tick-trefoil flowers and seed pods

The individual flowers of Panicled Tick-trefoil are small (1/4 inch), pink colored, and have the typical pea flower shape of a banner, wings, and keel.  The flowers in these pictures are not completely open.  The seed pods of Panicled Tick-trefoil are composed of several triangular segments covered with hooked hairs.  The segments readily break apart.

Panicled Tick-trefoil - note the small size of the flowers; the banner, wings, and keel are all visible in the middle flower

Panicled Tick-trefoil is found across the southern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula - Isabella County is at the north edge of its current range.  Panicled Tick-trefoil is found in every state east of the Mississippi River except Wisconsin and Minnesota.  West of the Mississippi, the plant can be found from Iowa and Nebraska south the Texas.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #196 Cut-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

The fifth flower of the day was Cut-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata).  This plant is also known as Tall Coneflower and can grow up to twelve feet tall.  It prefers the wet soils of swamps, shorelines, floodplains, etc. and can be found across much of the Continental United States (except Oregon, California, and Nevada) and the lower tier of Canadian Provinces.  Like other "coneflowers" the yellow petals of Cut-leaved Coneflower droop from the cylindrical disc to form a cone-shaped bloom.  The flowers may be as much as four inches across.  The leaves of Cut-leaved Coneflower are deeply divided into 3 to 7 lobes.

Cut-leaved Coneflower - note deeply lobed leaves and cone-shaped flowers

Cut-leaved Coneflower - a closeup showing the yellow disc flowers and drooping yellow rays (petals)

For more information on this plant, please see this species profile from August 2013.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #197 Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)

Up to this point every flower that I have described has been native to North America, but the next two species have been introduced from Eurasia.  The first non-native species of the day was Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides).  This species can grow in many soil conditions ranging from moist to dry and grows in both sun and shade.  This adaptability, its non-native status,  and its habit of spreading by underground rhyzomes has caused this plant to be labeled invasive by some sources.  It is now naturalized across the northern two-thirds of the United States and the lower half of Canada.

Creeping Bellflower - note the bell-shaped flowers from which the common name derives

Creeping Bellflower plants grow 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall with alternately arranged leaves.  The leaves are oval shaped, measure 2 to 4 inches long, and have toothed margins.  The leaves on the upper part of the plant are narrower than those near the base.  The plant's flowers are arranged on one side of a single flowering stalk (raceme).  The flowers are bell-shaped, up to 1 1/4 inches across, and violet-blue or blue in color.  The flowers bloom in sequence from the base of the raceme to the tip.  The raceme may measure up to a foot (or more) long.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #198 Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)

I should get excited about finding an orchid in one of Mt. Pleasant's parks, but its hard to when that orchid is an aggressive introduced species.  Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) is native to Eurasia and North Africa, but it has naturalized across much of the eastern United States and Canada as well as being found in scatter locations along the Pacific Coast and in the Rocky Mountains.  In Michigan it is found in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas.

Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine)

Helleborine can grow in a variety of soil types, but is mainly found in deciduous forests.  It grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet.  Helleborine flowers and leaves grow on the same stalk.  The leaves are oval and have stalks that clasp the stem.  Several parallel veins run from the base of each leaf to the tip.  the flowers are arranged in a raceme above the leaves.  Each flower has a typical orchid shape with six petals - two of which are fused to form a pouch or lip.  The petals (and sepals) are green of pinkish-green with purple veins or spots.  The lip is typically a pale pink or white.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #199 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

The final flower of the day and species one hundred ninety-nine for the year was another native plant - Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).  Also known as Bee Balm, this species is the most widespread of four Monarda species found in Michigan.  Nationally it has been recorded in all but four states (AK, HI, CA, FL) and across most of the temperate provinces of Canada.  It can grow in a variety of habitat including open woodlands, savannas, prairies, fields, dunes, etc.  It normally grows in dry habitats but is occasionally found in wetlands.

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Wild Bergamot is a member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae).  Like all other mints, it has stems with a square cross-section and opposite pairs of leaves.  The plants can grow to a height of 4 feet and are topped with a single flower head.  Individual flowers on the head are tubular and may be up to an inch long.  Flowers begin blooming near the center of the head first and continue outward to the margins.  Flowers are typically pink or lavender colored.  Wild Bergamot has a distinctive strong scent that reminds some people of mint and others of oregano.  Anyone who drinks Earl Grey tea will recognize this smell.

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