Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wildflowers of 2014 - #225 through #233

It's time to catch up on my 2014 Wildflower list.  I found the first six species (#225 - #229) at Mission Creek Woodland Park on Monday 08 September 2014.  

Wildflowers of 2014 - #225 Arrow-leaved Aster (Symphiotrichum urophyllum)

The first flower of the day was one of four Aster species that I found - Arrow-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum urophyllum).  This species was formerly known as Aster sagittifolius.

Arrow-leafed Aster plants grow from 1 to 3 feet in height.  This plant is considered an "upland" species.  It grows in dry soils in meadows, savannas, open woodlands and along woodland edges.  It is found across the eastern half of the United States and into Ontario.  In Michigan, it is found in ost of the counties in the Lower Peninsula and in scattered locations in the Upper Peninsula.

Arrow-leaved Aster (Sympyhotrichus urophyllum)

As the plant's name suggests, its leaves are commonly shaped like arrowheads with a shallowly notched.  The leaves may also be lanceolate (shaped like a lance head) or oval in shape.  The margins of the leaves are lined with shallow serrations.  The leaf petioles (stems) feature prominent wings.

Arrow-leaved Aster - a closer view of the leaves

The flowers of the Arrow-leaved Aster are typical of Asters, with a yellow (turning purple with age) central disc surrounded by short 8 to 15 short rays.  The rays are typically white, but may on rare occasions be pale blue or lavender.  The flowers are arranged in a narrow pyramid (or diamond) shaped panicle with branched that grow upward from the central stalk.

Arrow-leaved Aster - note the small number of rays on each flower (8 to 15) and the diamond shape of the flower panicle

Wildflowers of 2014 - #226 Common Heart-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

The second wildflower of the day was Common Heart-leaved Aster (Syphyotrichum cordifolium).  Like Arrow-leaved Aster, this species is found in dry upland habitats throughout the eastern United States, but has a slightly wider distribution.

Common Heart-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

This species may be confused with Arrow-leaved Aster, but can be identified by its leaves and flowers.  The leaves of Common Heart-leaved Aster are more typically heart-shaped than those of Arrow-leaved Aster with a deeper notch (sinus) at the base of the leaf.  The margins of the leaves are more coarsely toothed than those of the above species.  Finally the leaf petiole (stem) either lacks wings or has narrow wings.

Common Heart-leaved Aster - note the deeply notched leaf bases, sharply toothed leaf margins, and wide flower panicle

The flower panicles of Common Heart-leaved Aster are typically more widely branching than those of Arrow-leaved Aster.  The flowers are also more likely to be blue than those of S. urophyllum - they may also be white.  Common Heart-leaved Aster is also sometimes known as Blue Wood Aster.

Common Heart-leaved Aster - acloser view of the flowers

Both the Arrow-leaved Aster and Common Heart-leaved Aster were found at Mission Creek Park along the trail that lead north from the parking lot.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #227 Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium)

The third flower of the day was found growing next to several Common Heart-leaved Asters.  Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) is a common weed found throughout the United States and the lower half of Canada.  This species is native to Europe, but has naturalized across many areas of the world.
Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium)

This species is in the Geranium Family (Geraniaceae).  While Michigan's other representatives from this family have leaves that have palmate lobes (meaning the lobes radiate from a central point like the fingers of a hand), the leaves of Storksbill pinnately compound (fern-like).

The flowers of Storksbill are small, measuring 3/8 to 1/2 inch across.  The flowers have five petals and may be colored purple, pink, or white.  After the pollination, the ovary of each flower elongates until it resembles the long bill of a bird - other members of the Geranium Family are known as Cranesbills.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #228 Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)

Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)

The next flower of the day was another Aster - Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum).  This species is more adaptive than the previous two Aster species.  It can be found in both wet and dry soils throughout the eastern half of North America.  It typically grows in shaded habitats rather than open places.  Calico Aster plants can reach a height of 1 to 4 feet.

Calico Aster - a closer view of the horizontally-branching panicle

This flower is also known as the Side-flowering Aster - lateriflorum means "side-flowering".  The plant's flowers grow on short stems on widely branching panicles.  The panicle's branches are roughly perpendicular to the plant's main stalk.  Individual flowers of the Calico Aster are small, measuring about 1/3 inch across.  They consist of a central disc that starts out yellow and fades to shades of purple as it ages.  The disc is surrounded by 9 to 14 short white rays.  The small number of rays on each flowerhead is what distinguishes this species from similar species with small flowers such as Frost Aster (S. pilosum) and Heath Aster (S. ericoides).

Calico Aster - a closer view of the small flowers

Wildflowers of 2014 - #229 Swamp Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum)

The fifth flower of the day was another Aster - Swamp Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum).  This species, also known as Bristly Aster, is a more northern species than those already described.  While it can be found as far south as central Georgia it is also found as far north as Nunavut.  In Michigan, it has been recorded in counties throughout the state.  Swamp Aster is considered an obligate wetland species - meaning it is found almost entirely in wet habitats such as swamps, wet meadows, floodplains, and shorelines.  It rarely is found in dry upland locations.

Swamp Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) in the cedar swamp at Mission Creek

Swamp Aster plants reach heights of 1 to 8 feet tall.  The plant's leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.  The leaves are oval or elliptical, with shallowly tooted or smooth margins, and measure up to 6 inches long.  The main stalk of Swamp Aster plants is thick, usually reddish colored, and covered with bristly hairs.  A similar species lacks these hairs and is known as Smooth Swamp Aster (S. firmum).

Swamp Aster - note the bristly hairs along the plant's stalk

The flowers of Swamp Aster are arranged in a panicle (branched cluster) at the top of the plant.  Individual flowers are 1/2 to 1 inch across.  The flowers are composed of a central yellow disc surrounded by 30 to 60 rays (petals).  The rays are normally blue or purple, but may occasionally be white.

Bristly Aster - a closer view of the flowerheads

Wildflowers of 2014 - #230 Beech-drops (Epifagus virginiana)

The final flower of the day is something of an oddity.  It is one of a small group of plants that lacks chlorophyll - these means that it cannot use sunlight to manufacture its own food.  Instead, Beech-drops (Epifagus virginiana) is a parasite, stealing sugars from the roots of American Beech trees. If you find American Beech trees in a forest there are likely to be Beech-drops present also.  Conversely, if there are no Beech trees you not find any Beech-drops.  The plant has no other hosts.

Beech-drops - note the many branches, lack of leaves, and small flowers

Beech-drops plants lack leaves.  It's stalks grow up to 20 inches tall.  The stalks often branch near the base.  The plant's flowers are arranged in a raceme or unbranched spike at the end of each branch.   The flowers are 1/4 to 3/8 inches long and shaped like an elongated tube.  The flowers can be found in late summer and fall and vary in color from cream or ivory to brown or purplish-red.  The flowers are often striped.

Beech-drops - the small tubular flower is being visited by a bee-mimicing fly

The following three plants (#231 through #233) were found on Thursday 11 September 2014 along the banks of the Chippewa River in Mill Pond Park. 

Wildflowers of 2014 - #231 Purplestem Beggar-ticks (Bidens connata)

The next two flowers are closely related and share the same types of wetland habitats - shorelines, swamps, wet meadows, marshes, etc..  Purplestem Beggar-ticks (Bidens connata) can be found throughout much of the eastern United States and Canada as far south as Alabama and Georgia and as far west as central Nebraska.  It has been recorded in all but nine of Michigan's counties.

Purplestem Beggar-ticks(Bidens connata)

Purplestem Beggar-ticks can grow to heights of greater than 3 feet.  Their stems can be either purple (as the name suggests) or green.  Leaves are arranged  in opposite pairs along the stem.  The leaves are sharply pointed, have toothed margins, and can be as long as 8 inches.

Purplestem Beggar-ticks - note the purple stems, opposite pirs off lobed leaves, and ray-less flowers

The plant's flowers are arranged in groups of 1 to 3 at the ends of the stems.  The flowers are yellow-green and composed of a central disc that usually lacks rayss (petals).  If rays are present they are small and few in number.  These ray-less flower are 1/4 to 3/4 inches across.  After these flowers are pollinated, they will develop seeds with four spikes growing off of one end.  These spikes stick the fur or feathers of animals that come in contact with them, pulling the seeds free from the flowerhead and dispersing them away from the parent plant.

Purplestem Beggar-ticks - the flowerhead is composed simply of a circle of disc flowers, rays (petals) are usually absent

Wildflowers of 2014 - #232 Nodding Beggar-ticks (Bidens cernua)

The second plant in the Bidens genus is the Nodding Beggar-tick (Bidens cernua).  This plant is also known as Bur-marigold.  Nodding Beggar-ticks is found in the same habitats as Purplestem Beggar-ticks, but Nodding Beggar-ticks has a much wider distribution.  It is found in every state except Hawaii, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Florida.  I expect that the plant can be found in Mississippi and South Carolina, but so far has avoided collection.

Nodding Beggar-ticks (Bidens cernua) along the Chippewa River

The plant is very similar to the previous species.  It's leaves are also toothed and reach lengths of 8 inches.  Nodding Beggar-ticks can reach a height of seven feet, several feet taller than B. connata.  Another difference between the two plants can be seen in the flowerheads.  Nodding Beggar-tick flowers usually have 8 yellow rays (petals) surrounding a yellow central disc.  Occasionally these rays are absent.  Whether or not the rays are present, the flowerheads of this species nod or droop slightly.

Nodding Beggar-ticks - note the individual flower heads with their central disc surrounded by 8 rays (petals).   The flowerheads nod or droop.

Wildflowers of 2014 - #233 Pale-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)

The final new species of the day was the Pale-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus), also known as the Rough-leaved Sunflower.  This species grows to a height of 3 to 8 feet.  It can be found in a variety of dry and wet habitats including forests, prairies, roadsides, and riverbanks.  Many Sunflower species closely resemble each other and can be difficult to identify.  There have been 15 species of Sunflowers recorded in Michigan, eleven native and four introduced.  After eliminating the species that most clearly did not fit, I was able to identify this species based on all of its characteristics.

Pale-leaved or Rough-leaved Sunflower and Spotted Joe-pye Weed

Pale-leaved Sunflower has leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs along the plant's stem.  The leaves may be up to 10 inches long, are oval or lance-head shaped, and have either smooth or shallowly toothed margins.  The leaves either lack stalks or have short (up to 1 1/2 inch long) stalks.  The upper surface of the leaves is rough to the touch.  The shape of the leaves can be quite variable from plant to plant.

Pale-leaved Sunflower - note the opposite pairs of rough-textured leaves

Pale-leaved Sunflower plants can have many flowers on each plant.  The flowers are 1 1/2 to 4 inches wide with a yellow-green central disc surrounded by 8 to 15 yellow rays (petals).

Pale-leaved Sunflower - a closer view of its multiple flowerheads

Pale-leaved Sunfower can be found across the eastern United States and Canada.

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