Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #9 through #21

The wildflower season is rolling now.  Last Wednesday (20 April 2016) I had a few short minutes to sneak into the woods at Mill Pond Park.  In that time I was able to find two new species to add to my 2016 list.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #9 Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) was the first species that I found.  This species was not on my 2014 list.  I have seen it in several parks in Mt. Pleasant, but until now have not noticed the flowers.

A Spicebush growing in the floodplain at Mill Pond Park

Spicebush is a 5 to 15 foot tall shrub that commonly grows in floodplains and swamps.  In Michigan,  it can be found in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula and along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  This is the northern edge of its range.  Overall it can be found east of a line running from Illinois and Iowa southwest into Missouri, Oklahoma, and parts of Texas.

Spicebush - branches are covered with hundreds of small yellow or yellow-green flowers in spring

The flowers of Spicebush are yellow to yellow-green and are about 1/4 inch across.  Flowers are either male or female.  Later the female flowers will be replaced by bright red fruit.  The flowers, leaves, and branches all smell spicy when crushed. 

Spicebush - note yellow green flowers and dark bark

Wildflowers of 2016 - #10 Black Willow (Salix nigra)

While leaving the park I stopped to take photos of a Black Willow (Salix nigra).  This is my fourth species of tree and my second Salix species.

A tangle of Black Willow branches

Black Willow is another tree species that is dioecious - meaning individual trees are either male or female.  The tree that I photographed was a male, with yellow-green flowers arranged in elongated catkins.

Black Willow - male catkins

Throughout most of its range, Black Willow is considered an obligate wetland species.  This means that it is almost always found in wetlands.  It ranges across eastern North America, west to the edge of the Great Plains.

Black Willow commonly grows in low, wet habitats such as this floodplain forest

The next time that I was able to get out into the woods was Sunday (24 April).  During this trip I found a further eleven species.  My first stop was Mission Creek Park.  Mission Creek is probably the best place in town to search for a variety of wildflowers due to its variety of habitats ranging from wet to dry.  The next five species were all found in the lowland area of the park.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #11 Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)

My first flower of the day belonged to another shrub.  Speckled Alder (Alnus incana) is commonly found in wooded wetland habitats throughout most of the state.  It can be found across North America from the Bering Strait in Alaska to the Atlantic coast of Maine.  It is absent in the Great Plains and the Southeast.

Speckled Alder catkins are found near the tips of its branches

Like many wind-pollinated tree and shrub species, Speckled Alder flowers before its leaves emerge.  Its male (staminate) flowers are arranged in danging catkins that measure 2 to 4 inches long.  The smaller female (pistillate) flowers are arranged in shorter catkins that measure only 1/4 to 3/4 inch long.  The female catkins are usually found on the tips of branches.  Both the male and female catkins can be seen in the photograph below.

Speckled Alder  - male (dangling) and female (on tips of branches) catkins

Wildflowers of 2016 - #12 Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

My second flower of the day was the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).  For more information on this species, please see this profile from April 2013.

Marsh Marigold grows almost exclusively in wetlands.

Marsh Marigold - note bright lemon-yellow flowers.

Marsh Marigold - note broad heart-shaped or kidney-shaped leaves.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #13 Two-leaf Mitrewort (Mitella diphylla)

I was surprised to find the next wildflower.  In 2013 I did not find Two-leaf Mitrewort (Mitella diphylla) until the 11th of May.  Sometimes minor differences in topography can make major differences in not only when species bloom, but also which species are found in a location.  These minor differences are known as micro-topography or microclimates.  In this case, I found a small cluster of Mitrewort plants growing on the south-facing bank of Mission Creek.  This southern exposure warmed this location more than the surrounding flat areas and allowed these plants to grow early.  The same effect is often found at the base of trees on their south side.  Thanks to micro-topography, this was the only group of Mitrewort plants that I found all day.

This species can be found in both wet and dry woodlands throughout the Lower Peninsula and in a few U.P. locations.  It commonly grows to a height of 8 to 18 inches.  Mitrewort stems are covered with short erect hairs, giving the stem a fuzzy appearance.  A single pair of opposite leaves grows about half way up this stem.  Above the leaves, small (1/4 inch) white flowers are arranged along a raceme (elongated cluster).  Each flower has five fringed petals.  For more info, please see this post from 2013.

Two-leaf Mitrewort flowering on an exposed south-facing streambank

Two-leaf Mitrewort - note paired leaves and tiny fringed white flowers arranged in a raceme

Wildflowers of 2016 - #14 Spring Cress (Cardamine bulbosa)

My fourth flower of the day was another slight surprise.  In 2014, I found my first Spring Cress (Cardamine bulbosa) on May 11th, the same day as Two-leaf Mitrewort.  Unlike the single patch of Mitrewort, I found several Spring Cress plants scattered throughout the deciduous swamp at Mission Creek.

Spring Cress - note white flowers and toothed leaves

Spring Cress is a member of the Mustard family (Brasicaceae).  Like all members of this family, its flowers have four petals.  Spring Cress flowers are either white or pink and measure 1/2 to 1 inch across.

Spring Cress often grows in open swamps

Spring Cress plants grow up to 24 inches tall, but are more commonly 6 to 12 inches.  In Michigan, it is found only in the Lower Peninsula, mostly in the southern half of the peninsula.  Like many woodland plants that are found in Michigan, this species is found only in eastern North America - east of a line running from Manitoba to Texas

Spring Cress flowers have 4 petals

Wildflowers of 2016 - #15 American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

My final wildflower from Mission Creek was the American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana).  This is another wind pollinated tree with dangling male catkins.  Each of these catkins is 1 to 2 inches long.  Female flowers are smaller and partially hidden by green bracts.  The photos below show only the male catkins.

American Hornbeam - male catkins

American Hornbeam is a common understory tree (or shrub).  It can reach heights of 35 feet.  It is a common plant in moist forests, swamps, and floodplains.  It is less common in dry upland areas.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #16 Canada Plum (Prunus nigra)

Leaving Mission Creek Park, I next headed to Chipp-A-Waters Park.  While driving past Mill Pond Park, I saw a flowering tree growing near the edge of the pond - a Canada Plum (Prunus nigra).  I took several photographs before leaving Mill Pond.  Later at Chipp-A-Waters Park I spotted several small Canada Plum trees growing directly on the riverbank.  This species does not tolerate shade and is often found on the edges of forests and (as I found it) growing on the banks of streams or in openings where it receives full sun.  It can reach a maximum height of 20 to 30 feet tall.

Canada Plum - growing on the riverbank at Chipp-A-Waters Park

The Canada Plum trees that I found were well covered with white flowers.  Each flower had five petals and measures about 1 inch across.  These flowers fade from white to pink as they age.  The sepals at the base of the flower are dark red in color.  These flowers are pollinated by a variety of insects.

Canada Plum - note dark branches, five-petaled flowers with dark red sepals

Canada Plum branches are often well-covered with blooms

This species is not uncommon in Michigan, but it is widely scattered across the state in only 26 of 82 counties.  As its name implies, it is probably more common in Canada than in the United States, where the species is only found in fourteen states in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #17 Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

While photographing the Canada Plum at Mill Pond Park, I looked up to see a tree with clusters of yellow-green flowers on the tips of some branches.  All of the flowers were out of my reach, but I was able to pick up a branch from the ground and reach up to hook a branch.  Pulling it down I was able to grab onto a flower to examine it closer.

I did not immediately recognize these flowers.  Each flower consisted of five petals, five petal-like sepals and  eight pollen covered stamen - the flowers on this tree were all male.  After comparing my photographs to several books, I finally decided that this was a Norway maple (Acer platanoides).  Norway Maple is a native of Europe, but has naturalized in twenty-two northeastern states and three in the Pacific Northwest as well as several Canadian provinces.  This species is recognized as an invasive species in at least two states.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #18 Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officianale)

After leaving Mill Pond, I finally arrived at Chipp-A-Waters Park.  I found my eighth flower of the day growing along the paved trail.  This was my first non-native flower of the year - the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officianale).

A native of Eurasia, the Common Dandelion is naturalized across North America.  It is found in every single state and Canadian province.  Common Dandelion can be identified by its basal rosette of toothed leaves, bright yellow flowers, and milky white sap.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #19 Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

My next flower of the day was another spring ephemeral.  Like many woodland flowers, Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) completes is annual cycle of growth, flowering, and fruiting before the canopy trees have developed their leaves.

Blue Cohosh plants can grow quite large (12 to 32 inches tall), but their flowers are small and inconspicuous.  Individual flowers measure only about 1/4 inch across and are a yellow-green color.  Despite the small size, these flowers are visited by a number of pollinating insects including flies, wasps, and bees.

Blue Cohosh has small greenish flowers

Wildflowers of 2016 - #20 Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

My next flower was my second species in the Cardamine genus - Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatentata).  Like the Spring Cress, this species identifies itself as a member of the Brassicaceae by having flowers with four white petals.  These flowers are about 1/2 inch wide and an inch long. 

Cut-leaved Toothwort - note whorls of deeply lobed leaves

The leaves of Cut-leaved Toothwort grow in a whorl of three leaves.  Each of these leaves is deeply "cut" into three to five lobes with toothed margins.  The plants grow 8 to 15 inches tall.  Cut-leaved Toothwort can often be found in dense colonies - it reproduces both by seeds and rhizomes.

Cut-leaved Toothwort grows in rich deciduous wooodlands
In Michigan, the Cut-leaved Toothwort grows across the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, up along the Lake Michigan shoreline to the Straits of Mackinaw, and throughout the Upper Peninsula.  Like many spring ephemeral wildflowers, this species is found only in eastern North America.

Cut-leaved Toothwort - note the 4-petaled flowers that indicate this plan is a "Mustard"

Wildflowers of 2016 - #21 False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

My final species of the day was False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum).  I found this species growing along a ridge that marks one of the old riverbanks at the rear of Chipp-A-Waters Park.  It was intermingled with a large patch of Wild Leek.

False Rue Anemone and Wild Leek

False Rue Anemone flowers have five white petal-like sepals, with yellow stamen, and green pistils.  Flowers measure 1/2 to 3/4 inches across.  The plant has compound leaves that are divided into three leaflets; each leaflet is further divided into several lobes.

False Rue Anemone - note five white sepals

False Rue Anemone can be found in twenty-two states and the Province of Ontario.  The core of its range runs southwest from Michigan to Missouri.  In Michigan, Isabella County is at the northern edge of its range. 

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