Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #27 and #28

Yesterday, between school programs, I was able to get to Chipp-A-Waters Park long enough to find two new wildflower species for the year.  The first of these species was my third non-native species of the year and the second was a native plant.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #27 Garlic Mustard (Alliara petiolata)

A patch of Garlic Mustard on the bank of the Chippewa River

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a very aggressive non-native species that will quickly outgrow many native species.  In addition to growing quickly and producing hundreds of seeds, Garlic Mustard also is an allelopathic species.  Allelopathy is basically a form of chemical warfare by plants.  Garlic Mustard releases chemicals into the soil that inhibit the germination and growth of other species of plants - resulting in large pure stands of Garlic Mustard and the elimination of native species in an infested area.

Like other Mustard plants, Garlic Mustard had flowers with four petals.  Other distinguishing features include heart-shaped leaves and a "garlic" smell.  This plant is a biennial - on first year plants the leaves are more rounded.  If you find this plant growing anywhere PULL IT and dispose of it before it spreads further.

Garlic Mustard - note four-petaled flowers that indicate this is a member of the "Mustard family" (Brassicaceae)

Unfortunately, Garlic Mustard is common in areas of Mill Pond Park and Chipp-A-Waters Park.  This cluster of plants was growing along the edge of the Chippewa River at Chipp-A-Waters Park.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #28 Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)

My second species of the day and number 28 for the year was Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens).  I found this species growing at Chipp-A-Waters Park in a large patch of mixed wildflower species near the rear of the park.

Downy Yellow Violet - Michigan's only native yellow violet

Downy Yellow Violet is the only native species of yellow-flowering violet.  With the exception of Florida, this species is found in every eastern state.  It can be found as far west as Wyoming.  It is also found in seven Canadian provinces from Saskatchewan east to Nova Scotia.  It is found in all 82 counties in Michigan.

This plant is highly variable.  Some individuals are densely covered with short hairs; others are mostly hairless.  This variability has led to the species sometimes being split into several subspecies.  The examples that I photographed were mostly hairless, but had dense hairs lower on the stems.

Downy Yellow Violet - note hairs on stem

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