Monday, May 23, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #42 through #48

I am falling behind on my Wildflower Big Year posts.  I have gone out and taken photos, but I haven't posted many of them yet.  I hope to get caught up over the next few days.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #42 Morrow's Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii)

Morrow's Honeysuckle flowers fade from white to yellow as they age.

On Monday (16 May) after working with students from Fancher Elementary I spent a short time at Chipp-A-Waters Park searching for new wildflowers.  My first flower of the day was a flowering shrub that I found growing near the parking lot .  Unfortunately Morrow's Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) is an invasive species.  It escapes from cultivation when birds consume the red or orange berries and deposit them in their dropping in nearby wild areas.  When a plant grows from these seeds and reaches maturity, birds will eat its seeds, and continue the process of distribution.  Eventually whole forests can have understories that are completely composed of this and other non-native shrubs which crowd out native shrubs and wildflowers.

Morrow's Honeysuckle - note pairs of flowers in each opposite leaf axil

Morrow's Honeysuckle can be distinguished from other non-native Honeysuckle species by its pairs of flowers which start out white and then fade to yellow, and its leaves which are are pubescent (covered with downy hairs).  Morrow's Honeysuckle can hybridize with several other species of Honeysuckle, making identification more difficult.

Morrow's Honeysuckle can quickly crowd out native species

Wildflowers of 2016 - #43 Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus)

My second flower of the day was growing in the floodplain along the river.  Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus) would be the first of three Ranunculus species that I would find on Monday.  For more information on this species, check out this species profile from May 2013.

Swamp Buttercup - note deeply lobed leaves

Swamp Buttercup - note five petaled flowers

Wildflowers of 2016 - #44 Common Apple (Malus pumila)

My next species was a non-native tree - Common Apple (Malus pumila)  There are several Apple trees at the front of Chipp-A-Waters Park that were intentionally planted, but I found two specimens growing along the trail near the back of the park.  These trees probably came up from seeds that were deposited in animal droppings.  When the Apples are ripe they are consumed by many mammal species including deer and squirrels.   Because the seeds do not easily digest, they ofteen pass whole through an animal's digestive tract and have the opportunity to grow into new trees.

A wild Common Apple tree along the Chippewa River

Common Apple has large fragrant blooms to attract pollinators

Common Apple - note five petals one each flower

Wildflowers of 2016 - #45 Small-flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus arbotivus)

The fourth flower of the day and number forty-five for the year was my second Ranunculus species of the day.  Most Buttercup species are found almost exclusively in wetlands, but Small-flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus arbotivus) is as likely to be found in uplands as in wetlands.  This species is found in every state but Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii as well as every Canadian province but Nunavut.  In Michigan it has been recorded in all but two northeastern counties.

Small-flowered Buttercup grows equally well in uplands and wetlands

As the name of the plant implies, the flowers of this plant are small, measuring approximately 1/4 inch across.

Small-flowered Buttercup flowers are easy to overlook.

Small-flowered Buttercup flowers are less than 1/4 inch across.

The leaves of this plant are different on different parts of the plant.  Basal leaves are kidney-shaped and may measure as much as 4 inches across.  Stem leaves are smaller and divided into 3 to 5 lobes.  Two alternate names for this plant are Kidney-leaved Buttercup or Littleleaf Buttercup

Small-flowered Buttercup - note kidney-shaped basal leaves

Wildflowers of 2016 - #46 Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily-of-the-valley is an aggressive non-native species.

The fifth flower of the day was another non-native species.  Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is a common garden escapee.  While Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is a nice garden flower, it is a horrible plant to have in the woods.  A very large colony of this non-native flower is slowly overtaking my favorite wildflower are in Mt. Pleasant.  Once escaped from cultivation, this plant can outcompete many native species.

Lily-of-the-valley surrounding native plants such as Large-flowered Trillium

A word of caution about this plant - ALL parts of the plant are highly toxic.  Ingestion of even small amounts of this plant can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, lowered heart rate, or even death.  

Why is this important?  When first emerging from the ground and up until this plant starts to develop its flowering stalk, this plant can be confused with several other species, including edible Wild Leeks or Ramps (Allium tricoccum).  However, once Lily-of-the-Valley begins to bloom, its (normally) white bell shaped flowers make it easy to distinguish from other species. 

Lily-of-the-valley - note bell-shaped white flowers

Interestingly, right before I photographed this species I spent about fifteen minutes talking to a gentleman from Germany that is visiting the area for the next few weeks.  We talked about the plant and animal species that are the same as Europe and those that are different.  One of the plants that we talked about was the Wild Leek and how you have to be careful when harvesting it because of its resemblance to Lily-of-the-valley.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #47 Indian Strawberry (Potentilla indica)

Indian Strawberry - resembles wild and domestic strawberry but has yellow flowers
On the return walk to my truck I noticed my next flower growing along the edge of the trail.  Indian Strawberry (potentilla indica) is a naturalized wildflower originally from South and East Asia.  Commonly grown as a groundcover, it can not be found in thirty-one states and two Canadian provinces.  Herbarium on this plant are incomplete.  Michigan Flora lists this species for only nine southern counties, but extensive colonies can be found in at least two of Mt. Pleasant's parks.

Indian Strawberry

Indian Strawberry (also known as Mock Strawberry) resembles wild and domestic strawberry plants, but has yellow flowers instead of white.  Each flower consists of 5 yellow petals and 5 green sepals.  The flowers measure approximately 3/4 inch across.  The plant does produce a red fruit that resembles a strawberry. This fruit is edible, but is rather dry and bland tasting.

Indian Strawberry spreads by producing "runners"

This species was formerly known as Duchesnea indica and many books and websites still use that binomial.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #48 Hooked Crowfoot (Ranunculus recurvatus)

Hooked Crowfoot growing in the Chippewa River floodplain - note deeply lobed leaves

My final species of the day was another Ranuculus species - Hooked Crowfoot (Ranunculus recurvatus).  This species is listed as a Facultative Wetland species.  This means that it is normally found in wetland habitats, but is occasionally found in upland sites.  It has been recorded across eastern North America.  In Michigan it has been recorded in all but ten counties.  I found several plants growing along the trail at Chipp-A-Waters Park in an area where the trail passes through the Chippewa River floodplain.  

Hooked Crowfoot - note small flowers and lobed leaves

The leaves on this plant are divided into into three to five lobes.  The leaves near the top of the plant are smaller and simpler than those located near the bottom.  The plant's stalks are covered with fine hairs.

Hooked Crowfoot - enlarge this image to see the hooked styles

Hooked Crowfoot has one feature that distinguished it from all other Michigan Ranunculus species.  The flowers of this species are small with hooked styles (part of the flower that connects the ovary and stigma).  It is the only small-flowered species with hooked styles.

Hooked Crowfoot - note hairy stems

No comments:

Post a Comment