Wildflowers of 2016 - #100 Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Species #100 for the year was the Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Native to North America, but not native to Michigan, this species has been extensively planted as a landscape tree. It has since spread into natural areas and may be considered invasive in some areas for this spreading tendency. It frequently grows to a height of 30 to 50 feet, but occasionally tops out at 70 feet. It is currently found in all US states except Hawaii and Alaska and six Canadian provinces.
|Black Locust flowers can be seen from some distance away|
Black Locust can be identified by its large compound leaves, thorns, white pea-like flowers, and flat seed pods. The flower shape identifies this plant as a member of the Legume Family (Fabaceae). Like other legumes, Black Locust forms a symbiotic relationship with certain nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria.
|Close-up of Black Locust blooms - note standard, wings, and keel on each flower|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #101 Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia)
The second species of the day was Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia). This is the most common species of wild grape in Michigan. As its name suggests this sun-loving species commonly grows along riverbanks, but is also found in other forest openings, along forest edges, and in fields. It can be distinguished from the other three other Michigan grape species by the shape of its leaves - lobes that point toward the tip and coarsely serrated margins. The flowers grow in elongated clusters that when pollinated will grow into the typical grape bunches. The small purple fruit of Riverbank Grape are sour and contain a large seed.
|Riverbank Grape flowers|
Riverbank Grape has been recorded in sixty-eight of Michigan's eighty-three counties. The species has been recorded in thirty-seven states, but the core of its range is in the Northeast and upper Midwest states.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #102 Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) was originally native to Eurasia but is naturalized across most of North America. The plant grows as a vine that either trails along the ground or twines its way upward using other plants as supports. It can grow in a variety of soil types, but prefers wet soils and is often found along stream and in wetlands.
|A patch of Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)|
Bittersweet Nightshade can be identified by its lobed leaves, purple flowers that resemble shooting stars, and later by its bright red berries. These berries are consumed by birds (which spread the seeds in their droppings), but are considered toxic to humans.
|Bittersweet Nightshade - note "shooting star" flower shape|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #103 Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis)
|Yellow Sweet Clover|
The next species is one that was originally introduced from Europe as a forage plant - Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis). This large species may grow up to 8 feet tall. It has compound leaves divided into three lobes and elongated clusters (racemes) of yellow flowers. The racemes may measure up to six inches long, but individual flowers are small (about 1/3 inch). This species is member of the Legume Family (Fabaceae) sow each flower consists of five parts: a standard, two wings, and two petals fused into a keel. A closely related species White Sweet Clover (Melilotus albus) has white flowers.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #104 Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
The fifth species of the day was Red Clover (Trifolium pratense). A native of Eurasia and northwest Africa, this species is also commonly planted as a forage crop and has naturalized across most of North America. It has been recorded in every US state and every Canadian province/territory with the exception of Nunavut. Amazingly, there are ten counties in Michigan where this species has not been noted. I expect that it is probably present in those counties, but just has not been collected as an herbarium specimen.
|Red Clover - note variegated leaves with three leaflets|
The flowers of Red Clover grow in a globe-shaped cluster.This is another member of the Fabaceae, but instead of having the typical flower shape of that family the flowers are more tubular. Despite the name, flowers of Red Clover are not red. Instead they are pink to purplish-pink. This is a favorite nectar plant of many bees (especially bumble bees) and is also visited by many butterfly species.
|A closer view of Red Clover - note overall hairiness of plant|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #105 Hoary Alyssum (Berteroa incana)
The fifth non-native plant (and sixth plant overall) for the day was Hoary Alyssum (Berteroa incana). The word hoary comes from an Old English word that means "gray or white with age". Hoary Alyssum is densely covered with fine hairs giving it a grey-green appearance. Michigan has several species of plants with Hoary in their name (Hoary Alyssum, Hoary Vervain, Hoary Puccoon, etc.); all of which are covered with dense hair.
Hoary Alyssum is a member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). As such, its flowers have four petals. The flowers are small (1/8 inch) and white. They grow on a raceme (elongated cluster) with individual flowers on the raceme flowering in succession from the bottom to the top.
|Hoary Alyssum - note deeply notched petals and hairy appearance of plant|
This species is naturalized across much of the United States and Canada, but is absent across most of the Southeast west through Texas to California.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #106 Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
The next flower is another introduced species - Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). This native of Eurasia can be found in every American state and all Canadian provinces and territories (with the exception of Nunavut). Ox-eye Daisy can be found throughout most of Michigan growing in dry soils such as roadsides, fields, shorelines, and forest edges and clearings. It rarely grows in wetlands. The species is considered a noxious weed by several states.
Ox-eye Daisy has the classic Daisy look with a yellow disc surrounded by 15 to 40 rays. Each flower may be up to 2 inches across. Plants may grow up to three foot tall.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #107 Bitter Dock (Rumex obtusifolius)
The next flower is another introduced species from Europe - Bitter Dock (Rumex obtusifolius). Like many non-native species it prefers disturbed sites such as fields and roadsides where it is able to grow with less competition from native plants.
|Bitter Dock along a woodland trail|
Bitter Dock initially grows as a basal cluster of leaves. The leaves may be up to six inches wide. Later in the season one or more flowering stalks arise from this basal rosette. The flowers are small and greenish-red. They grow directly along the branching stalks. Smaller leaves may also grow along the stalks.
|Bitter Dock flowers are small and greenish-red|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #108 Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar variegata)
|Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar variegata)|
To photograph the next three species I had to use waders and explore the old river oxbow at the back of Chipp-A-Waters Park. My first wetland species was Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar variegata). To my knowledge, this oxbow pond is the only location in Mt. Pleasant where this species can be found. It grows only in shallow still (or very slowly moving) water. It's leaves typically float on the water or rise slightly above the surface. The yellow flowers also emerge from the water.
|Yellow Pond Lily - note heart-shaped leaves|
For more information please see my species profile from December 2013.
|Yellow Pond Lily flowers are globe-shaped and rise slightly above the water|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #109 Giant Bur-reed (Sparganium eurycarpum)
Also growing in the oxbow pond was Giant Bur-reed (Sparganium eurycarpum). This species is an emergent plant and requires shallower water than the Yellow Pond Lily. This is another species that I have profiled in the past.
|Giant Bur-reed - note both the greenish male (staminate) flowers and whitish female (pistillate) flowers|
Giant Bur-reed grows long sedge-like leaves that emerge from the water. These leaves are narrow (up to 3/4 inch wide) but can be up to 4 feet long. The flowers of Giant Bur-read grow on branched stalks that also rise above the water. Male and female flowers are separate, but appear on the same plant. Both male and female flowers grow in globe-like clusters.
|Giant Bur-reed - closeup of female (pistillate) flower|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #110 Water Dock (Rumex verticillatus)
|Water Dock growing in shallow (>2 ft.) water|
My final flower from Chipp-A-Waters Park was another emergent wetland species. Water Dock (Rumex verticillatus) is a relative of Bitter Dock (#107). Unlike Bitter Dock, this species is native to Michigan where it is found only in the southern half of the state. Water Dock has an interesting population distribution. It is found in coastal marshes all down the East Coast, along the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi to the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence valley, but it is absent from the interior of many of these states.
|Water Dock - a closer view of the small dangling flowers|
Water Dock leaves are arranged alternately on the plant's stalk. The lower leaves may be 2.5 inches across and 12 inches long. Upper leaves are smaller. The small greenish flowers are arranged on spike-like racemes. The racemes might measure as much as 12 inches tall. Individual flowers are only about 1/8 inch across and have three petals and three sepals - the sepals and petals are basically indistinguishable.