Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #141 through #159

I am almost caught up with my Wildflowers of 2016 list.  On Tuesday June 21st, I found nineteen new species for the year.  I also found a different variety (color form) of a species that I had previously listed.  My day began at Mill Pond Park.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #141 Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

My first flower of the day was a non-native member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) - Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca).  Motherwort is native to Eurasia and was once commonly grown as a medicine.  It can grow in a variety of wet and dry habitats in both sun and shade and has naturalized throughout most of North America.

A colony of Motherwort

Motherwort can be identified by it pairs of opposite leaves with three sharply-pointed lobes.  Each pair of leaves grows perpendicular the pairs above and below.  The plant's pink (or white) flowers grow from each leaf axil.

Motherwort - note lobed leaves and flowers in leaf axils

Wildflowers of 2016 - #142 Border Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium)

The next species is another non-native - Border Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium).  This species is not native to North America, but is commonly grown as a landscape shrub.  Border Privet has escaped from these domestic plantings and is now naturalized in 20 states.  This a relatively new alien species, it was first recorded in the wild in Michigan in 1959 and the record of its occurrence is probably incomplete.  It is not listed by Michigan Flora for Isabella County.

Border Privet - a potentially invasive shrub

Border Privet is one of three Privet species found in Michigan.  I based the identification of this specimen on the size (small) and location of the flower clusters in relation to the rest of the plant.  Although these pictures do not show it well, these plants have flower clusters all along their stems and not just at the tips (a feature of Common Privet and California Privet).

Border Privet - note tubular flowers with four petals/lobes

Wildflowers of 2016 - #143 White Avens (Geum canadense)

My first native species of the day was White Avens (Geum canadense).  White Avens is a perennial that can grow up to 48 inches tall. It grows throughout the eastern United States and Canada as far west as Wyoming and Montana.  Part of the reason for this species' wide range is its adaptability.  While the plant is most commonly found in moist woodlands, it will also grow in dry woodlands or even open fields.

White Avens - note small white flowers and leaves with three leaflets

White Avens can be identified by its basal leaves which are split into three leaflets.  Plants have smaller leaves (also with three leaflets) growing alternately along the plant's rising stem.  The basal leaves resemble those of Wild Strawberry plants - I have White Avens growing in my garden at home that I only notice once it grows over the top of the surrounding strawberries.

White Avens flower - note five petals and five short sepals

The flowers of White Avens are about 1/2 inch across and have 5 small white petal with five pointed green sepals between the petals.  The sepals are shorter than the petals.  The flowers grow in one or several branched clusters at the end of the stem.  Flowers bloom sequentially from the lowest to the highest.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #144 Narrow-leafed Cattail (Typha angustifolia)

Mill Pond Park is named because much of the park fits within the former boundaries of the city's mill pond.  Water from this pond was once used to power a flour mill and a sawmill.  While the dams that formed this pond are now gone, the water that they held protected portions of the Chippewa River's floodplain from being developed.  Part of this floodplain is now occupied by a large emergent marsh.  The primary plants found growing in this marsh are cattails.  There are two species of cattails found growing in this marsh (and possibly hybrids of the two species).  I found both species growing within the confines of the floodplain, starting with the Narrow-leafed Cattail (Typha angustifolia).

Narrow-leafed Cattail

Narrow-leafed Cattail is native to North America, but is probably not native to Michigan.  It can be aggressive and will often out-compete Common Cattail (T. latifolia) when the two species are found together.  Some states list Narrow-leafed Cattail as an invasive species.

Narrow-leafed Cattail flower emerging from its protective sheath

Both species have narrow ribbon-like leaves.  However, the width of these leaves is not a reliable way to distinguish between the two species.  While Narrow-leafed Cattail generally has narrower leaves than Common Cattail, there is overlap in size.

Narrow-leafed Cattail - note the gap between the male (upper) and female (lower) flowers

The most reliable way to decide between the species in the field is to look at their flowers - the "cat tails".  The flowers of both species are divided into two parts with the male (staminate) flowers being located near the end of the stalk and the female (pistillate) flowers located further down on the same stalk.  On the Common Cattail, the two halves of the flower touch with no gap between them.  The male and female flowers of Narrow-leafed Cattail are separated by a gap.  Hybrids of the two species probably have a narrower gap, but there is not reliable way to identify hybrids outside the lab.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #145 Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a Eurasian native that has also naturalized across most of North America.  Also known as Catmint,  Catnip was widely planted during Colonial times for its medicinal properties.  Like most non-native species, it is most common in disturbed habitats.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Catnip grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet.  It has opposite leaves that are roughly heart-shaped with toothed margins.  The undersides of the leaves and stems are covered with dense whitish hairs - this gives the plant a grayish-green appearance.

Catnip - a closer view of the flowering spike

Catnip Flowers are arranged in a spike at the top of the plant and in the upper leaf axils.  The flowering spike may be nearly 3 inches long, but individual flowers are small (1/4 to 1/2 inch across)  The flowers are white with pink or purple spots.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #146 Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)

Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)

I found Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius) growing in an open dry area along the Chippewa River.  This non-native vine is also known as Perennial Pea.  It was originally introduced to North America as a decorative plant, being grown for its large (up to 1 1/4 inches), showy, pink flowers.  It is now found in every state except Alaska, North Dakota, and Florida.

Everlasting Pea - note flowers with standard, wings, and keel

Each Everlasting Pea vine can grow up to 6 feet.  The vines either trail along the ground or climb nearby objects with the aid of grasping tendrils which coil around and support the plant's weight.  The compound leaves of Everlasting Pea are arranged alternately along the vine, with each leaf having a single pair of leaflets.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #147 Common Elder (Sambucus canadensis)

The next new species of the day was Common Elder (Sambucus canadensis).  This native shrub is most commonly found in wet habitats such as swamps, shorelines, and floodplains, but can also grow in drier habitats.  It has been recorded in forty-four states and six Canadian provinces/territories.  The one that I found grows on an island in the middle of the Chippewa River in Mill Pond Park.

Commen Elder can be spotted from a distance.

Common Elder can grow to a height of twelve feet.  It has large compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets.  Individual leaflets are 2 to 4 inches long.  The flowers of Common Elder are flat-topped clusters (umbels) that measure up to six inches across.  The small flowers that make up the umbel are white colored.  After pollination, the flowers will develop into small purple berries.  These berries are delicious and can be used to make jellies, pies, and (for adults) wine.  These berries are also readily consumed by birds.

Common Elder - a closer view of the flower cluster and leaves

Wildflowers of 2016 - #148 Common St. John's-wort (Hypericum perfoliatum)

Common St. John's-wort
My final flower at Mill Pond Park was Common St. John's-wort (Hypericum perfoliatum).  Of thirteen St. John's-wort species found in Michigan this is the only one that is not native to the state.  This Eurasian native has naturalized in forty-five states and eight Canadian provinces. It is identifiable by the black spots along the edge of its petals.  The native species Spotted St. John's-wort (H. punctatum) is more heavily spotted on both its flowers and leaves.

Common St. John's-wort - look closely at the edge of the petals to see black dots

Common St. John's-wort plants grow to a height of  1 to 2.5 feet.  These plant are typically heavily branched.  The flowers are yellow, measure 0.75 to 1 inch across, and have five petals.  Leaves on this species are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem.  Lower leaves measure 1 to 1.5 inches, while those higher on the plant may be half the size.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #149 Pineapple-weed (Matricaria discoidea)


Species #149 did not appear on my Wildflowers of 2014 list.  Pineapple-weed (Matricaria discoidea) is generally considered a native of western North America, but has spread across almost the entire continent.  In Michigan it is listed for sixty-three counties, but is probably more widespread.  Pineapple-weed is easy to overlook.  It grows low to the ground, never more than eighteen inches tall.  The green or grayish-green leaves are deeply lobed and resemble those of a fern or parsley.  The flowers are composed of a yellow or yellow-green cone-shaped disk without rays (petals).  Pineapple-weed commonly grows along roadsides and other weedy locations.  All parts of this plant have a pineapple odor when crushed, thus the name Pineapple-weed.  This plant is also known as Disc Mayweed.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #150 Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Species number ten for the day and number one hundred fifty for the year was the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).  This native plant is found from Montana south to Texas east to the Atlantic states.  In Michigan, if someone mentions Milkweed, this is probably the plant to which they are referring.  Amazingly, six counties in the state lack records of this species.  This species is best known as a host plant for the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Common Milkweed - a closer view of the flowers

For more information on this species, please see my species profile from June 2013.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #102a White-flowered Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara f. albiflorum)

I am going to shift gears a little on my next plant.  On June 1st, I recorded Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) as Species #102 for the year.  Flowers for this species are normally purple, but Michigan Flora mentions an uncommon form with white flowers.   This color variant is listed as  Solanum dulcamara f. albiflorum.  Because this is a variant and not a separate species, I am not giving it a separate number on the list.  Instead, I am assigning it #102a.  Other than flower color, it is identical to the more common purple-flowered variety.

White-flowered form of Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara f. albiflorum)

Wildflowers of 2016 - #151 Common Cattail (Typha latifolia)

Common-Cattail (Typha latifolia) is one of two cattail species that can be found in Michigan - Narrow-leafed Cattail (T. angustifolia) was listed at #144.   While there is debate about whether Narrow-leafed Cattail is native or non-native to the Michigan, Common Cattail is definitely native to the state.  Common Cattail can be found in wetlands throughout North America (with the exceptions of Nunavut and Labrador).

Common Cattail - note how male (upper) and female (lower) flowers touch

Although Common Cattail typically has wider leaves than Narrow-leafed Cattail, there can be some overlap in leaf width so this is not always a reliable species indicator.  Fortunately it is easy to distinguish between the two species when they are flowering.  The "cattails" that we see are actually the flowers and seed heads of the plant.  Each flower has two parts: a male part that produces pollen and a female part that produces seeds.  The male part of the flower is always above the female part on the stem.  On the Narrow-leafed Cattail there is a gap separating the two parts of the flower.  On the Common Cattail the two parts of the flower are touching.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #152 Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

My final flower from Mill Pond Park was Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata).  Blue Vervain is a native wetland species that can be found across the state of Michigan.  It is found in in scattered locations throughout the Lower Forty-eight and across the southern tier of Canada.  It is most common in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions.
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

This species grows up to six feet tall and is topped with a cluster of flower spike.  Each of these spikes flowers from the bottom to the top in succession.  The individual flowers are blue to violet-blue colored, have five petals,  and measure only 1/8 to 1/4 inch across. More information on this species can be found here.

Blue Vervain - A closer view of the flower spikes

Wildflowers of 2016 - #153 Birdfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

After finding Blue Vervain, I went to Chipp-A-Waters Park where I found an additional three species.  The first species that I found was Birdfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).  This non-native species is identifiable by its distinctive yellow pea-like flowers - the plant is a member of the Legume Family (Fabaceae).  It was originally introduced to North America as a forage species and is now naturalized across most of the Continental United States and Canada.

Birdfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Wildflowers of 2016 - #154 Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

The next species that I found was Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria).  This native of Europe is naturalized across most of the United States and portions of Canada.  Moth Mullein grows in a variety of habitat types from dry to wet.  It most commonly grows in disturbed habitats such as roadsides and fields.

Moth Mullein grows in fields and disturbed areas

Moth Mullein is a biennial - meaning it lives for two years.  During its first year, it appears as a basal cluster of leaves up to 12 inches across.  The alternate leaves of second year plants are highly variable.  During this second year, it may grow as tall as five feet.  All parts of the plant are covered in dense white hairs.

Moth Mullein - note yellow flowers with purple centers

The flowers of Moth Mullein grow during the plant's second year.  The flowers are typically yellow (or white, rarely pink) with a reddish-purple center and rise in one or more racemes (unbranched stalks) above the plant's leaves.  The flowers bloom in sequence from the bottom of the raceme to the top. 

Wildflowers of 2016 - #155 Northern Hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum)

Northern Hawkweed

My next flower was Northern Hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum).  This is one of fifteen hawkweed species in Michigan, of which seven (including this species) are native.  Hawkweeds can be difficult to identify as many of them have similar features.  I based my identification based in part on the small, sharp "teeth" on the leaf margins and the fact that the leaves are hairy.  Other identifying factors included the loose flower panicles and rough stem.

Northern  Hawkweed - note toothed leaf margins

Wildflowers of 2016 - #156 Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)

Unlike #146 Hedge Bindweed, Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is non-native.  It is a trailing or twining vine with trumpet shaped white or pink flowers.  It is similar in appearance to Hedge Bindweed, but the leaves (1-2 inches) and flowers (less than 1 inch wide) are both much smaller.

Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)

Wildflowers of 2016 - #157 Clammy Ground-cherry (Physalis heterophylla)

My final three species of the day were photographed at Mission Creek Woodland Park.  I originally looked for Clammy Ground-cherry (Physalis heterophylla) at Chipp-A-Waters Park, but could not find any in bloom.  At Mission Creek I found a half dozen or so on disturbed soil at the base of the sledding hill..  This plant is a native relative of both the Chinese Lantern (P. alkekengi), a common garden plant native to Eurasia, and the Tomatillo (P. philadelphica), a vegetable plant native to Mexico.

Although this species is distributed across most of the United States (and the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec), it is most common in the eastern half of the country.  This species is found throughout Michigan, but many counties (including Isabella) lack records.

Clammy ground-cherry - note hairs on all parts of the plant and bell-shaped flower

The dangling yellow bell-shaped flowers, when pollinated, will turn into a yellow fruit covered with a papery husk.  This fruit is edible when ripe, but the rest of the plant is toxic.  The entire plant is covered with a dense coat of sticky white hairs.

Clammy Ground-cherry - a closer view of the bell-shaped flower

Wildflowers of 2016 - #158 Tall Anemone (Anemone virginiana)

Tall Anemone (Anemone virginiana) was one of the species that I missed on my 2014 list.  This is one of two species that are commonly known as Thimbleweed; the other being Long-fruited Anemone (A. cylindrica).  Both species are native to Michigan.  Both live in a variety of habitats including woodlands, prairies, and roadsides.

Tall Anemone (Anemone virginiana) - note lobed leaves and greenish-white flowers

Both species usually have white flowers although those of Tall Anemone are often wider (up to 1.5 inches versus 0.75 inches).  One major difference between the species is that the lobed leaves of Long-fruited Anemone are more deeply cut than those of Tall Anemone. On that basis alone, I am confident in identifying these plants as Tall Anemone.

Native bee on Tall Anemone flower

Wildflowers of 2016 - #159 Large-leafed Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica)

My final flower of the day was Large-leafed Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica).  I first found this species in 2014 along a little-used, unmaintained trail at Mission Creek.  With the building of the dog park, trail traffic has been diverted onto this section and I was afraid that these plants may get trampled/crowded out.  Fortunately, some of them are far enough in the underbrush that they appear to be safe for the time being.

Large-leafed Shinleaf - hiding in the underbrush at Mission Creek Park

Large-leaved Shinleaf is one of five Pyrola species that can be found in Michigan.  Four of the species (including this one) are widely distributed across the state.  All of the species have flowers that are arranged in a raceme - each plant has a single flowering stalk with flowers hand off this stalk by short stems.  This flowering stalk rises from a basal cluster of leaves.  The flowers bloom from the bottom to the top of the raceme in sequence.

Large-leaved Shinleaf - note how pistil curves downward and extends beyond petals

The flowers of all Pyrola species have five petals and a pistil that curves down and out from the flowers center.  This species can be distinguished from the other Michigan Pyrola species by the size and shape of its leaves.

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