Sunday, July 3, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #178 through #182

Another rare weekend post to get caught up with my Wildflowers of 2016 list.   The following five species were found and photographed on Thursday (30 June 2016) at Mill Pond Park.  As of right now, I am up to date. 

Wildflowers of 2016 - #178 Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), despite its name, is a weedy species introduced from Europe to North America sometime before 1800.  It is also known as Field Thistle.  This species is found in all but six southeastern states and Hawaii.  Additionally, it is found in every Canadian province but Nunavut.

Canada Thistle - note many flowers and spines on leaves
This species of thistle has blueish flowers arranged in flat-topped clusters.  The stems of this plant do not have spines but the the edges of the lobed leaves are tipped with spines.  Canada thistle plant can reach heights of 12 to 60 inches.

Canada Thistle is a favorite nectar plant of many pollinators like this Cabbage White butterfly (another European native)

Unlike most other thistles, this species is a perennial and can spread both by seed and by rhizomes.  It can form dense colonies - in Europe it is known as Creeping Thistle because of this tendency for colonies to expand from their roots.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #179 Swamp Milkweed (Aclepias incarnata)

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) the second Milkweed species on my 2016 list - Common Milkweed (A. syriaca) was listed at #150.  In Mid-Michigan, Common Milkweed is our most widespread Milkweed species, Swamp Milkweed is the second most common species.  As its name implies, Swamp Milkweed prefers wet soils.  Although the plant is not usually found in standing water, it is common along shorelines, in wet meadows, and in ditches across Michigan.  It rarely is found in drier soils.  Swamp Milkweed has been recorded in forty-three states, but is most common in the Great Lakes and Northeast.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Swamp Milkweed is easy to identify.  It has flowers with the typical milkweed shape, but they are arranged in a flat-topped (or domed) cluster.  More importantly for identification they are a bright magenta pink.  The leaves of Swamp Milkweed are much narrower and lance-shaped than those of Common Milkweed.  The plant has the potential to grow up to six feet tall, but is usually much shorter.  Like all Milkweeds, Swamp Milkweed is a perennial that spreads both by sending up clones from its roots and by its wind-dispersed seeds.

Swamp Milkweed - A closer view of the  bright magenta flowers

Wildflowers of 2016 - #180 White Sweet clover (Melilotus albus)

White Sweet Clover (Melilotus albus) was originally planted as forage for livestock but has naturalized across most of North America.  Some sources list the scientific name for this species as Meililotus alba.

White Sweet Clover - note three-part leaves and elongated flower clusters
This large species may grow up to 8 feet tall.  It has compound leaves divided into three lobes and elongated clusters (racemes) of white flowers.  The racemes may measure up to six inches long, but individual flowers are small (about 1/8 to 1/4 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.

White Sweet Clover (Melilotus albus)

With the exception of flower color, this species is indistinguishable from #103 Yellow Sweet Clover (M. officianalus).  The USDA PLANTS database does not distinguish between the two and considers them variations of the same species.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #181 Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) was introduced from Europe and is now naturalized across North America with the exception of Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.  Chicory grows in a variety of habitats including lawns, fields, roadsides, and natural areas such as prairies.  The plant was frequently cultivated for its roots which were used to make a coffee substitute - Mt. Pleasant once had a Chicory processing plant.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory is a gangly, branching perennial.  Its leaves resemble those of dandelions or wild lettuce.  The leaves near the base of the plant can be up to 8 inches long, but they get smaller higher on the plant.

Chicory - not small leaves, gangly stems, and many flower buds
The flowers of Chicory make it easy to identify.  Each plant may produce dozens of pale blue (rarely white or pink) flowers over the course of the summer, but only a few will bloom at any one time.  The flowers are 1 - 1 1/2 inches across and composed of 10 to 20 rays or petals.  The tips of each ray are toothed.  The stamen at the center of the flower are also a pale blue.

Chicory - a closer view of the flower

Wildflowers of 2016 - #182 Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

My final flower of the day is another European native.  Also known as Queen Anne's Lace, Wild Carrot (Daucus Carota) is a biennial plant that during its first year produces a basal cluster of leaves.  In its second year the plant "bolts" or goes to seed, first producing a flat cluster (umbel) of small white flowers.  This umbel may be up to 10 inches across.  The center of the umbel often contains a single, sterile, purple floret.  This floret is not always present, but in combination with a "carrot" smell, it makes this plant easy to identify.  

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) - note compound leaves with narrow leaflets

This species has naturalized  across most of North America with the exception of the arctic and subarctic.  Despite not being native to North America, Wild Carrot has no obvious negative impacts in the landscape.  It gets along well in the landscape and rarely out-competes native plants.

Wild Carrot - note white flower umbel and hairy stem

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