Wildflowers of 2016 - #187 Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
My first species of the day was found in the open field near the Girl Scout cabin at Chipp-A-Waters Park. Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) likes dry habitats such as fields and roadsides. A native of Europe, it has naturalized across most of North America with the exception of the Canadian Arctic territories. This species is often very conspicuous, growing as much as 7 feet tall. It has a flowering stalk that can be up to 2 feet long and leaves that can be 4 inches wide and 12 inches long.
|Common Mullein - at 2 feet tall this is actually a small example|
Also known as Flannel Plant, Common Mullein is a biennial plant. In its first year, it produces a cluster of fuzzy grey-green leaves 1 to 2 feet across. These leaves will stay green throughout the winter. During the plant's second growing season it will send up a single stalk - this stalk rarely branches. The lower part of the stalk with be covered alternate leaves that get smaller higher up the stalk. The upper part of the stalk will grow into a dense spike of yellow flowers. Flowers have have five pale yellow petals and are 1/2 to 1 inch across. Only a small percentage of flowers on as spike will be in bloom at any one time. The dried flower spikes often remain through the winter.
|Common Mullein - a closer view of the flower spike|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #188 Spotted Knapweed (Cenaurea stoebe)
|Spotted Knapweed - note purple flowers and grey-green foliage|
The next flower is considered a noxious weed or an invasive species by many states. Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) is a native of Europe that was introduced to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s. It is now found in 46 states and seven Canadian provinces/territories. Spotted Knapweed spreads aggressively by producing large numbers of seeds that remain viable in the soil for several years. Once established it quickly outcompetes native species.
|Spotted Knapweed flowers resemble those of thistles, but the plants lack thorns|
Spotted Knapweed plants may grow up to five feet tall. The purple flowers resemble those of thistles, but the plant can be distinguished from thistles by its complete lack of thorns. The leaves and stems of Spotted Knapweed are grey-green in color. The leaves are deeply lobed.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #189 Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis)
My third species from Chipp-A-Waters park was another non-native, Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis). This native of Eurasia is naturalized across all of the United States and Canada with the exception of Hawaii, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic. Like many introduced species, it is most commonly found in disturbed habitats such as fields and roadsides. Bouncing Bet is also known as Soapwort - adding the plant to water will result in foam that has traditionally bean used for cleaning.
|Bouncing Bet - a closer view of the flowers, note backward angled petals|
Bouncing Bet plants may grow up to 2 1/2 feet tall and produces a terminal cluster of white or bluish-white flowers. The flowers are up to 1 inch across, tube-shaped, and have five petals. The petals angle backward, exposing the plant's pistil and stamen. Like many pale flowers, Bouncing Bet is probably pollinated mainly by large nocturnal moths.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #190 Common Burdock (Arctium minus)
After leaving Chipp-A-Waters Park, I went a short distance to Mill Pond Park. Mill Pond is Mt. Pleasant's largest park at 90 acres. The first new flower that I encountered at Mill Pond Park was the Common Burdock (Arctium minus). This introduced species is a common weed of fields, roadsides, pastures, and other disturbed spaces. Common Burdock (also known as Lesser Burdock) is native to Europe, but can now be found across most of North America with the exception of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic.
|Common Burdock is a large plant|
Common Burdock plants can be identified by their large leaves (up to 2 feet long and 1.5 feet wide), purple flowers, and round burs. The burs encase the plant's seeds and are used to disperse the seeds. Anyone who has ever brushed up against one of these plants is familiar with how the hooked burs cling to clothing (or animal fur or feathers) and pull off of the parent plant. Common Burdock plants may grow from 3 to 6 feet tall.
|Common Burdock - note purple flowers and developing hooked burs|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #191 Willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum)
|Willow-herb - note toothed margins of leaves|
My second flower from Mill Pond Park was my first native species of the day, Willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum). I found this plant growing in the floodplain area at Mill Pond Park - in the same location where I found it in 2014. This species is typically found in wet soils. This species can be found across North America with the exception of seven states in the Southeast and the Canadian territory of Nunavut.
|Willow-herb - a closer view of the flower, note the small hairs on stems|
Michigan's eight Epilobium species can be difficult to identify to the species level. I based my identification of this plant on its height (greater than 3 feet), the size of its flower, size of leaves, toothed margins of its leaves, and locations of known populations in Michigan. However, this species is known to hybridize with Cinnamon Willow-herb (E. coloratum) and the plants in this small colony may very well be hybrids.
Wildflowers of 2016 - #192 Common Plantain (Plantago major)
Common Plantain (Plantago major) did not appear on my 2014 list. This species is native to Europe, but has naturalized across all fifty states and every Canadian province with the exception of Nunavut. It has been recorded in about three-quarters of Michigan's counties.
|Common Plantain - note basal rosette of leaves and flower spikes|
Common Plantain plants consist of a rosette of basal leaves measuring up to 12 inches across. The leaves are oval-shaped with a long stalk and measure 2 to 5 inches long. Rising from the center of the rosette are one or more densely packed flower spikes that rise to a height of 5 to 20 inches. The individual flowers on the spikes are small (1/8 inch) and green colored. The flowers consist of 4 sepals a single white pistil (which can be seen in the photographs) and four stamen with purple anthers.
|Common Plantain flower spike - note protruding white pistils and purple stamen|
Wildflowers of 2016 - #193 Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
The final flower on the list for the day is a nettle - Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). On June 28th I recorded Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis) at Species #175. Although Wood Nettle and Stinging Nettle are in separate genera (Urtica and Laportea), they share a common characteristic. Both plants are covered with fine needle-like hairs that break off upon contact. These needles are filled with a mixture of chemicals that cause an itching or burning sensation upon contact with skin. Both plants also have small greenish-white or green flowers growing in clusters from the leaf axils.
|Stinging Nettle - note opposite leaves and flowers in leaf axils|
Despite these similarities the two plants are easy to distinguish. Stinging Nettle often grows taller than Wood Nettle (up to 7 feet tall versus 4 feet tall). Although both species like wet soils, Stinging Nettle is also more likely to be found in dry habitats than Wood Nettle. The most distinguishing characteristic is leaf placement; Wood Nettle has some alternate leaves while those of Stinging Nettle are always arranged in pairs.
|Stinging Nettle - a closer view of the flowers|
There is some debate over the origin of our Stinging Nettle plants. The species is native to both North America and Eurasia. Michigan Flora indicates that most Michigan plants belong to the native subspecies.