Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #226 through #234

Last Thursday (25 August) I stopped at Island Park and Mill Pond Park to search for wildflowers.  I found three new species at Island Park and an additional six species at Mill Pond Park to bring my 2016 total to two hundred thirty-four species.  This leaves me only four species away from equaling my 2014 total and gives me a real shot at finding two hundred fifty species before the end of the growing season.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #226 Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)

Turtlehead grows in a variety of wetland habitats including floodplain forests.

I found my first species of the day growing on the southwest corner of Island Park - Turtlehead (Chelone glabra).  This is the first time that I have ever found Turtlehead growing in this location.  This wetland species can be found in both sun and shade conditions throughout Michigan and the eastern half of North America.  Three other, less common, Turtlehead species can also be found in eastern North America.
Turtlehead - the origin of the name of this species is obvious

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

One really cool fact about the Turtlehead is that they are pollinated mainly by bumblebees.  These two photos show a bumblebee forcing open a flower and crawling inside.

A bumblebee pries open a Turtehead flower

The bumblebee crawls inside the flower to reach its nectar

Wildflowers of 2016 - #227 Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)

My second species of the day was the Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)

Panicled Aster is one of many twenty-nine white- or blue-flowered native Aster species that can be found in Michigan.  These species used to all be lumped under the genus Aster - Panicled Aster was formerly Aster lanceolatus.  In recent years, the species have been divided into six genera, with the majority (including Panicled Aster) being lumped into the genus Sympyotrichum.  What makes Aster identification even more confusing is the fact that many species can hybridize.

A Panicled Aster surrounded by Poison Ivy

Panicled Aster does have some characteristics that can be used to differentiate it from other Aster species.  It has narrow oval, elliptical, or linear leaves.  The leaves may be 3 to 6 inches long.  The leaves taper to a point at both ends.
The plant's flowers are arranged in a panicle (as its name suggests) at the top of the plant central stem.  This panicle (branched cluster) can be up to 8 inches long and 4 inches wide.  Smaller panicles often grow from leaf axils and from smaller stems that branch off of the plant's main stem.  Its flowers are 3/4 to 1 inch across, with a yellow disc surrounded by 20 to 40 blue, purple, or white rays.

Panicled Aster - note many small flowers

Another factor that can help distinguish Panicled Aster from other similar species is its habitat preference.  It is mostly found in wet habitats such as floodplains, wets woods, and the borders of swamps.  Panicled Aster is found across the Lower Forty-eight states and much of Canada.  From county records on the USDA Plants database it appears to be most common in the Great Lakes and Northeast.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #228 Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris

My third species of the day was one that did not appear on my Wildflowers of 2014 listButter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) is a weedy native of Europe that has naturalized across almost all of North America.  It has been recorded in every state, with the exception of Hawaii, and every Canadian province except Nunavut.  In Michigan it has been recorded in 65 of 83 counties.

Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

Butter-and-eggs prefers dry habitats and is commonly found along roadsides, in fields, and other disturbed habitats.  It is usually crowded out by thick vegetation.

Butter-and-eggs - a closer view of the flowers

Butter-and-eggs is named for the color of its tubular flowers.  The flowers are primarily pale yellow, with a dark yellow/orange lip.  These flowers measure between 3/4 and 1 1/4 inches long.  The plant's grey-green leaves are narrow, measure up to 2 1/2 inches long, and are arranged in opposite pairs on the stem.  Plants grow to a height of 1 to 4 feet. 

Wildflowers of 2016 - #229 Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

After leaving Island Park, I went to Mill Pond Park where I photographed the next six species.

My fourth flower of the day and the first at Mill Pond Park was Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia).  This non-descript plant with its spikes of small greenish flowers is responsible for many seasonal allergies.  Also known as Annual Ragweed, this plant can be found across most of North America both as a native and an introduced species.  It has been recorded in almost every county in Michigan.  Common Ragweed grows in a variety of habitats including fields, roadsides, lawns, meadows, savannas, and woodland edges.  It is more common in dry soils than in wet ones.

Common Ragweed - note small flowers and deeply lobed leaves

Common Ragweed plants grow to a height of up to 36 inches, but they are rarely noticed because of their small flowers.  The flowers grow on elongated spikes at the top of the plant.  The petals measure only 1/4 inch across and lack petals.  The flowers are green but turn yellowish-green to brown after pollination.  The plant does not need to be showy because it relies on the wind for pollination rather than insects.  The leaves of Common Ragweed are deeply lobed, oval, or elliptical and arranged both as opposite pairs (lower) and alternately (upper).

The small flowers of Common Ragweed are wind pollinated

Wildflowers of 2016 - #230 Jumpseed (Persicaria virginiana)

Growing near the Ragweed, I found my next species - Jumpseed (Persicaria virginiana).  This plant is also known as Virginia Knotweed.  Sometimes listed as Polygonum virginianum, it is native to the eastern half of the United States and Canada.  Mid-Michigan is at the northern edge of its range.

Jumpseed in is habitat - It's the plant with the pale green leaves.

Jumpseed plants grow from 1 to 4 feet tall, with the majority of the height being a flowering raceme (spike).  The leaves of the plant are arranged alternately on the lower part of the plant.  Individual leaves may be 6 inches long and 3 inches wide, oval shaped, with a pointed tip.

A closer view of the flower stalk

The flowers of Jumpseed are small (1/8 inch).  The flowers are white or whitish-green (rarely pink) and have four pointed petals.  There is normally only one flowering spike per plant but that spike may branch.

Jumpseed - note small 5-petaled flower

This plant is named Jumpseed because when ripe the plant's seeds may be propelled up to 10 feet away from the parent plant when disturbed. (Another plant that can propel its seeds is the Spotted Touch-me-not.)  

Wildflowers of 2016 - #231 Nodding Smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)

My sixth species was another Persicaria - Nodding Smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia).  This plant is considered native to North America, but some populations are probably introduced from Europe, where is also a common weed species.  It is found across the continental United States (no Alaska or Hawaii) and the lower tier of Canadian provinces/territories.  It is not common in the Southeast and most populations there are probably introduced.  The plant is typically found in wet soils.

Nodding Smartweed

There are fourteen Persicaria species that have been found in Michigan.  Nodding Smartweed is easy to identify by its flower head.  It is the only species that has a densely packed raceme (spike) of flowers that nod or droop downward.  The majority of other Smartweed species have erect flower racemes.  The flowerhead can be 2 to 8 inches long, but the individual flower are only about 1/8 inch long.  The flowers have 5 tepals (petals) that rarely open completely and are white, green, or pink.

Nodding Smartweed plants can be up to 4 feet tall.  The leaves of the plant are large (2 inches wide and up to 8 inches long), lance-shaped, and are arranged alternately on the plant's stems.  The petiole (stalk) of the leaf has a sheathe that wraps around the plant's stem.

Nodding Smartweed can be identified by its drooping (nodding) flower racemes

Nodding Smartweed is known by a variety of names including Willow-weed, Pale Smartweed, and Curly-top Knotweed.  Smartweeds used to be lumped with Knotweeds (Polygonum), and this plant used to have the scientific name of Polygonum lapathifolium.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #232 Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

My eighth flower of the day was a new one for me in Mt. Pleasant - Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana).  Michigan Flora does not list this species for Isabella County, but does have it in several nearby counties.  In Michigan it has only been recorded in the Lower Peninsula.  Nationally, the species can be found east of a line running from Texas north to Minnesota, with scattered counties in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico also reporting the species.  It has also been recorded in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.  This species is usually found in rich moist soils, especially in disturbed areas such as fields and gardens.  It also commonly grows in woodlands and woodland edges.

Pokeweed - looks like a small shrub, but is a non-woody perennial

Pokeweed is a large perennial plant, annually reaching heights of up to 10 feet before dying back to the roots over the winter.  The plant's thick stems are somewhat woody and may be as much as 2 inches thick.  These stems vary in color from light green to red.  The plant's leaves are large, measuring up to 4 inches wide and 12 inches long.

Pokeweed - leaves and flowers

Pokeweed flowers are arranged in a raceme (elongated, cylindrical cluster) that can measure 3 to 8 inches long.  Individual flowers are small (1/4 inch) and are usually white, greenish-white, or pink. The stem of this raceme is pink.  After pollination, the flowers are replaced by 1/4 inch, shiny purple fruits.

Pokeweed - a closer view of the flowers

This plant is considered toxic (especially the root), but the leaves have often been eaten as a cooked green (poke sallete/poke salad/polk salad).

Wildflowers of 2016 - #233 Horseweed (Conyza canadensis)

The next species is a common weed of disturbed soils such as roadsides, fields, and pastures.  Horseweed (Conyza canadensis) is generally considered native to North America, but it has naturalized in Europe.  This plant is found in all fifty states.  It is native in the Lower Forty-eight and has been introduced to Alaska and Hawaii.


Horseweed plants have a single unbranching stem that can grow up to seven feet tall, but it can flower when the plant is as short as a few inches tall.  The flowers of Horseweed grow on long upward-growing panicles (branches) that form a pyramid or plume-shaped inflorescence.  The individual flowers are small (less than 1/8 inch) and 20 to 40 white to pink rays (petals) surrounding a yellow central disc.  A large plant may have several hundred individual flower heads.
Individual Horseweed flowers are tiny (less than 1/8 inch)

Wildflowers of 2016 - #234 Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

The final wildflower of the day was Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).  Also known as Common Goldenrod, this species is found throughout almost all of the United States and Canada, with the exceptions of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Nunavut.  It grows in a variety of open habitats in both wet and dry soil conditions.  This is the species that most people think about when they hear the word goldenrod.

A stand of Canada Goldenrod

On August 1st, I added Smooth Goldenrod (S. gigantea) as Species #197 for the year.  Smooth Goldenrod and Canada Goldenrod are very similar and often grow in the same patches.  There are a couple ways to distinguish them.  Smooth Goldenrod has stems covered with a waxy, whitish bloom,  compared to the stems of common goldenrod which are pale green.  The stems of Smooth Goldenrod are, as the name suggests, smooth and hairless; those of Common Goldenrod are covered with short stiff hairs.  Smooth Goldenrod seems to be nearing the end of its blooming cycle for the year, while  Canada Goldenrod is just getting started.

Canada Goldenrod - note short hairs on the stem and leaves

Canada Goldenrod can reach heights of 1 to 6 1/2 feet.  It has leaves that are arranged alternately along the stem.  The leaves are typically narrow (linear, oval, or elliptic) and may be up to 6 inches long.  The flowers are arranged in a pyramid-shaped panicle (branched cluster) at the top of the plant.  The branches of the panicle curve upward and outward from the stem before then curving downward.  The small (1/8 inch) flowers are arranged in a line on the upper side of the branches.  The panicle may be up to 16 inches tall.

Canada Goldenrod - a closer view of the flower

Monday, August 29, 2016

Logging Presentation at Cadillac State Park

On Saturday (27 August), I presented a program on Michigan's Logging History to about 20 visitors at the Carl T. Johnson Hunt and Fish Center in Cadillac, MI.  A story about the program appeared on WMNN (MiNews 26), a local independent television station based out of Cadillac on their Saturday night news broadcast.

To learn more about Michigan's logging history, please check out these posts:

Michigan Logging Photos
More Logging Photographs 
Logging Photographs - Getting Logs out of the Woods

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birthday to the National Park Service!

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear National Park Service,
Happy birthday to you!

Today marks the 100th birthday of America's National Park Service.  Although the first national park (Yellowstone) was created in 1872, the National Park Service was not created until 25 August 1916.

The National Park Service currently manages over 400 different units of land across the United States; including 59 National Parks, dozens of National Monuments, Preserves, Historical Parks and Sites, Battlefields, Military Parks, Memorials, etc.

Michigan is home to five official National Park Service units:  Isle Royal National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.  The state is also home to a portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Motor Cities National Heritage Area.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #221 through #225

Last Wednesday (17 August 2016), I took a trip to Mission Creek Woodland Park to search for late Summer/early Fall wildflowers.  Along the Creek Trail (Lowland loop), I found five new species to add to my Wildflowers of 2016 list.  Almost all of these species were growing within feet of the trail.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #221 Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

The first flower of the day was Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).  This plant reaches heights of four feet and has lavender-blue to dark-blue tubular flowers.  It can be found in moist soils across much of the eastern two-thirds of the United States and Canada.

I wrote a profile of Great Blue Lobelia in November 2013 - please look here for more information.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #222 Flat-topped White Aster (Doellingeria umbellata)

The second flower of the day was my first Aster species of the year - Flat-topped White Aster (Doellingeria umbellata).  All aster species used to be lumped under the genus Aster, but they have been sorted into several different genera over the past decade.  The scientific name for this species used to be Aster umbellatus. Flat-topped White Aster is the only member of its genus found in Michigan.  It has a range from Alberta to Quebec south to Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.  The heart of its range is the Northeast and Great Lakes with smaller populations elsewhere.  It prefers moist, low places.

Flat-topped White Aster can grow to a height of 3 to 7 feet.  It has a single stem that branches at the top into a flat-topped flowering cluster.  The plant's leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.  The leaves are simple with smooth margins.  The leaves are oval-shaped and taper to a point at both ends.  The leaves do not have stalks.

The individual flowers of Flat-topped White Aster are 1/2 to 3/4 inches across.  The flat-topped clusters (panicles) can be several inches across.  Individual flowers are made up of a yellow center made of many disc flowers surrounded by a ring of 7 to 14 ray flowers (petals).  The centers fade to a purple color when pollinated.  These flowers bloom from late summer into fall. 

Wildflowers of 2016 - #223 Swamp Lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata)

The third flower of the day was Swamp Lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata).  This plant is also known as Swamp Betony.  As its name indicates, Swamp Lousewort grows in wet soils found along shorelines, swamps, wet meadows, etc..  It has been recorded in 25 states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.  There is a related species Wood Betony (P. Canadensis) that prefers dry soils.

Swamp Lousewort grows up to 2 1/2 feet tall.  It has has leaves that are mostly arranged in opposite pairs.  Each leaf may be up to 5 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide.  The leaves are deeply lobed along their margins (pinnatefid) and resemble the leaves of ferns.

Swamp Lousewort flowers are arranged in a spike at the top of the plant.  The flowers are white or cream colored  and have a tubular shape with the top of the tube forming a upper lip or hood.  The individual flowers are approximately 3/4 inch long. This flower design limits the types of pollinators that can access the plant. 

Wildflowers of 2016 - #224 White Lettuce (Prenanthes alba)

The next species of the day was one that I missed in 2014 - White Lettuce (Prenanthes alba).  White lettuce is a native woodland species that is found across much of eastern North America, as far west as Saskatchewan and the Dakotas and as far south as Arkansas and North Carolina.  In Michigan, it is found throughout both the Upper and Lower Peninsula.

 To learn more about White Lettuce check out my species profile from September 2013.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #225 Common Water Horehound (Lycopus americanus)

The final flower of the day was Common Water Horehound (Lycopus americanus).  This native member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) grows in wet soils along shorelines and streams, along the edges of marshes and swamps, and in other areas of low ground.  Also known as American Bugleweed, this species is found across most of North America south of the Canadian Arctic.

Common Water Horehound may reach heights of heights of up to 36 inches.  It has leaves arranged in opposite pairs.  The leaves are 1 3/4 to 3 inches long and have coarsely toothed margins.  The plant's small white flowers grow in a whorl at the leaf axils.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Beautiful Clouds

I have several more wildflowers that I need to write up for my Wildflowers of 2016 list, but instead I want to share something different.

I came into work a little late this morning, which was lucky for me.  If I had left home when I intended, I never would have seen these beautiful cloud formations.

Although the upper cloud formations were nice, especially with the dramatic lighting, it was the low bank of clouds that really made this cool for me.

Those low clouds were probably less than 100 feet above the ground.  Although that low bank stretched for about a mile, it was very narrow (probably less than 300 feet wide).

I stayed for a few minutes and watched the clouds quickly roll to the southeast.  There is a saying that photography is all about timing. It's true.  If I had passed through 15 minutes earlier, those clouds would not have been there yet.  If I had been 15 minutes later, they would have already passed through. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #220

On Monday (15 August), I stopped at Island Park to look for wildflowers.  Island Park is located in downtown Mt. Pleasant and is heavily developed.  It would not seem to be a very good place to search for wildflowers.  However, it is surrounded by the Chippewa River and the riverbank has largely been left in a natural state.  I found several species of wildflowers in bloom, but only one was a new one for 2016.

Wildflowers of 2016 - Common Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium)

Common Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) is general considered native to North America, but  many populations are probably introduced.   It can be found in 49 of the 50 states (not Alaska) and in the southern parts of Canada.  It grows in a variety of habitats from floodplains, to sand dunes, to farm fields. 

Common Cocklebur growing in the floodplain of the Chippewa River

Common Cocklebur plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall.  They have large alternate leaves which are up to 8 inches long and 6 inches wide.  The leaves are either heart-shaped (cordate) or triangular (deltoid) with toothed margins.  The upper surface of the leaves has a rough texture like sandpaper.  The leaves have long petioles (stalks) that may be as long as the leaves.

Common Coccklebur - note the large cordate (heart-shaped) leaves

The flowers of Common Cocklebur are much smaller than the leaves.  Each plant has both male and female flowers.  The compound male flowers are whitish-green and measure only 1/4 inch across.  The female flowers are up to 1 1/4 inches long, arranged in pairs, and are green colored.  The base of each female flower is a bur-like bract that will eventually contain the plant's seeds.

Common Cocklebur flowers - male (staminate) flowers are the small globes with protruding stamens; bur-like structures are the female (pistillate) flowers

One cool fact about this species is that its scientific name starts with an "X".  This is important for anyone that wants to do a nature alphabet.  Species that have names that start with the letter X are in short supply.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

An Evening Walk at Forest Hill Nature Area (15 August 2016)

Yesterday, for the third time in a week, Shara and I went walking at Forest Hill Nature Area.  Although the sky was grey and the light was poor, I brought my camera along.  Here are a dozen photos from our walk.

Milkweed in a restored grassland area

Dueling Monarchs

Mountain Mint

Queen Anne's Lace

Honeybee on Mountain Mint

Grey-headed Coneflower

Sparrow in the restored grassland

Queen Anne's Lace

Early color change

Lack of rain means small berries

Black and Yellow Argiope

Red-osier Dogwood berries