Monday, September 12, 2016

Wildflowers of 2016 - #245 through #247

On Friday September 2nd, a short trip to Mill Pond Park added three species to my Wildflowers of 2016 list.  Two of the specie appeared on my 2014 list while the third species did not.  I am nearing the end of the wildflowers season, but still expect to find three or four more before the year is over.

Wildflowers of 2016 - #245 Big-leaved Aster (Eurybia macrophylla)

The next flower of the day was an Aster - Big-leaved Aster (Eurybia macrophylla).  This species, also called Large-leaved Aster, was formerly known as Aster macrophyllus.  This species is found primarily in the states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes and in the Northeast.  Populations of it can be found as far south as Georgia and South Carolina (in the Appalachians) and as far west as Manitoba, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.  It mainly grows in mesic (not too wet or dry) soils in upland forest habitats.  The plant spreads both by seeds from underground rhizomes.  It often forms dense colonies.

A colony of Big-leaved Aster
Asters are notoriously hard to identify.  Fortunately, Big-leaved Aster is one of the easiest asters to identify.  It has big leaves (1.5 to 12 inches long).  The leaves are heart, oval, or elliptical-shaped.  The plants have both basal and stem leaves.  The stem leaves are arranged alternately.

Big-leaved Aster - note the large heart-shaped basal leaves

Each plant typically has a single flowering stalk that branches into a flat-topped panicle (called a corymb) that measures from 3 to 8 inches across.  Each individual flower measures 1/2 to 1 inch across.  It consists of a yellow disc surrounded by 9 to 20 rays (petals).  The rays are pale blue, lavender, or white.

Big-leaved Aster - a closer view of the flower heads

Wildflowers of 2016 - #246 New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

My second species of the day was another aster.  New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is one of the tallest asters growing in Michigan (up to 6 1/2 feet).  It typically has flowers with a yellow (or golden) disc with 45 to 100 purple, blue, or pink rays.  Rarely the rays are white.  These flowers measure up to 1.5 inches across.  Individual plants may have a few or many flower heads.

New England Aster - note many flowers with yellow disc and pink rays.  Blue and purple rays are also common.

The leaves of New England Aster  are narrowly oval and measure 1 to 5 inches long.  The base of the leaves is lobed and clasps the plant's stem.  The stems of New England Aster are sparsely covered with hairs.

New England Aster - note how leaf clasps stem

This species prefers moist soils and can be found in both open habitats such as prairies and wet meadows, and in wooded habitats.  It is most widely distributed in the Great Lakes and Northeast, but is found as far west as California/Oregon/Washington and as far south as Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia.  In Michigan, it is found in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

A colony of New England Aster growing in damp soil at Mill Pond Park

Wildflowers of 2016 - #247 Nodding Beggar-ticks (Bidens cernua)

The third species of the day was Nodding Beggar-tick (Bidens cernua).  This plant is also known as Bur-marigold.  Nodding Beggar-ticks is found in the wet habitats such as swamps, marshes, ditches, and shorelines.  This widely-distributed species is found in every state except Hawaii, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Florida.  I expect that the plant can be found in Mississippi and South Carolina, but so far has avoided collection.

Nodding Beggar-ticks

This species is similar to the Purple-stem Beggar-ticks (B. connata) which appeared at #236.   The two species are often found growing right next to each other.  Fortunately, there are several characteristics which help to distinguish them.  While both species have leaves that are toothed and reach lengths of 8 inches, Nodding Beggar-ticks can reach a height of seven feet, several feet taller than B. connata.  Another difference between the two plants can be seen in the flowerheads.  Nodding Beggar-ticks flowers usually have 8 yellow rays (petals) surrounding a yellow central disc.  Occasionally these rays are absent.  Whether or not the rays are present, the flowerheads of this species nod or droop slightly. 

Nodding Beggar-ticks - note yellow rays and slightly nodding head

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