Proliferation of Purple: A Sunday Walk at Draper Twin Lakes Park

Love lavender?  Passionate about purple?  Consider a short walk at Draper Twin Lake Park –  SOON!  Just start down the nice wide path to the fishing dock and you’ll begin to see one lavender/blue/purple plant after the next – even a lavender and blue insect!  Plus some other very cool species. Have a look:

Obedient Plant  (Physostegia virginiana), which I’m told is not so obedient, is a native plant that can spread vigorously, especially in a garden. Sometimes we need vigorous native plants to compete with aggressive non-native invasive plants. Isn’t it striking?

Obedient Plant Draper Lake

Obedient Plant, a native which quite disobediently spreads like an invasive plant.

And look how much the pollinators love it!  There are three tucked inside different blossoms!

Obedient plant closeup

Pollinators disappearing inside three different blossoms on the Obedient Plant.

Our native Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) is springing up everywhere at Draper Twin Lakes, just as it is at Bear Creek Nature Park.  Such an appropriate name for what I like to call “a bad hair day” wildflower beloved by bees.

Bee balm with bee

A bee appropriately enough on Bee Balm.

Maryann Whitman, a local wildflower expert, informs me that this native plant, Tall Bellflower  (Campanulastrum americanum) is not common in this part of Michigan.  Ben tells me that it was probably part of a native plant seed mix used along the trail by the Parks Commission when they built the path.  It seems to have settled in quite nicely here!

Tall Bellflower Campanula americana closeup

Tall Bellflower is reported to be a bit unusual in this part of Michigan, so what a pleasure to have it at Draper Lake Park!

Down by the fishing dock, right in the water, are two other purple plants .  This one is a native, Swamp Loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus).  The flowers grow right along the stem and though it’s hard to see here,  even the veins of the leaves are a light pink.

Swamp Loosestrife in Draper Lake

Swamp Loosestrife, a native, has its feet in the water right beside the fishing dock.

Unfortunately, right across the way, on the other side of the fishing dock, is a fierce, Eurasian invasive plant from the same family.  If Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) takes hold, it will crowd out our native plants. Fortunately, a beetle that only eats Purple Loosestrife was introduced to Michigan in 1994 and has done a great job reducing the abundance of Purple Loosestrife. Now, instead of wetlands full of these invasive plants, Purple Loosestrife populations are mostly kept in check.  With the potential to produce 2.5 million seeds per plant each year (!), we still remove any Purple Loosestrife  we find, but we don’t have to worry about it as much as we used to.

Purple Loosestrife

A very invasive relative from Eurasia, Purple Loosestrife can be a major problem in wetlands, crowding out native plants.

Also on the deck, is a color-coordinated damselfly, the Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea).  Really!  A damselfly that matches the flowers nearby!  I’ve seen these lavender and blue damselflies before at an inland lake. They must prefer water deeper than the ponds at Bear Creek.

Violet Dancer damselfly Argia fumipennis violacea male

A male Violet Dancer damselfly. Its mate has a much less flashy color scheme – brown and black.

Down in the water at the end of the deck – what else? Blue Gills, looking very blue and lavender under the water.

Two young Blue Gills

Even the fish are color-coordinated at Draper Lake. Some young blue gills gathered at the end of the deck.

If you learned the complementary color wheel in art class,  you may remember that the complementary color to purple is yellow.  So nature obliged at Draper Twin Lakes.  Near the dock, an Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) stood at attention, its yellow flag flying.

Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis

Common Evening-Primrose provides the complementary color to all the purple flowers and the Violet Dancer  – a bright yellow.

Off in the plants near the fishing deck, a a golden dragonfly, The White-Faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum) balanced delicately on a dried flower stem.

White faced Meadowhawk Dragonfly cropped

A White-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly provides its golden/orange color to complement the purple flowers around nearby.

And below, crowds of orange and yellow Jewel Weed (Impatiens capensis) gave the final golden moment to a lovely walk.

Jewel Weed Draper Lake

Yellow and orange jewel weed added a last minute golden glow to a great walk.

From start to finish, going out and coming back, this short, easy walk  to the fishing dock at Draper Twin Lakes Park is well worth your time – especially if your favorite color is purple!

Orange Jewelweed Prepares to Explode!

OK, you have to admit that plants are really cool. For instance, take orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). This plant is in the genus Impatiens in the Touch-Me-Not plant family (Balsaminaceae). Why do they call it touch-me-not, you ask? Well, watch this YouTube video by user “thelifeofyourtime” to see for yourself! They call this dispersal technique “explosive dehiscence,” which mean that the fruits open by exploding, casting the seeds far from the parent plant.

Orange jewelweed flowers also have a long spur at the back. This spur stores nectar, which is a reward for the pollinators that visit its flowers. Common pollinators include Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and long-tongued bees, both of which are able to access the nectar through the “mouth” of the flower. Other bees will also visit these flowers, but instead of going through the front to get the nectar, they will drill a hole into the spur and steal the nectar. The jewelweed is robbed because the bee gets the nectar from the flower, but doesn’t give any pollinator services in return! Check out the long spur on this flower I found at Bear Creek Nature Park this week. I didn’t get a good look at the picture on my camera screen, so sorry for the really fuzzy picture.

The spur on an Orange Jewelweed flower. The picture is fuzzy, but you can get the idea.

The spur on an Orange Jewelweed flower. The picture is fuzzy, but you can get the idea.

Here is a look at the entrance to the flower.

Orange jewelweed has beautiful flowers, with red spots on the orange flower.

Orange jewelweed has beautiful flowers, with red spots on the orange flower.

And a picture of a patch of Orange Jewelweed in moist woods at Bear Creek Nature Park.


Orange Jewelweed grows in a variety of habitats, but is very common in many moist forests and some wetlands.

Orange Jewelweed started flowering this past week, and will continue to flower for about a month. Check it out!