Tag Archives: What’s Flowering?

Fall wildflowers are putting on a show!

Deep purples, golden yellows, frosty whites. Leaves show blushes of purple around the edges, and we notice a few fall out of the corner of our eye. We dig out jackets for the cooler mornings. Fall greets summer and slowly shows it to the door.

For me, the fall wildflowers announce the changing of seasons as much as the weather or the changing leaves. This floral color show precedes the changing of the leaves, but is no less exciting. If you need a little encouragement to do a fall color tour of our native wildflowers, hopefully the pictures below will do the job.

Rigid goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum) near the Paint Creek Heritage Area - Wet Prairie.
Rigid goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum) near the Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie.
Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) at Paint Creek Heritage Area - Wet Prairie.
Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) at Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie.
Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) at the Paint Creek Heritage Area - Wet Prairie.
Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) at the Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie.
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) in the native plantings near the dock at Lost Lake Nature Park.
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) in the native plantings near the dock at Lost Lake Nature Park.
Close-up of New England aster flowers at Draper Twin Lake Park.
Close-up of New England aster flowers at Draper Twin Lake Park.
New England Aster (Symphotrichum novea-angliae) in the fields at Draper Twin Lake Park.
New England Aster (Symphotrichum novea-angliae) in the fields at Draper Twin Lake Park.
Bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) at Paint Creek Heritage Area - Wet Prairie).
Bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) at Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie).
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) in the wetlands at Draper Twin Lake Park.
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) in the wetlands at Draper Twin Lake Park.
Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) lights up an old brome field at Draper Twin Lake Park.
Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) lights up an old brome field at Draper Twin Lake Park.
Nodding beggar-ticks flowers in the marsh at Draper Twin Lake Park. Not a flattering name, but the yellow flowers are bold statement.
Nodding beggar-ticks flowers in the marsh at Draper Twin Lake Park. Not a flattering name, but the yellow flowers are bold statement.

Many of the most beautiful native wildflowers (in my opinion) only grow in fairly high quality natural areas, like the areas protected by our parks. With constant pressure from invasive species and other threats, just leaving these natural areas alone won’t make them better. Usually, leaving these areas to be “wild” backfires, and we end up losing the special features that we set out to protect. That’s why we have a stewardship program at Oakland Township Parks: to steward natural areas that we, as a community, have agreed possess value for native plants, for wildlife, and for our residents.

What wildflowers do you love to see in the fall? Let me know if the comments below!

What’s Flowering? Lupine and Puccoon along the Paint Creek Trail!

The purple spikes of wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) and yellow splashes of hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens)  are fading in the oak barren remnants along the Paint Creek Trail. Both species flower in May and early June each year, and are toward the end of their flowering periods this year. These plants give us small reminders of the special plants that used to be more widespread in the oak barrens of southern Michigan, but have mostly disappeared. As these plants have disappeared, many of the pollinators (think bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps) that rely on these native plants have declined or disappeared too.

Purple spikes of wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) flowers along the Paint Creek Trail on May 30, 2014.
Purple spikes of wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) flowers along the Paint Creek Trail on May 30, 2014. The leaflets on the leaves of wild lupine all radiate from a central points, an arrangement called “palmately compound” leaves.
The yellow flowers of hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens) along the Paint Creek Trail. The soft hairs on the leaves distinguish this species from hairy puccoon, which has course hairs.
The yellow flowers of hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens) along the Paint Creek Trail on May 30, 2014. The soft hairs on the leaves distinguish this species from hairy puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense), which has course hairs.

Oak barrens, which used to cover about 2% of Michigan and 28% of Oakland County, are a type of savanna that typically has low tree cover.  The ground cover in oak barrens contains prairie species in open areas and forest species in the shaded areas under widely spaced black and white oaks.  Oak barrens are fire-dependent, which means that they need fire to keep them from becoming closed forest. Plants like wild lupine and hoary puccoon depend on fire to maintain their open habitat. Before European settlement, lightning strikes and fire intentionally set by Native Americans maintained oak barrens in this open state. As European settlers moved in, the open oak barrens changed quickly. Farmers plowed many savannas in the Midwest because they had few trees.  Settlers also extinguished the frequent, low-intensity fires that the oak barrens needed to survive. Within a few years, trees quickly grew, the canopy closed, and the open oak barrens became forests.

As we work to restore oak barrens in Oakland Township, we collect seeds from the native plants in our prairie and oak savanna, including wild lupine and hoary puccoon. We hope that by restoring oak barrens, both native plants and animals will benefit. If you’d like to help collect seeds, or learn more about prairie and oak barrens restoration, please check out our volunteer opportunities!