Wildflower Wednesday: White Sweet Clover


Common Name: White Sweet Clover

Scientific Name: Melilotus alba

Habitat & Range: sunny fields, shorelines, and roadsides

Bloom Time: spring, summer, and fall

About: If you ever walk along the shore of a lake in Michigan, it’s likely you’ve smelled an evocative mixture of sand and water and plant life that creates a permanent memory. It’s also likely that part of this smell cocktail will be White Sweet Clover, a member of the pea family. It’s a non-native plant once grown as a hay crop but, of course, it has escaped and can now be found everywhere. Just like the White Clover, it’s an important nectar source and nearly impossible to eradicate as the seeds can lie dormant for years and can germinate as far as seven inches down into the ground. But hey, at least it smells nice. It also comes in yellow.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: White Clover


Common Name: White Clover

Scientific Name: Trifolium repens

Habitat & Range: sunny fields and lawns statewide

Bloom Time: spring, summer, and fall

About: Clovers are non-native plants brought over form Europe for pasturing livestock and now, of course, they are found absolutely everywhere. The White Clover is the one that will occasionally produce a four-leaf clover. Butterflies and bees love it for the nectar. Rabbits love to eat the leaves and the flowers. And as a child when I was stuck out in left field during my first year of Little League, I’d eat the flowers too. Just because I could. And I was bored. Good luck controlling these in your yard. It spreads by creeping and by seeds that can lay dormant for years before germinating.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Spotted Touch-Me-Not


Common Name: Spotted Touch-Me-Not

Scientific Name: Impatiens capensis

Habitat & Range: wet shade and woodlands, by streams, and in wetlands statewide

Bloom Time: summer

About: You’ll see Touch-Me-Nots in yellow as well, but the orange ones are my favorite. These shade-loving plants not only have beautiful, exotic looking flowers, they are a favorite of children for their exploding seed pods. An annual, the Touch-Me-Not (also known as Jewelweed) disperses its seeds dramatically by flinging them here and there at a gentle touch. In the wild this is accomplished largely by deer walking by. But on walking trails it is a fun activity for children and adults alike. Its flowers are favored by hummingbirds and the sap from its stems can be used to soothe poison ivy or stings from nettles. An all around lovely, fun, and useful forest flower.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Canada Goldenrod


Common Name: Canada Goldenrod

Scientific Name: Solidago canadensis

Habitat & Range: dry, open fields and prairies

Bloom Time: summer and fall

About: Did you know there are many kinds of Goldenrod? This one is probably the one you see most, but it has many relatives throughout Michigan (over 20) and the rest of the continent (over 100!). A member of the aster family, Goldenrod blooms in August and September and its fluffy white seeds can hang on up into November.


Lots of insects are attracted to Goldenrod, including these guys who are busy procreating:


And Goldenrod seem to be a favorite plant for insects who create galls–those bulbous growths in which the insect then lives and sometimes “farms” its food. Here are three in a row on a Goldenrod stem on Mackinac Island:


Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Bee Balm or Wild Bergamot


Common Name: Bee Balm or Wild Bergamot

Scientific Name: Monarda fistulosa

Habitat & Range: dry, sunny fields and roadsides

Bloom Time: summer

About: Do you like Earl Grey tea? The distinctive taste comes from Oil of Bergamot, derived from this native wildflower. If you like growing native plants for tea, this is a must-have. A part of the mint family, tea made from the leaves of Wild Bergamot is supposed to aid in digestion and treat respiratory problems (just like mint tea). Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love these flowers, but beware that it is a fairly aggressive spreader–great if you’ve got a large butterfly garden, but it may take over less pushy plants in a cottage garden. I have both the wild version and a showier cultivar (below) with bigger leaves and big, fuchsia flowers, but less of that essential oil you want for your tea. It is definitely taking over its spot in the garden. In fact, the species and the cultivar apparently cross-pollinated last year and this year I had a deeper purple plant as well. I’ll have move my poor crowded coneflowers elsewhere as I love these flowers that bloom when a lot of other stuff in the garden is looking kind of ragged from the summer heat. They are completely carefree practically the moment you put them in the ground.


Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

Common Name: Cardinal Flower

Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis

Habitat & Range: wet, shady streams and wetlands

Bloom Time: summer and fall

About: Not too many wildflowers in Michigan are this striking red. Not easy to grow in a garden (unless you have a pretty good pond on your property) the Cardinal Flower needs wet roots and a bit of sunlight. You can find it at a really well-stocked nursery or a native plant sale (this is another I tried unsuccessfully in my garden) but NEVER dig from the wild. Cardinal Flowers can only be pollinated by hummingbirds and thus don’t reproduce well. If you already have them established, lucky you! Otherwise, just take some nice pictures. Mine are from the shores of Thumb Lake at Camp Lake Louise. Like the bird, the plant gets its common name from the robes worn by Catholic cardinals.


Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Butterfly Weed


Common Name: Butterfly Weed

Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa

Habitat & Range: dry soil, full sun, prairies and meadows

Bloom Time: summer

About: How about some more flowers that will attract butterflies and other pollinators? Butterfly Weed is a compact, lower growing perennial wildflower that can be purchased at a good nursery or easily seeded. It is better for attracting butterflies to smaller yards than big, sprawling plants like Milkweed or Joe-pye Weed (though it is a milkweed and thus still host to Monarchs and also to Gray Hairstreaks). And it’s orange, not all that common in wildflowers, which tend toward begin white, yellow, or purplish.

I have a specimen in my garden (originally purchased at, you guessed it, a native plant sale) that has been slowly growing in circumference for years. And I occasionally find volunteers pop up in other parts of the garden, which can easily be pulled or replanted elsewhere (if you catch them early; the long taproot this plant develops makes transplanting difficult once a plant is established). It is great in full sun and dry soil, so you can position in some of the most harsh spots in your garden, along with your Sedum and other tough plants. It can be found growing wild throughout the Lower Peninsula.

Here’s some on Mackinac Island:


Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Joe-pye Weed

Joe-pye weed

Common Name: Joe-pye Weed

Scientific Name: variously Eupatorium maculatum and Eutrochium maculatum (depending on the source)

Habitat & Range: wet, full sun meadows and along streams and lakes

Bloom Time: summer

About: A tall perennial you can get at most nurseries or native plant sales, this may look like a milkweed, but it is in fact part of the aster family. If you have a pond on your property, this is a perfect plant to edge it. It’s tall (some varieties can reach 10 feet!) so use it as a backdrop to smaller plants in your native or cottage garden. Even though it likes moist soil, its extensive root system means it will tolerate drought. It’s not too picky. Other pluses: it attracts butterflies and deer don’t like to eat it.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

(also Better Homes & Gardens online plant encyclopedia)

Wildflower Wednesday: Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed

Common Name: Swamp Milkweed

Scientific Name: Asclepias incarnata

Habitat & Range: wet meadows, swamps, streams, lakesides

Bloom Time: summer

About: Host to the Monarch butterfly (along with Common Milkweed, which can be distinguished from its more delicate cousin by its much larger leaves and duller flowers), this is perfect for your butterfly garden if you’ve got some consistently wet spots on your property. I tried them (purchased from a native plant sale, not taken from the wild) in an area of my yard that is often soggy in springtime, but the summer sun dries out my soil too much and there’s too much shade there, so they never took.

This photo (like those of the Boneset a couple weeks ago) was taken along the shore of Lake Louise (properly Thumb Lake) in the northern Lower Peninsula, but this plant can be found throughout the state.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

Wildflower Wednesday: Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip

Common Name: Wild Parsnip

Scientific Name: Pastinaca sativa

Habitat & Range: wet, sunny fields and roadsides

Bloom Time: spring and summer

About: Not all flat-topped wildflowers are white. A few of them are yellow. Growing right along with the Yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace from weeks past I spotted Wild Parsnip (not to be confused with the white-flowered Cow Parsnip, which I mentioned in the entry on Water Hemlock). All of these photos (along with many others) were taken on the same day in one small area on Mackinac Island near Mission Point Resort. Like Queen Anne’s Lace and Water Hemlock, Wild Parsnip is part of the carrot family and is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies. Like Queen Anne’s Lace, this was a European garden plant that has escaped. You can only eat the long taproot of this plant in the first year of growth (after that it gets too woody). But beware of the parts of the plant that sit above the ground. If you are sensitive to it, the leaves can cause photodermatitis if touched. This means that after you touch the plant, if you are exposed to sunlight, your skin can blister and weep (eww), so wear long sleeves and gloves. Very inconsiderately, this plant’s flower looks like dill, but one look at the leaves and you will know it’s not.

Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000