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: 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

Wildflower Wednesday: Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

Common Name: Queen Anne’s Lace

Scientific Name: Daucus carota

Habitat & Range: dry, sunny meadows and roadsides statewide

Bloom Time: summer and fall

About: So many of our wildflowers are non-native European garden plants that have escaped, and this is one of them. A member of the carrot family (and thus a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies) Queen Anne’s Lace is a common and well-known plant. I recall hearing the story behind the little cluster of dark red flowers in the center as a child: that Queen Anne (whoever that was, I was not sure) was making lace and pricked her finger with the needle and a drop of her blood got on it. But now I’m fairly sure handmade lace is made with a tiny crochet hook (right?) so I’m thinking Queen Anne must have had to work pretty hard to draw that drop of blood. At any rate, her namesake plant is now considered an invasive, though I’ve not heard of any plans to rid the state of it.

The root of Queen Anne’s Lace can apparently be dug, dried, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. But beware that in the family of flat-topped flowers (which we shall explore in the coming weeks) there are many lookalikes–and some of them are deadly. So hold off on making that “coffee” until you really know what’s what. Next week: water hemlock.

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

Here’s what’s become of Queen Anne’s Lace in the fall.