Wildflower Wednesday: Common Blue Violet


Common Name: Common Blue Violet

Scientific Name: Viola sororia

Habitat & Range: woodlands and gardens statewide

Bloom Time: spring

About: If you have ever tried to rid your garden or lawn of violets, you know it is no easy task to dislodge these strong-rooted plants that spread by both underground runners and seeds. If you don’t get all–and I mean all–of that root, you will see them again very soon. At least they are native and make for a cheery presentation in spring. Their flowers can range from white to deep purple, and there is also a yellow variety that is not quite so low to the ground and less common in yards. The flowers can be candied and used as edible decorations on cakes and cupcakes, and even the leaves can be eaten in salads or as cooked greens. So if you can’t get rid of them and you don’t use dangerous fertilizers or pesticides on them, go ahead and eat them! I’ve made peace with the ones in the garden by the gas and electric boxes. But I still pull up about a hundred of them every year from other parts of the yard.

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

Wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexanders


Common Name: Golden Alexanders

Scientific Name: Zizia aurea

Habitat & Range: wet ditches, field, and woods

Bloom Time: spring

About: I bought a couple of these native perennials at a native plant sale in 2009 and they have found a happy home in my shady garden. In fact, they are spreading. The problem is, they’re really only attractive (in the sense of not looking like a weed) when they’re in bloom, which isn’t for very long in the spring. But if you have a woodland garden, they are quite nice as it’s hard to get many flowers in such a setting. They are part of the carrot family and sometimes confused with Wild Parsnip. They are also related to Water Hemlock. In the past they were used to heal wounds and relieve fevers and syphilis, though I couldn’t speak to their effectiveness.

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

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: New England Aster


Common Name: New England Aster

Scientific Name: Aster novae-angliae

Habitat & Range: moist, sun, prairies, roadsides throughout the state

Bloom Time: autumn

About: Late fall really is a lovely time, even if our recent snow up in Michigan is telling us that it’s over. Along with the goldenrod and gentian we’ve seen previously on Wildflower Wednesday, the beautiful native New England Aster brings bursts of color to compliment the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of fall. While it ranges from white to pink to lavender to deep purple, the New England Aster usually looks just about as it does in this photo taken on the grounds of Camp Lael in Lapeer, Michigan. Asters are often found in perennial gardens, but they can be quite leggy. Plant them in waves and prune the plant down in the late spring to keep them more compact, or put them near the back of the bed where other plants will hide their ugly stems.

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

Wildflower Wednesday: Spring Beauty


Common Name: Spring Beauty

Scientific Name: Claytonia virginica

Habitat & Range: wet, shady, deciduous woods

Bloom Time: spring

About: Yes, we’re hurtling toward winter up here in Michigan, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think about spring. A delicate woodland flower that blooms in April or May, the Spring Beauty is found in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. Its tubers are eaten like potatoes, but please don’t dig these up as their numbers are being reduced by over-gathering. Foraging is a fun thing to do (if you know what you’re doing and don’t eat anything poisonous) but people who foraged for these plants in the past (because they actually needed to) usually did so with knowledge of how to keep their sources producing. A lot of foraging hobbyists may go into the woods these days with only knowledge of what can be eaten rather than knowledge of how it should be eaten and preserved for the future. That said, if you’re lost in the woods for days on end next spring and you find some of these, I’m sure it’s okay to eat the tubers to keep from starving to death.

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

The Fate of Wildflower Wednesday Is in Your Hands

Tomorrow is the last Wildflower Wednesday post I have scheduled. I had originally intended to just finish out the summer with them, but got carried away. If there is enough interest, I’ll continue this weekly feature. So let me know in the comments if you want me to keep posting pictures and facts about Michigan wildflowers once a week. If there isn’t much interest, we’ll just let it wither and die like this year’s wildflowers succumbing to the frost.

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: False Solomon’s Seal


Common Name: False Solomon’s Seal

Scientific Name: Smilacina racemosa

Habitat & Range: deciduous woods

Bloom Time: spring and summer

About: We’ve been out in the fields for months, but there are plenty of wildflowers to be found in the woods. Most tend to bloom in spring when there is more sunlight getting through to the forest floor, but in the summertime you can spot lots of them by their leaves and berries. False Solomon’s Seal is an easy one to identify. Long, bending stems look a bit like palm branches with simple, alternating leaves that are even attractive when they’re dying:


If your local nursery stocks woodland plants like Trillium and Hepatica and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, odds are they will have this too. That’s where I got mine. Solomon’s Seal is also sold in attractive variegated varieties and can brighten up a shady, tree-filled backyard.

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