Wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexanders

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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: Spotted Touch-Me-Not

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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: Spring Beauty

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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

Wildflower Wednesday: False Solomon’s Seal

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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:

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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