Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Starflower, Trientalis borealis, is another wildflower I needed to look up in a guidebook. Its seven petals are really distinctive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fringed Polygala

Walking through the woods near the Pere Marquette river, we saw lots of these colorful little flowers. At the time, none of us recognized them, but I found them pretty easily in a fieldguide. Polygala paucifolia are commonly known as the fringed polygala, gaywing milkwort, or flowering wintergreen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, is one of Michigan's showiest native trees. The flowers are about the same size as trillium flowers and their blooming season overlaps. Because of its beauty and reasonable size, this native has become a popular garden tree.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanagers are a brilliant bird of the mature forest. They migrate from South America-- Ecuador, Colombia, Peru-- each summer to nest and breed in Michigan and neighboring states.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fade to pink

Trillium grandiflorum's common name is the White Trillium because of its beautiful white flowers. As the flowers age, they take a pink tint. Some even turn a deep red as the petals wilt.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Canada geese, Branta canadensis, are common in our neighborhood, but this year was the first time they nested in our backyard. Now the eggs have hatched and the babies are eagerly eating dandelions from my lawn.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lady's Slipper

Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady's Slipper orchid, is a seasonal beauty. I usually think of them as wetland plants, but this one was growing in sandy soil on a bluff above the Pere Marquette river. Most wild orchids are protected in Michigan.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

half-free morel

I'd never found this kind of morel before this weekend and I would have had trouble identifying it if I hadn't read this Northern Country Morels webpage.

We also found Gyromitra esculenta, a false morel that can be lethal. We didn't pick those.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Race for light

The trees are starting to leaf-out which means the early wildflower season in Kalamazoo is coming to an end. Many of the plants that were in bloom two weeks ago have finished for the year and their leaves are already fading. The trillium, phlox, anemone, and blue-eyed Mary are in full flower now, but soon the floor of the woods will be in daylong shade.

In the few weeks after winter's last killing frost and before the tree leaves form a solid canopy, ephemeral wildflowers need to sprout, bloom, get pollinated, and set seed. It's a short season, but beautiful.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Morels are one of the highlights of Spring in Michigan. These distinctive mushrooms only appear for a few weeks each year. Mothers' Day is typically the height of the season around Kalamazoo. I spotted these yesterday at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, which meant I couldn't pick them. This weekend, I'll go morel hunting with friends. Success is never guaranteed, but the walk through woods is always worthwhile. The mushrooms, prepared simply by frying in a little butter, are delicious.