Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Native or Invasive?

Definitely native to Michigan: blue-eyed grass
One of my side projects at the museum involves creating a flower bed that will feature only flowering plants and shrubs native to Michigan. It's been a challenge. Many of the wildflowers we all take for granted and maybe even like a lot, like Queen Ann's Lace (aka chigger weed aka wild carrot), originated in Europe or Asia. Daisies were brought to North America from England. Even the lowly and ubiquitous hawkweed (aka devil's paintbrush) isn't native.

Hawkweed and daisies. Both were brought to New England from Europe to plant in colonial flower gardens.
At the library yesterday I spotted a guidebook to Michigan Wildflowers. Aha! thought I, That'll help me a lot as I plan for spring plantings.

Musk mallow. Super common throughout the U.P. Introduced from Asia.
Pshaw. No such luck. The book is a guide to stuff you and I might see growing wild in Michigan, but when it includes plants that give natural resource specialists heartburn, e.g. spotted knapweed and purple loosestrife, it's not exactly the guide book of my dreams. Including those invasives would not be a bad thing if the authors had at least noted they were invasive species, but they don't. The only nod they make to classifying flowers in any way other than by color is to note which ones, like trilliums and Indian pipe, are protected species.
Coreopsis. This is one I was sure was introduced but is actually native.
It also doesn't bother to mention that seeing some flowers blooming apparently wild can actually be a good sign that location used to be a home site, i.e., is the location of an abandoned farm or someone's house. There are some plants, like day lilies (which are in this particular wildflower guide), that simply do not spread particularly well on their own. If you see a patch of day lilies, odds are that someone planted them.
Day lilies. Neither native nor wild. Not even feral.
Oh well, at least I now have a nice visual guide to help me identify the wildflowers I'd forgotten the names of, like cinquefoil. I used to be a bit of an expert on wildflowers -- I did Wildflowers as a 4-H project for a couple of years -- but the only ones I remember really well these days are the ones I never see, like turk's cap lilies and turtleheads, or the super common ones like goldenrod and Joe Pye weed.
Asters and goldenrod, both native to Michigan
Now that it's September I need to start collecting seeds so I can try starting some plants that way. I'll just have to hope the chipmunks and field mice don't beat me to all of them. I was waiting to collect the seed pods off the nodding trilliums growing under one of our apple trees but when I checked the other day there was nothing there -- the chipmunks beat me to them.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post. I look forward to more about your native flowers, and trees and grasses. Many of our seeded grasses in Western Canada come from Eastern Europe or central Asia. Many of the flowers grown here are similar to ones my mom grew but no idea whether they are native to here or imported from farther east or south.


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