The Herbarium of the University of Michigan lists 15 species of the genus Helianthus Sunflowers. These are all members of the Asteraceae family (Asters) which is one of the largest families of wildflowers representing about 40,000 species.
Sunflowers are all composite flowers in that they all have a center called a disk which contains tiny petal-less flowers (florets) surrounded by colorful ray flowers mostly yellow. If you really want to dig into how botanists describe flowers, take a minuet to look at the Illinois Wildflower site. This will give you an appreciation of how precisely professionals describe the objects of their study.
Below are some of my favorite shots of Woodland Sunflowers. Be sure to notice the leaves are oppositely spaced as opposed to alternately spaced and the leaves are shaped like lances (lanceolate) and attached directly to the stem (sessile) or with very short stems (petioles).
Stewart Nelson, 2017 Some rights reserved ©
Stewart Nelson, 2017, Some rights reserved ©
During my regular walk this morning I spotted a monarch butterfly having brunch on Wild Bergemont (Monarda fistulosa). Pretty hard to slow these insects down when they are feeding, so I got pretty lucky catching a few shots of the perfect butterfly. This is just one of the things you can enjoy if you keep your eyes open.
There is great shot of Wild Bergamont below also. Tea drinkers might recognize the name as this is the same ingredient found in Earl Gray teas. They are all over the Northwestern pathway on both sides of the path.
After a thunderstorm this morning I figured I should get back to see the third lily bloom before something happens to one of the other blossoms. I was rewarded handsomely as not only did I see the third inflorescence, but I spotted two more blooms closer to the path. Enjoy these.
Stewart Nelson 2017, Some rights reserved © 2017
Stewart Nelson 2017 Some rights reserved
Two other summer blooms (July to August) in Gallup and Furstenburg Parks are the colorful milkweeds, Swamp and Butterfly milkweeds. The flowers appear overnight it seems in the wet marshlands and meadows of the Furstenburg Park close to the Michigan lilies. Follow the pathway from the main parking lot in Gallup and go west to the second wet land and before you get to the Fuller Bridge over the Huron. You have to look carefully as they are in the middle of the second wetland and not very accessible. The almost iridescent colors help in locating them 5 or 6 yards deep on the north side of the pathway. Both flowers attract numerous butterflies including the monarch and swallowtails plus bees and are easily grown in home gardens.
A. tuberosa has 5 sepals and 5 petals and an off white pistil and the leaves are alternate and linear-oblong and entire (without serration or lobes). The inflorescences last longer than A. incarnata and I usually find these gems on the right hand side of the pathway almost to the second wetland. Sometimes they bloom twice in a summer. Because it does not have the milky liquid inside the main stem many refer to it as Butterfly weed rather than milkweed. WebMD lists A. tuberosa as a homeopathic remedy with some negative side effects for an inflammation of the lungs called pleurisy. Hence the nickname Pleurisy root. According to Botanical.com, Western Indians use the root for a crude form of sugar. I think I will stay away from that usage and stick with German rock sugar in my tea. You should also!
A. incarnata is found only in the second wetland and right before the Fuller Park Bridge north of the pathway. The brilliant reddish-pink inflorescence, bloom, is spectacular and worth the walk to get to it. There is a variety that is all white but I have never seen it in the parks. Long narrow (up to 6 inches) lance shaped leaves distinguish A. incarnata from other varieties. According to Plants For A Future.com, A. incarnata is a strong laxative and diuretic that can eliminate tapeworms in an hour! Please don’t try this for a variety of reasons but mainly because the USDA says this plant may be toxic if not prepared properly internally. An added benefit of growing these beauties at home is that they are very deer resistant. Hurray for that in Michigan.
A. tuberosa photo by Stewart Nelson, 2017. ©
A. incarnata photo by Stewart Nelson, 2017. ©
Of all the beautiful flowers in Gallup and Furstenburg Parks, Michigan Lily, is my favorite. Spottted north of the walkway in the second wetland as you head west from the main bridge in Gallup along the pathway, this beauty takes your breath away. At least it took my breath away. Similar to 2016, I spotted this in mid-July in an inaccessible part of the park and used my telephoto lens to save having to put waders on to reach them. One bud was in bloom with 2 others ready to bloom in a matter of days. Hopefully, I will be able to get back to the park with my camera to catch all three in bloom simultaneously.
Barely visible in the photo are six tepals (3 sepals and 3 petals), six stamen and one large pistil. These plants are butterfly magnets for a variety of butterflies including the Monarch and Swallowtails. While these flowers only bloom for about a month the experience in seeing them is a lifetime event that you will always remember.
Photos by Stewart Nelson, some rights reserved.
Photos by Stewart Nelson, some rights reserved.