Flowers of Field & Fen

I was sitting out in our little courtyard here scraping bark off mullein stalks that will be used next week to make hand drills for summer campers, when Gary stopped by and said he was going back out to the fen to see if he could find the Mitchell’s Satyr he thought he saw earlier this week.  That’s a rare butterfly, and would be a real coup of we had them here.  So, of course, I said “Sure!”

A short while later we were riding the gator out there (just faster and more convenient when time is pressing).  Along the way, we almost drove over this lovely pink flower.  It was a new one for both of us, and it required the assistance of a friend back in NY to get it identified:  naked-flowered tick trefoil.  It’s a member of the pea family, and it is a native wildflower.  The small flowers are very orchid-like.

Soon we were cruising along the prairie, where so many things are now in bloom, or just about to bloom.  This one, again, had me flummoxed.  I was pretty sure it was a St. Johnswort, but it didn’t quite match anything in my field guide.  Turns out, I needed to be on a different page in the field guide, for it is a St. Johnswort, but it is Shrubby St. Johnswort, which is with the shrubs, not the wildflowers proper!

Several groups of campers were out in the fields today, catching insects.  The heat is still quite high, but today the humidity is somewhat less, so being out in the sun in tolerable.

This dragonfly was one of their catches.  It was a lovely golden color, so I wanted to photograph it for ID when I got back to the office.  I’m thinking it’s a female halloween pennant.  If anyone would like to chime in on this, please do so!

Another camper was diligently watching this bug.  I say bug, because it is not merely an insect, but truly a bug – a true bug (order Hemiptera).  Anyway, it turns out it is a big-headed bug (who comes up with these names?).

Not quite in bloom yet, Ironweed is getting ready to burst almost any day now.  I’m tempted to call it NY ironweed, for that’s the one with which I am familiar, but out here it is probably more likely to be tall ironweed.  I’ll have to go back out when it is in bloom to check the bracts to be sure which one it is.

Now here is a true prairie flower:  grey-headed coneflowers.  They are blooming robustly right now, so this is the time to go out to see them.

Before they fully open, their yellow “petals” (I use quotes because they are really ray flowers) point upwards.  As they unfurl, they fall backward and eventually droop all the way back (see above).

This is one of my favorite flowers, at least in the sensory department.  It is mountain mint.  In fact, this one is narrow-leaved mountain mint and it has the most beautifully aromatic mint scent when the leaves are crushed.  Ahhh!  I haven’t enjoyed that since I worked in The Great Swamp in New Jersey!  And aren’t those flowers just so lovely?  They are quite small, but if you get really close, or have a hand lens in hand, you can see the little purple spots on those otherwise pristine white petals.

Okay, for those who think grasses are boring, just take a look at the reproductive parts of this tall bluestem grass, one of our prairie natives.  How beautiful is that?

Back in New York, I had some culver’s root planted in my garden.  I was very excited to hear that it is growing in the prairie here at Dahlem, and it was one of the reasons I joined Gary this morning – he said it was in bloom.  And here it is!  Mine had a pink cast to the flowers, but even just white it is a great addition to any garden, and certainly a must have in native landscapes around here.  The butterflies and bees love it!

Now, this is a coreopsis, and I think it is tall coreopsis.  These relatives of the sunflowers are also native to our prairies and it was nice to see this one in bloom.

The wild native monarda is blooming all over this year.  Must be it likes this hot, humid, and dry weather.  And certainly this sphinx moth was enjoying it.  The campers all thought this was a hummingbird, as most people do when it first buzzes by them.

Off the the fen we went.  Gary donned his rubber boots (all the better for wading in a wet landscape that might be dotted with massaugas – pygmy rattlesnakes), while I waded in with my Teva sandals on my feet (I really must get some Wellies).  Aside from the prairie loosestrife I first encountered a couple weeks ago and was now blooming all over the fen, this was the first flower I saw out there today:  round-leaved sundew.

If you don’t believe it’s a sundew, here are the leaves, complete with sticky digestive droplets on the ends of their finger-like fringes.  This is the first time we’ve recorded sundew in the fen.  Woo-hoo!

Here is another grass of note that we only recently discovered was out in the fen:  blue-jointed grass.  A fen expert was out here earlier this month and was very excited to see it here.  When it is fresher, that dark spot at the leaf joint (near my fingertip) is a bluish-purple color.  Now it is kind of brown.

And here’s the flowering head.  It’s a rather graceful thing.

The birches out here are bog birches – a new species of birch for me.

I found this little caterpillar munching away out in the fen.  No idea what it is.  It is so small that it may be difficult to find in the field guides, which usually only show older ‘pillars.

And what funny little sea-urchin-like galls on this boneset leaf.

Although most of the sticky tofieldia are past blooming, this one was looking fine!  In many states, this plant is endangered, so it is nice that we have a pocket of them here.

Gary was looking for Grass of Parnassus, which he found just starting to open.  Not wanting to get totally wet or disturb any snoozing snakes, I opted to wait for the ones closer to shore to open before photographing them.  Maybe in a week or two.  He also found some blue flax, another nice little native flower.

Now, this plant has me flummoxed.  My friend Jackie thinks it may be one of the wild lettuces.  It’s only just starting to bloom, so I will check back later on to see if it looks more like the illustrations in the book.

While many of the thistles are not native plants, this one is.  Field thistle – and it is indeed prickly!

I chased down another sphinx moth – it was enjoying the spotted knapweed.  Good thing, for this section of our prairie is thick with the stuff.

And finally, we have two models of the broad-winged meadowhawk – the red male:

and the yellow female:

So hie ye to the Dahlem Center and check out the prairie – it is THE place to be for flowers and insects this time of year!

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About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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