Michigan’s Top Endangered Plants

Michigan has many unique habitats and is home to many endangered and special species of plants. In fact, many of MNA’s sanctuaries protect endangered and rare species. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) Web site lists quite a lot of them. But what are the top endangered species in Michigan? Botanists from the MNFI helped MNA compile a list of the top eleven for your educational pleasure. The list is based primarily on global rank, so critically imperiled (G1)  and imperiled (G2) ranked plants are included. For the globally rare category ( G3), Great Lakes endemics drove what was included in the list.

Pitcher's thistle

Pitcher's thistle (Cirslum pitcher) Photo by Chuck Peirce

Pitcher’s thistle (Cirslum pitcher)

State Status-Threatened (legally protected);  State Rank-S3 (vulnerable);  Global Rank-G3 (vulnerable)

This is a perennial thistle with bluish-green leaves and few spines. It is densely covered by white-wooly hairs and has numerous pale flower heads. Found in open Great Lakes Dunes, it is endemic to Great Lakes shorelines. Of the Great Lakes region, Michigan has the best population of this plant. It has been observed in most of the Eastern Upper Peninsula and along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and northern Lake Huron.

Moonwort (Botrychium acuminatum)

State Status-Endangered;  State Rank-S1 (critically imperiled);  Global Rank-G1 (critically imperiled)

A small fern of about 10-15cm, the moonwort resides in grassy dunes along Lake Superior. It is only found on large perched dunes at Grand Sable within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and was last observed in 1985.The leaf is nearly stalkless and is divided with up to six acute-tipped leaflets that don’t overlap.

Lakeside Daisy

Lakeside Daisy (Hynenoxys herbacea) Photo by Chuck Peirce

Lakeside daisy (Hymenoxys herbacea)

State Status-Endangered (legally protected);  State Rank-S1 (critically imperiled);  Global Rank-G3 (vulnerable)

A perennial forb (any herb that is not grasslike), this plant is found in moist calcareous rocky soils. The typical habitat for this species is limestone pavement. This flower was last observed in Mackinac County in 2007, where the sole known population in Michigan resides on the upland edge of a fen complex along a roadside edge. It has leaves that are narrow and dark green and flowers that are daisy-like and solitary borne on stout hairy stalks.

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris) Photo by Chuck Peirce

Dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris)

State Status-Threatened (legally protected);  State Rank-S3 (vulnerable);  Global Rank-G3 (vulnerable)

This iris-like flower is endemic to the Great Lakes shorelines and in Michigan has only been observed in the Straits area. In the Great Lakes region, Michigan has the best population of this plant. It is found in coastal cedar-fir-spruce forests and limestone pavement/grassland areas. It has short, flattened leaves with deep blue, iris-like flowers.

Smaller whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides)

State Status-Presumed extirpated (legally threatened if rediscovered);  State Rank-SX (presumed extirpated);  Global Rank-G2 (imperiled)

A small orchid of about five to 20 centimeters, this plant lives in swampy woods and is known from a single locality in southwest Lower Michigan (Berrien County). It was last observed in 1989 despite thorough surveys by expert botanists. It is superficially similar to the cucumber root with five to six whorled leaves, but the stem is hairless, hollow and covered a bluish waxy or powdery bloom. It has a flower sessile with three short green sepals and a white lip.

Northern prostrate clubmoss (Lycopodiella margueritae)

State Status-Threatened (legally protected);  State Rank-S2 (imperiled);  Global Rank-G2 (imperiled)

This clubmoss has creeping stems with occasional upright shoots with large thickened fertile strobili. There are spreading leaves with several marginal teeth on each side. It is found in mostly acidic sands, in seasonally flooded wetlands and potholes in glacial lakeplain landscapes. This plant was last observed in 2003 in Muskegon County.

Northern appressed clubmoss (Lycopodiella subappressa)

State Status-Special concern (rare or uncertain, not legally protected);  State Rank-S2 (imperiled);  Global Rank-G2 (imperiled)

This plant also has creeping stems with occasional upright shots but bearing small, slender fertile strobili. The leaves fit closely together and have no marginal teeth. It’s also found in seasonally flooded wetlands in shallow depressions and potholes in glacial lakeplain landscapes. It was last observed in St. Clair County in 1999.

Michigan monkey flower

Michigan monkey flower (Mimulus michiganesis) Photo by Chuck Peirce.

Michigan monkey flower (Mimulus michigenesis)

State Status-Endangered;  State Rank-S1 (critically imperiled);  Global Rank-G5T1

Found in the Grand Traverse and Mackinaw Straits area, this plant is entirely endemic to Michigan. It only grows in cold calcareous springs, seeps and streams through northern white-cedar as well as at the base of bluffs near the Great Lakes shoreline. It is a prostrate mat-forming forb with rounded and opposite leaves that have coarsely toothed margins. It has tubular flowers (15-25 centimeters) with yellow petals and a red-spotted lower lip. Botonists at the MNFI state the global rank of this plant species is outdated and needs to be updated to G1 (critically imperiled) in the future.

Prairie white-fringed orchid

Prairie white-fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) Photo by Chuck Peirce.

Prairie white-fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea)

State Status-Endangered (legally protected);  State Rank-S1 (critically imperiled);  Global Rank-G3 (vulnerable)

This is a stout orchid with a leafy stem and larger, narrow  leaves that taper at the base. The flowers are clustered on a terminal stalk, creamy-white and three-parted with a prominently fringed lower lip.  This orchid is found in wet prairies and bogs with moist alkaline and lacustrine (lake) soils.  It is rare, but this orchid can colonize highly disturbed sites like ditches, unmowed old fields and even the edges of golf courses as long as competition is not overly intense and proper soil fungi are present. It has been observed scattered throughout Southeastern Michigan and in one county in the Northern Michigan. It was last observed in 2009.

Hall’s bulrush (Schoenoplectus hallii)

State Status-Threatened (legally protected);  State Rank-S2 (imperiled);  Global Rank-G2G3 (uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable)

This is a very small annual bulrush with small clumped stems and lateral, compact spikelets. The achenes (small, one-seeded fruit) are black, rounded and covered with wavy horizontal ridges. It is found in intermittent wetlands within oak barrens complexes and last observed in 1989 in Allegan County.

Houghton's goldenrod

Houghton's goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) Photo by Chuck Peirce

Houghton’s goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii)

State Status-Threatened (legally protected);  State Rank-S3 (vulnerable);  Global-G3 (vulnerable)

This is a medium-sized forb with narrow and folded leaves that taper to a slightly clasping base. It has a flowering flat-top with large, showy yellow flower heads bearing elongated rays. Although endemic to the Great Lakes region, Michigan has the best population of this plant. It is found mostly within the Straits region, usually near the shoreline in linear interdunal areas and former embayments. It also can be found in alvar and bedrock beaches. It was last seen in 2007 in Chippewa County.

This list is based primarily on global rank, and therein lies the reason he couldn’t cut it down to the top ten.

He took the top several based on G rank (see chart below), and then it remained to be winnowed for the G3 ranks (globally rare category); Great Lakes endemics drove what he included, and because Michigan has the best populations of Houghton’s goldenrod, dwarf lake iris, and Pitcher’s thistle (all known only in the Great Lakes region), there was no way to choose among those.  Michigan monkey-flower has an outdated global rank that should be changed to a G1 in the future.

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4 thoughts on “Michigan’s Top Endangered Plants

  1. All of Michigan’s Top Endangered Plants are amazing and I am doing a report on the Michigan Monkey Flower. If you have any more information please help me!! It is extremely hard to find information for this extremely endangered plant. Thank You So Much!!!

  2. Tara – contact Michigan Natural Features Inventory – they are going to be updating the MI monkey flower survey this year.

  3. Pingback: animal control

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