Don’t miss a chance for a Wildflower Walkabout this fall

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Summer has come and gone in what seems to be the blink of an eye — yet it’s not too late to enjoy an educational and aesthetically pleasing Wildflower Walkabout at an MNA nature sanctuary.

Upcoming dates:

  • Saturday, September 6 – 1 p.m. Saginaw Wetlands, Huron County
  • Saturday, September 6 – 11 a.m. Keweenaw Shores No. 1, Keweenaw County
  • Saturday, September 20 – 10 a.m. Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary, Lenawee County (rescheduled from August)
  • Saturday, October 4 – 1:30 p.m. Phillips Family Memorial, Van Buren County

Saginaw Wetlands Nature Sanctuary is a lakeplain prairie habitat. Historically, Michigan had nearly 160,000 acres of this type of ecosystem, yet today only 511 acres remain. Saginaw Wetlands preserves 155 acres of this rare habitat.

This sanctuary boasts an array of plant species within the lake plain oak opening, wet prairie and wet mesic prairie habitat, among others. The lake plain prairie is of critical concern due to land degradation. This habitat contains grasses as well as a beautiful variety of wildflowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Flowers found at Keweenaw Shores. Photo by Charlie Eshbach.

The Keweenaw Shores No. 1 Nature Sanctuary also boasts a beautiful array of flora during the fall season. The sanctuary is located in the Upper Peninsula and consists of an interesting geology, conifer swamp and boreal forest. Among wildflowers, another interesting plant to be found in this sanctuary are the colorful lichens which attach themselves to rocks and trees. Lichens are indicators of good air quality. This sanctuary boasts a beautiful array of colors in the fall season.

Virginia meadow beauty. Photo by Joshua Mayer.

Virginia meadow beauty. Photo by Joshua Mayer.

The Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Van Buren County is also unique as it is one of three sanctuaries to contain a coastal plain marsh community. This rarity allows for 40 different disjunct plant species to grow there. Some plants that grow in coastal plain marsh communities are bald-rush, seedbox and tall beak-rush.

Due to schedule changes, the Wildflower Walkabout hike at Goose Creek Grasslands was moved to September. This is a great opportunity to see the unusual plants that make their home in the sanctuary’s prairie fen!

Don’t miss a chance to experience the beauty of Michigan’s nature! Mark your calendar for the next Wildflower Walkabout.

Call the MNA office at (866) 223-2231 or visit the MNA website for more information. We hope to see you at a hike soon!

Why do leaves change in the fall?

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

There is nothing quite like the colors one can see in Michigan in the fall. Reds, oranges, yellows and browns cover the trees and make for a beautiful sight, whether you’re on a hike or just driving by. Many people are delighted by fall and the wonderful colors, but don’t fully understand why the leaves change in the first place.

Many of the colors seen in fall are always present in leaves, just hidden by an abundance of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what makes leaves green and is regulated by light. When there is plenty of light, like in the summer months, the green overshadows the other colors of the leaf.

When the days start to get shorter and there is less light, less chlorophyll is produced. The chlorophyll starts to decompose, and without new chlorophyll being produced, the green color of the leaf starts to fade.

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

At the same time that this is happening, high levels of sugar concentrations in the leaves lead to increased production of anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments. Anthocyanins cause leaves to appear red, and carotenoids cause leaves to appear yellow. A leaf that has a combination of the two will appear orange. If a plant has neither of these pigments, it may appear brown because of other plant chemicals, such as tannins.

All of this might seem a bit heavy, but it will come in handy on any of MNA’s upcoming fall events! There are hikes, volunteer days and exploration days all throughout the months of October and November that anyone can attend to see the beautiful fall colors in action.

Some of these upcoming events include a field trip to Newaygo Prairie on October 19, an exploration of Braastad Nature Sanctuary on October 23 and an exploration of Fox River Nature Sanctuary on October 30. To learn more, visit the MNA website or call (866) 223-2231.

Upcoming Fall Tour through Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary

The prairie. Photo courtesy of Chuck Vannette

The prairie. Photo by Chuck Vannette

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Visitors are invited to explore the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary and observe the beautiful fall colors in full swing on Saturday, October 19. Steward Chuck Vannette will be leading a fall tour through the prairie, starting at 2 p.m. This will be a day filled with scenic views and the serenity of the open prairie at Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located in Newaygo County and sits at the intersection of S. Poplar Ave. and E. 56th Street.

Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary protects one of the most endangered habitats in the state. Its sandy soils and raised hillsides prevented farmers from converting the prairie into farmland during the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the Michigan Nature Association purchased the prairie in 1969, it has worked on preserving this 110-acre spread, which is composed of prairie vegetation, dry prairie habitat and oak pine barren. Guests will get to experience what remains of the dry-sand prairie that once covered 19,000 acres in Michigan.

The sanctuary contains no trails, giving visitors the unique opportunity to navigate and explore the open landscape of the area and get up-close looks at the sanctuary’s abundant prairie species that survive in the habitat. More than 100 plant species, including porcupine’s grass, Fall Witch grass, prickly-pear cactus, and rock spikemoss contribute to the beauty of Newaygo Prairie.

Goldenrod in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Goldenrod in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is no one best time to visit Newaygo Prairie because its vast plant variety provides blooming vegetation throughout the year. During this fall tour on October 19, guests will witness the beautiful colors of sunflowers, goldenrods and asters blooming in the sanctuary. Several bird species, such as bluebirds and prairie warblers, also reside in the sanctuary, relying on the open prairie to gather food and build their nests. Other birds live near the wooded areas of the sanctuary, finding a comfortable home in the shade. Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary provides great opportunities for visitors throughout the year.

Take advantage of the chance to see this beautiful prairie exhibiting all of its fall colors on the fall tour on October 19. For more information about this field trip, see MNA’s online events calendar or contact Matt Schultz at mschultz@michigannature.org.