Celebrate National Pollinator Week this June 18 – 24, 2018!

By Lauren Cvengros, MNA Intern

The phrase “Save The Bees” is being thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean? It’s a phrase meant to inspire people to protect these little creatures that help pollinate our plants; but it goes beyond just bees, all pollinating critters are in dire need of protection.

pollinator week 2018Eleven years ago, the Senate approved Pollinator Week to be held June 18-24 to raise awareness for the declining pollinator presence in our ecosystem. Pollinator Week is an international movement to celebrate the ecosystem services that bees, bats, butterflies, birds and beetles provide to us. These pollinators are responsible for producing one-third of the food we eat by helping plants reproduce. Do you like to enjoy a yummy chocolate bar, crave avocado toast for breakfast or carve pumpkins on Halloween? Those are all made possible by our pollinating friends. Pollinators don’t just provide use with honey – if we didn’t have them we wouldn’t be able to eat fruits or vegetables, drink coffee, or add spices to our food. Even dairy would be limited as the food cows eat is available due to pollinators.

Plants are asexual, meaning they need a little help to reproduce. The pollinators carry the pollen from the male plants to the female plants so the females can produce seeds, fruit and the next generation of plants. Wondering what exactly these pollinated plants bring us?

They’re responsible for:

  • provide the fruits and nuts we eat,
  • give us half of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials,
  • prevent soil erosion,
  • increase carbon sequestration (stores carbon that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere causing global warming),
  • support other wildlife;
  • protect against severe weather and promote clean air.

How you can help?

There are things you can do at home to participate in Pollinator Week.

  1. Make room for pollinators at your home. You can give them a place to live by This sign is in someone's front yard in Oakland, CA.planting gardens. Live in a city? Not a problem, pollinators love plants in any setting. Make sure you are planting the correct plants. You can find a guide to which plants are best for pollinators by visiting http://pollinator.org/pollinators#fn.
  2. Buying local is another way to support our pollinators – opt for buying in season, organic honey, fruits, spices and vegetables from a trusted source such as a farmer’s market.
  3. Spread the word! Let others know about Pollinator Week to raise awareness and help protect our pollinating friends.

If you would like to know more about Pollinator Week and ways to help, visit these links to get involved:

What’s the Scoop with Michigan’s Soil?

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Though not always the most celebrated components of a landscape, soils are certainly one of the most important. While plants form the basis of habitats, soils are central in determining which plants can grow where. Consequently, the soil/s of an ecosystem can drastically affect wildlife communities. Soils also play a critical role in filtering fresh water, and have served as the very foundations of civilization. How much do you know about the marvel beneath your feet?

kalkaska sand

Kalkaska sand. Photo: Randall Schaetzl.

In 1990, Michigan declared Kalkaska sand as its official state soil. It’s relatively infertile owing to its acidic nature, but nonetheless abundant. Despite being one of over 500 soils present in Michigan, Kalkaska sand, so named for one of the 29 counties in which it is present, covers nearly 5% of the state. It can be found in the upper half of the lower peninsula, as well as most of the upper peninsula; but just how did it get there?

The movement of glaciers shaped Michigan’s soils over the course of hundreds of thousands of years into what is known as glacial till. Read more about the process here. In the time since, our soils have undergone many changes to provide support for forests, wetlands, prairies, dunes, swamps, and human agriculture alike. In fact, if not for Kalkaska sand, the coniferous forests of northern Michigan may not exist.

Many of the evergreens that grow in our northern forests, including our ever-important state tree (white pine), are adapted to highly acidic, dry, and nutrient-poor conditions. As such, they rely on otherwise infertile soils like Kalkaska sand. The rare Kirtland’s warbler breeds exclusively in jack pine, and many other well-known species depend upon plant communities derived from Kalkaska sand. In a very real way, we have this unique soil to thank for the natural landscape as we know it today.

kirtlands warbler - cindy mead

Kirtland’s warbler in a jack pine forest. Photo: Cindy Mead.

Vernal Pools, Rare Plants, and Invasive Species: this week in environmental news

Searching for woodland fairies and fingernail clams (Great Lakes Echo): In this podcast, Yu Man Lee, a conservationist, zoologist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory and Trustee at Michigan Nature Association, discusses vernal pools and how they provide habitats for unique creatures one won’t find anywhere else. She also speaks about how MNFI is teaming up with citizen scientists to help protect vernal pools.

Rare Plants Discovered Near Detroit (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Newsroom): It was recently discovered that Humbug Marsh, part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, is home to a rare grass-like plant called the hairy-fruited sedge and an orchid species called oval ladies’ tresses. Records show that these plants have never been found in Wayne County. Humbug Marsh, which was determined to have had the most disturbance over the years, has a disproportionately higher abundance of new, common species to older, rare ones that have been together for a long time.


Oval ladies’ tresses. Photo: David McAdoo/Creative Commons.

A sound strategy: blasting carp from the Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): A recent study found that sound could be the answer to keeping invasive silver carp out of the Great Lakes. What appears to be the most effective in scaring off unwanted fish is a complex sound that consists of multiple pure tones. The carp are harmful due to their fast growth, prolific spawning, and ability to out-compete native fish for food and space.

round goby

The long term effects of round goby in Lake Erie are still unknown. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Round goby a good-news, bad-news Great Lakes invader (Great Lakes Echo): The round goby is one of the nastiest aliens in the Great Lakes – with what the DNR calls its voracious appetite and an aggressive nature which allows them to dominate over native species. But smallmouth bass find them yummy chow, and that’s also good news for crayfish that used to top the smallmouth bass menu. Although the round goby is responsible for a decreased abundance of some bottom-dwelling Great Lakes native species, the study said that other species have benefited, such as burbot and the Lake Erie water snake.

Ten MNA sanctuaries to visit this fall

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

As the season changes, so do the leaves. Well, at least in Michigan! Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons to experience in Michigan as fall colors surround beautiful landscapes. MNA’s nature sanctuaries are home to a variety of habitats offering breathtaking colors perfect for a fall hike. We had a hard time narrowing the list down, but here are a few sanctuaries to check out if you’d like to experience Michigan this fall.

For a complete list of upcoming guided fall hikes, download the Fall 2014 edition of Discover Michigan Nature or check out the online calendar of events. Click here to access a map of MNA’s nature sanctuaries in Michigan.

Ten MNA Nature Sanctuaries to Visit this Fall:

1. Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County

Autumn hardwoods

Photo by Mark Carlson.

This 245-acre sanctuary offers guests the chance to explore the wonders of the woods. This sanctuary contains hardwood swamp and second hardwood growth. Visitors are welcome to explore on a 2-mile loop trail, but be sure to pack proper footwear as the sanctuary can be wet and swampy (as the name implies).

2. Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary in Newaygo County


Photo by Matt Schultz.


This 210-acre sanctuary is made up of oak and pine barrens. Despite having no trails, the terrain makes it easy for visitors to explore. In this sanctuary, the fall is prime time for the blooming of sunflowers, goldenrod and asters.

3. Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary in Macomb County


Photo by Jeff Ganley.


Visitors can take a hike on a mile-long loop through this sanctuary. The 44-acre sanctuary is home to an array of different plant species including tulip trees and round-leaved orchids and parts both mature and mesic forest.

4. Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County

Photo by Marianne Glosenger

This 510-acre sanctuary offers two loop trails, each about a mile long, that intersect offering a 2.5-mile challenge for visitors’ hiking pleasure. The giant white pines have an awe-inspiring height of up to 125 feet, which surround guests with beautiful color as they make their way through the trails. There are also many bird species to watch out for at Estivant Pines.

5. Mystery Valley Karst Preserve and Nature Sanctuary  in Presque Isle County

Photo by Katherine Hollins

Photo by Katherine Hollins

Mystery Valley is home to one of the largest karst “collapse valleys” in the Great Lakes region. On the 1-mile Earthcrack Trail, visitors can explore the incredible earth cracks and valley formed by the erosion of limestone beneath the earth’s surface. The half-mile Valley Trail passes fossils of marine life embedded in the rock. In addition to the sanctuary’s interesting geology, the slightly acidic soil supports a northern-mesic forest, dominated by sugar maple, beech and hemlock trees. In the fall, the trees change and beautifully highlight the landscape.

6. Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary in Cass County

Autumn in the woods

Photo by Sherri Laier.

This sanctuary offers a 1.5-mile loop as well as boardwalks over naturally wet areas and some benches to take a rest. Even if visitors are just sitting for a moment, they still have a great opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the nature around them in this “crown jewel” nature sanctuary. The sanctuary is a mixture of floodpain, southern mesic forest and hardwood swamp, a home for several different bird and reptile species. The Dowagiac River also flows through this sanctuary.

7. Columbia Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County


Photo by Jeff Ganley.

A beautiful array of colors can be seen in this 40-acre sanctuary consisting of southern hardwood swamp, emergent marsh and southern hardwood forest. It is in this sanctuary where over 150 plant species can be found. Some notable plants are Michigan holly, several types of bedstraws and sedges.

8. Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve in Alger County

Photo by Mike Zajczenko

Twin Waterfalls boasts great beauty in its falls themselves, as well as unique plants. Some plants found in this sanctuary are twisted stalk and American milletgrass. The milletgrass is known for being 5 feet in height and a foot-long panicle. The Munising Formation is also an interesting sight — a large sandstone wall made of a variety of colors.

9. Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Van Buren County


Photo by Nancy Goodrich.

This sanctuary is unique because of its coastal marsh habitat. Along with coastal marsh, it is also composed of southern mesic forest. Some trees to look out for are hardwoods, red maple, pin oak and black cherry.

 10. Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Genesee County

Photo via MNA archives.

Photo via MNA archives.

This nature sanctuary is an interweb of pine groves and hardwood forests. Visitors can choose between several different trails to discover the variety of trees in the sanctuary. Some trees to look out for are oak, elm and ash.


We want to explore Michigan with you! Download the Fall 2014 edition of Discover Michigan Nature or check out the online calendar of events and join us in the field!

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.