MNA Kicks Off Spring with Wildflower Weekend Getaway

May 2-4, 2014

A hepaticia flower. Photo by Aaron Strouse

A hepaticia flower. Photo by Aaron Strouse

See wildflowers and celebrate spring with MNA! Join us for a weekend bus trip, featuring the wildflowers of southwest Michigan. The Wildflower Walkabout will kickoff with tours through Phillips Family Nature Sanctuary, Brewer Woods Nature Sanctuary, Trillium Ravine Nature Sanctuary, and Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary.

The Phillips Family Nature Sanctuary is home to many rare and unusual plants and is one of three MNA sanctuaries that protect coastal plain marshes. The flora that grow at the sanctuary are known as coastal plain disjunct plants because they are separated from their main populations along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Visitors will get to see bald-rush, seedbox and tall beak-rush, which are only found in Michigan’s coastal plains. The Virginia meadow beauty can also be found and can be identified by its bright purple and rich pink flowers. These four-pedaled flowers have eight stamen with striking orange and yellow anthers.

Your visit to the Brewer Woods Nature Sanctuary will present you with a remarkable array of spring ephemeral wildflowers. You may also get a glimpse at the eastern box turtle or the hooded warbler, two species that protected by the state of Michigan and reside within the sanctuary. This sanctuary is one of the few remaining areas of mature beech-maple forest left in Kalamazoo County.

The intense beauty of the Trillium Ravine Nature Sanctuary will make your visit memorable. This mixed deciduous forest that is set along a glacial ravine is littered with striking spring ephemeral flowers that will be abundant on your visit. The trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger and yellow trout lily are some of the wildflowers found throughout the ravine, and beech and sugar maple are the predominant hardwoods that tower above.

The yellow trout lily. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary is considered the “crown jewel” of MNA’s sanctuaries. The 384-acre mesic forest serves as a travel through time to what Michigan looked liked prior to plowing and settlement. A diverse range of plants and animals call this sanctuary home and the 1.5 mile trail allows visitors to observe all that the sanctuary has to offer. An abundance of wildflowers can be found along the Dowagiac River and oxbow ponds. Some flowers found in the floodplain are jewelweed, skunk cabbage, marsh marigold and golden ragwort. 50 species of nesting birds like the barred owl and yellow-throated warbler use the river and forested habitat along with several species of reptiles, such as the black rat snake, are common sights.  New discoveries will be found with every visit to the Dowagiac Woods and it will surely be a visit to remember.

This weekend getaway is just $275 for double occupancy. The price includes two nights at the Four Points by Sheridan, transportation, and meals and snacks. To sign up, contact Danielle Cooke at 866-223-2231 or dcooke@michigannature.org. Additional information is available on the MNA website.

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Upcoming Wildflower Walkabout Tour: Black Creek Nature Sanctuary

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

With warm temperatures and wildflowers in bloom, late-summer is a great time to get outside. Explore what northern Michigan has to offer by joining Erika Vye, MTU Geology PhD student, for a hike through Black Creek Nature Sanctuary on August 3, at 11 a.m. The tour is part of MNA’s 2013 Wildflower Walkabout, a series of guided tours throughout spring and summer featuring the abundant plant life in many sanctuaries. In addition to its diverse summer flora, the sanctuary displays many of the Upper Peninsula’s iconic animal species as well as the picturesque shores of Lake Superior.

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Black Creek’s Lake Superior shoreline.
Photo courtesy of Sherri Laier.

Black Creek Nature Sanctuary is located near Calumet, Michigan in Keweenaw County, off of Cedar Bay Road. Visitors can follow the sanctuary’s marked trail, which is about five miles to the end and back. The trail begins in a sandy, backdune landscape, where visitors can expect to see a variety of blueberry, bearberry and trailing arbutus plants. Further along, the sanctuary is shaded by towering white birch, fir and sugar maple trees.

Many wildflowers are native to the area, including rattlesnake plantain, baneberry, and sarsaparilla. The flowers should be in full bloom this time of year, displaying spots of color along the trail, so visitors will want to bring their cameras along for the hike.

Visitors might also catch a glimpse of some wildlife along the trail, as Black Creek is home to many of northern Michigan’s animal species. Though wolves, black bears, and moose have all been reported in the sanctuary, a more common animal is the spruce grouse, a medium-size bird native to the area. The spruce grouse is known for its immobility, and it will only fly away other animals come closer than a few feet.

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A beaver dam in Black Creek’s lagoon.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Eshbach.

Near the end of the trail lies Black Creek’s picturesque and unique lagoon, located where Black Creek and Hills Creek converge before entering the lake. The lagoon provides a critical habitat for fish and surrounding wildlife, and it is an especially popular location for beaver dams. Depending on the weather, the lagoon’s size and shape is constantly changing, creating an ever-altering landscape.

Black Creek Nature Sanctuary is also known for its shoreline. The first 121 acres of the sanctuary were initially donated in 1991 by Calumet native Ruth Sablich, who hoped to create more public beaches along Lake Superior. A year later, the preserve expanded an additional 120 acres, making it the expansive 241-acre sanctuary it is today. Visitors can follow 1,300 feet of Lake Superior shores, which are angled and capable of producing 18-foot high waves during the most powerful storms.

With an abundance of natural photo opportunities and warm, summer air, Black Creek Nature Sanctuary is sure to satisfy any adventurous spirit. For more information on MNA’s August 3 hike or for directions to the sanctuary, email nancy@einerlei.com.

Upcoming Wildflower Walkabout tour: Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

If you enjoy the smell of summer flowers, wide-open prairie, or a bit of ghost town mystery, be sure to join MNA for a guided tour of Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County. The tour will be held on Friday, July 12, at 1 p.m. as part of MNA’s 2013 Wildflower Walkabout. The sanctuary, which should be in full bloom this time of year, will feature an interesting bit of history in the midst of a beautiful prairie setting.

Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary displays 36 acres of open prairie, which is slightly out of place amidst the Upper Peninsula’s thick forests. Though the preserve has no trails, the sanctuary’s open expanse allows visitors to navigate with ease. The land’s short grasses allow for the growth of a diverse range of wildflowers, together creating an ideal habitat for birds, insects, and other native creatures.

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A purple coneflower at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Strouse.

Summer flowers native to the area include prairie cinquefoil, toad flax and the sanctuary’s distinguishing feature: the pale purple coneflower. Fred Dye is one of two sanctuaries in Michigan where the purple coneflower is known to grow, and it can be identified by its thin, pink petals, which usually turn downward. Because coneflower taproots must dig deep into soil to obtain water, it has long been questioned how the species arrived in this thin-soiled location. Today, it is generally believed that the plant is a remnant of the past, as its seeds were in the hay fed to logging horses decades ago.

Among its wildflowers, Fred Dye is known for its bird species, many of which can be spotted year-round. Viewers can expect to see many breeding and migratory birds this time of year, as both thrive in this prairie habitat. Particularly, wild spruce grouse can be found in sandy areas of the sanctuary while ruby-throated hummingbirds roam its wildflowers.

Supporting many of its species is the sanctuary’s interesting Karst geology. Soluble bedrock, such as limestone and dolomite, is scattered throughout the area, and these rocks are decorated with algae, moss and lichen. Not only does this topography play a vital role in the sanctuary’s habitat formation, but it also makes it difficult for hardwood forests to develop in this area, contributing to the prairie landscape.

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The logging town of Kenneth, MI in 1908.
Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

In addition to the natural features Fred Dye displays today, the sanctuary also shows traces of an interesting past. Many years before Fred Dye’s founding in 1970, the small town of Kenneth once existed at the site of the sanctuary. Though the town thrived from the logging and limestone business in the early twentieth century, it eventually became somewhat of a ghost town, with the foundations of the old general store and saloon still standing within the sanctuary’s boundaries.

To learn more about Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary’s diverse plant and animal species as well as its mysterious past, be sure to come along for MNA’s guided tour on July 12. For more information on this event or other Wildflower Walkabout tours, visit MNA’s website.

Spot wildflowers in bloom at MNA’s spring events

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

White trillium at Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Ron Grogan.

White trillium. Photo by Ron Grogan.

Throughout spring and summer, many of MNA’s sanctuaries are covered with abundant, colorful wildflowers. This spring, MNA is hosting a variety of wildflower-focused events, including a hike at Trillium Ravine Nature Sanctuary on May 1 that will give visitors a chance to check out the sanctuary’s three rare trillium species, which should be blooming throughout the sanctuary at the time of the hike.

Trilliums are spring ephemerals, or wildflowers that bloom in early spring and die after a short growth and reproduction phase. They appear to be plants with unbranched stems, but they actually produce no true leaves or stems above ground; the “stem” is really an extension of the horizontal rhizome (a stem that grows continuously underground and puts out shoots and roots) and produces small, scale-like bracts that look like leaves.

Red trillium at Jasper Woods Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Al Menk.

Red trillium. Photo by Al Menk.

Trilliums are divided into two major groups: pedicellate and sessile.  Pedicellate trilliums have flowers on stalks, while sessile flowers have no stalks and sit directly on the plant’s bracts. In all, there are 38 species of trillium, four subspecies and seven varieties.

Four trillium species are protected in Michigan. The state lists toadshade, prairie trillium and snow trillium as threatened and painted trillium as endangered. MNA sanctuaries protect several trillium species, such as red trillium, drooping trillium, painted trillium, prairie trillium and toadshade, among others. Trillium Ravine has three trillium species, but Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary, Jasper Woods Nature Sanctuary, Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve and other sanctuaries protect a few species, as well.

Visitors have more opportunities to see the spectacular wildflower displays in MNA sanctuaries throughout the summer at the 2013 Wildflower Walkabout. The Wildflower Walkabout is a series of guided tours through our nature sanctuaries from May to September. Each sanctuary was picked for its unique wildflowers, and each trip is planned during the time when those wildflowers are best for viewing and photographing. For more information on these tours, visit the MNA website.