I have many favorite native plants for many reasons, but one of the Ironweed (Vernonia altissima) plants which grows in my wet mesic prairie is a special favorite. Over the years, my Wild Ones Fox Valley Area Chapter has conducted plant rescues in conjunction with the widening of Wisconsin Highway 29. One such dig brought me this Ironweed plant. [Read more…]
Last week I wrote about the non-native Tiger Lily (Lilium tigrinum or Lilium lancifolium) from Asia. I wanted to follow-up that post with one on the native Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense). I’m fortunate to have the Michigan Lily in my rain garden area, but I don’t always get to see all of them bloom each season. This year I got to see only two blossoms; the deer like them, too.
Both the Tiger Lily and the Michigan Lily have blossoms which hang downward with gracefully recurved tepals*. They both have orange blossoms with spots. They both have lance-shaped leaves. They both have a main sturdy stem on which stalks project to hold a single blossom. And they both have long stamens on slightly spreading, curved filaments with showy anthers. But there are differences.
Unlike the alternate leaves of the Tiger Lily, the Michigan Lily has leaves that whorl around the stem.
The seedpods are quite different also. Where the tiny round bulbets of the Tiger Lily grow around a hairy stem, the native Michigan Lily seedpods form at the tip of the stalk in place of the blossom. They are white, three-lobed pods which contain flat seeds with thin papery wings.
The blossoms, too, are slightly different with the Tiger Lily’s being the largest at more than 4″, while the Michigan Lily is smaller at 3″. Both are unscented.
The anthers are different with the Tiger Lily’s dark reddish brown anther’s being the largest at 3/4″, while the reddish brown anther’s of the Michigan Lily are typically less than 1/2″.
Unlike the Tiger Lily, the native lilies are quite attractive to hummingbirds and insects such as Sphinx and Hummingbird moths and the larger butterflies such as Monarch, Great Spangled Fritillary and Spicebush Swallowtail. There is also a good variety of larvae that feed on the stems and leaves, along with the usual variety of varmints.
*The term tepals is used when the sepals and petals look the same and grow together in such a way they look like one bloom. In this case three sepals and three petals make up the bloom.
Note: While preparing this post, I realized that the second native lily called the Turk’s Cap Lily is not native to Wisconsin.
I’ve mentioned our native Cow Parsnip (Heracleum sphondylium) and Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) in past posts because they can be mistaken for Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). But today I thought I would write about them specifically. They are two very interesting plants and they provide much needed nourishment for our pollinators fairly early in the season.
I’m always finding surprises in my prairie. The latest is a Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor). I planted them in the late 1980s when I was first developing my prairie, but over time and the droughty weather we’ve had, they seemed to have disappeared. Imagine my surprise when I was walking in the wet mesic end of my prairie yesterday “to see what I could see,” and there smiling back at me was this lovely Blue Flag Iris! What a delightful surprise!!
The Blue Flag Iris has always been one of my favorite wetland plants, and I’m happy to say they grow in the standing water in between the ledge rock in the front yard of our hunting shack. We often see Easter Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) hovering around them seeking nectar.
Non-Native Yellow Flag Iris
My delight, however, was short-lived. Not far away was a non-native Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) smugly sneering back at me! Unfortunately, while Blue Flag Iris prefers wetlands, marshes and ditches, Yellow Flag Iris is not quite so particular and can survive quite nicely in upland areas as well.
Looks like I have my work cut out for me; I found another clump about 20 feet away. Digging it out is probably the easiest method of eradication, since the Yellow Flag Iris propagates by rhizomatous roots just as the Blue Flag Iris does. But just like the Blue Flag, its sap and tissues are poisonous and can irritate sensitive skin so good glove protection will be essential. Wish me luck!