Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trip to Nan Weston Preserve

 Monday afternoon I decided to take a drive out to the Nan Weston Preserve, a local Nature Conservancy parcel that is famous for its spring wildflowers.  Early to mid-May is THE time to be there, and since May was nearly over, I figured I'd better get myself out there to see what all the fuss was about.

You'd think that with a big ol' sign like this that the entrance would be easily spotted (Easudes Road), but I drove right by it without seeing it at all.  When I turned around and headed back, I watched the odometer (about 1 miles west of Sharon Hollow Rd., on the left), and there it was.  No driveway, and barely a parking area - it's no wonder I missed it on my first pass.

I immediately found flowers to photograph.

 This is one of the baneberries, but I'm unsure which (didn't bring my field guide with me, 
and inevitably, the photograph doesn't show the part(s) one needs for accurate ID).  
Red baneberry's flower raceme is usually about as wide as it is long, whereas 
the raceme on the white baneberry is usually longer than wide and each 
individual flower stalk is rather stocky.  If I had to make a guess, I'd say this is red.

 The obvious star of the day was the mayapple, which was growing 
in great profusion and at the peak of its flowering.  
Some of the blossoms were over two inches across - simply enormous!

White trillium carpeted what seemed like every acre of the forest in this 250+ acre parcel 
of land. the majority of the blooms were well past their prime, but even in their decline, 
they were impressive simply because of their numbers.

As one leaves the first stretch of woodland, one crosses a powerline easement.  
The path is well-worn, an indication of how well-used it is.

A variegated violet with a furry throat.  

Sarsaparilla was starting to flower.  Most of these plants have three balls 
of flowers, but I found one this day that had four. 

As they age, white trilliums turn pink.  Most today were quite pink, but
one or two white ones were still hanging on. 

One of the great features of this preserve are is the fantastic set of boardwalks
and bridges.  These are well-built and pretty well-cared for. 

I've gotten the impression from Michiganders with whom I've spoken that
Beech Scale Necrosis has not struck here in Michigan.  No one here seems
to appreciate what a treasure they have in their American beech trees.
Not a single one, even the ones that have fallen down, has been hit
by this awful disease, a combination of an invasive scale insect and a native
nectria fungus.  I haven't seen such beautifully pristine beech trees
since I was a kid, back in the '70s and early '80s. 

 Maidenhair ferns were nearly as prolific as the mayapples.

 Adding a welcome splash of color to the lush green and white landscape was
golden ragwort.  This knee-high plant apparently likes to have its feet wet,
for every soggy area along the trail sported patches of floral sunshine.

These ants were terribly focused on the remains of a caterpillar they discovered.

There was quite a lot of miterwort in bloom, too.  I'm not used to seeing more than
a stem or two of this delicate plant, but here there were lots and lots
at the peak of their blooming. 

This pair of white violets are a conundrum.  They look very different - the one above
with petals spread out and the one below with a very furry throat 
and sort of recurved petals. 

 And yet, they were seeming growing together on the same plant (see below).  Logic dictates that they are two separate species, just living cheek by jowl with each other.  I await species confirmation from my violet expert friend, Jackie.

 There were plenty of insect finds today, although most, like the tiger and spicebush butterflies, did not sit still long enough for me to photograph them.  Still, I found lovely examples of a leaf roller (above) and tent caterpillars (below)

 Solomon's plume (aka: false Solomon's seal) 
was only juuuuust starting to blossom.

I was too late for the squirrel corn and Dutchman's breeches.
Next year. 

I had originally thought that this was one of the baneberries, but
upon consultation with Newcomb's I discovered I was wrong.
  In my attempt to key it out, I kept ending up on the toothworts, 
but I'm not buying it.  Suggestions welcome!

A sea of mayapples.

 There were lots of wild geraniums in bloom,

and plenty of the wild blue phlox.
Thanks to the plentiful rain this spring, the woodland vernal pools
were all quite full.  Mosquitoes have begun to hatch. 

There are two trail loops at Nan Weston.  The one I took had a spur that
went to the Mill Pond.  It's the most river-like "mill pond" I've ever seen! 

A loud rustle and flapping of wings startled me from this tree across the water.  
I watched as a turkey vulture flew away.   Before long, however, it returned.
Could there be a nest here?  I stuck around and waited.

 Before long, it flew out again.  It didn't go far, soaring around above 
the canopy.  Because the weather was starting to get iffy, I didn't stick
around to see if it returned to the tree, but I suspect it did.

Two more spots of bright color were the orange fungi (above) and
lovely red oak leaves (below).  How nice that not quite everything in the 
spring is green. 

I returned to my car just as the first raindrops started to fall.  Several storm cells went by the rest of the afternoon, dropping at least another inch of rain.  And as I sit here now, typing up this post, a severe thunderstorm is rolling overhead.  The sky has been nearly as dark as it is at 9:30 PM, and the thunder has been rolling steadily for the last hour and a half.  Yes, it's been a very wet spring, but the spring flowers certainly seem to be enjoying it.


  1. Oh, what a great preserve, with many of the same plants that thrive in the Skidmore Woods, indicating a "rich" (that is, limey) woods. Regarding the violets: the first white one with the deep yellow throat is Canada Violet. I bet if you turned it over you would see purple on the back of the petals. Also, purplish buds. I'm guessing the other white one is Cream Violet (Viola striata), due to its largish flower and furry petals. Both of these violets have flowers and leaves growing from the same stem, and V. striata has sharply pointed stipules surrounding the leaf stems. The other mystery flower, with the umbel of tiny white flowers, is probably Sweet Cicely. Or its close relative Aniseroot. I have to see the leaves side-by-side to be sure which it is. Sweet Cicely's leaves are a bit more lacy. The Aniseroot's flowers have styles that are longer than the petals, but otherwise the two plants look nearly identical.

  2. A beautiful spot...thanks for the tour! The Nature Conservancy does wonderful work.

  3. Hi, the plant you thought might be a baneberry(picture 27), could it be Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis) or Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni) both are on page 224 in Newcomb's.

    I enjoy your blog! :)

  4. Hi, Could the plant, picture 27, you thought could be a baneberry be Aniseroot
    (Osmorhiza longistylis) or Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni) Page 224 of Newcomb's?

    I enjoy your blog! :)