It is always a slight shock and pleasant surprise when I see Michigan Lilies blooming. My friend Mary has the perfect sunny spot for them and some of her lilies have 15-20 lovely hanging flowers. My yard is shadier and the deer found some early, so mine are just 5-8 flowers. Depending on deer predation (they love the flower buds), the ones along the rail trail have 1-5 flowers. The older the bulb , the more layers of scales they have and the bigger the stalk, the better they can support many layers of flowers. They are such a variety of oranges with brown dots and the 6 recurved petals show off the 6 stamens and pistil. They are a true lily and are found all around the Great Lakes, from Illinois to Minnesota. The flowers tend to be smaller than the other orange flower we see so much of–the escaped orange daylily–not a true lily. The leaves are whirled around the stalk on the Michigan Lily and all the flowers dangle from the single stalk, while the Day Lily has long strap like leaves coming from the base with many tall stalks of flowers.
The other color that always says mid summer to me is pink. The clear pink with white markings of the Swamp Milkweed has just begun to bloom. This 3-4 foot plant is spectacular and often peeking out of the cattails and bergamot that line the ditch banks of the rail trail. Beside it are often the beautiful but deadly blooms of the Water Hemlock. The distinctive umbels and large serrate oval leaflets are striking. It is also known as Cowbane or Poison Parsnip.
The dark pink to purple of the Joe Pye Weed will be everywhere in the next few weeks. The tiny clustered buds become large disk type flowers, often standing on 5-7 foot stalks. It’s white-flowered cousin Boneset will also be blooming, but with a shorter stem. The ditches along the rail trail will be filled with these, especially at mile 12.
A special treat at Mile 12 is the large display of Swamp Rose–another deep pink offering for summer.
Of course we will still see the wonderful yellow groupings of Black-eyed or Brown-eyed Susan and the pale lavender of the Wild Bergamot (Bee Balm). The groupings of Everlasting Pea in pale pink to magenta are especially noticeable at the Averill Roll Way. There are still plenty of Crown vetch in the pale pink and light purple as well. The yellows of the Common St John’s Wort continue to accent the trail as well.
Starting to bloom are the Evening Primroses or Sundrops and Whirled Loosestrife. These both have cheery yellow flowers that appear as accents in the grasses and other flowers.
Soon it will be time to see the many sunflowers and other cone flowers and the first of the goldenrods and asters. The larger flowers and bigger colonies make a greater impact even as you speed by on skates or your bicycle. Get out and enjoy the variety.