As I was searching for new blooms along mile 9 and 12 of the rail trail, I noticed once again the layering of flowering times for wild flowers. The Canada Anemone and Wild Geranium are still blooming as are some of the more shaded Blue Flag Iris. Spiderwort is starting to bloom, adding to the blues on the side of the trail. Early Meadow Rue (shorter) and Tall Meadow Rue are opening their blooms as well. Both Foxglove Beardtongue (very tall) and Hairy Beardtongue (much shorter) are showing off. Occasional Golden Alexander and the smaller Buttercups appear as well as Common Cinquefoil and the ubiquitous Field Hawkweed adding yellow to the mix. The overwhelming visual of blooms are the introduced Oxeye Daisy and Dame’s Rocket. These areas will have great shows of Joe Pye Weed, Boneset, Swamp and Common Milkweed, and Sunflowers later in the summer, but are pretty tame and green now since the other blooms are more spread out.
Mile 6 through 8 will likewise have significant summer blooms with Bee Balm, Coneflowers, Sunflowers and Cardinal Flower as the weather stays warm.
Along mile 2 between Sugnet and Dublin is a spectacular scene–the garden “wildflower” mix planted years ago on the north side of the trail still has Coreopsis (Tick Seed), Sweet William in multiple colors, some Gallardia and lots of Crown Vetch, American Vetch and Oxeye Daisy. There will be Sunflowers, Coneflowers and Monarda later in June and July.
This is a contrast to the normal wildflowers on the south side of the trail, but there are nice clumps of Hairy Beardtongue, Common Fleabane and Vetch, just not the showy mass that garden planted cultivars can attain.
All along mile 2-5 are encroaching stands of Common Buckthorn and Autumn Olive. These are shading out the wildflowers and crowding out the native Witchhazel, Dogwood, Viburnum, Willow, Birch, Poplar and other shrubs and trees. Some of the introduced garden flowers and other invasive plants (like Spotted Knapweed and Garlic Mustard) are also pushing out the native wildflowers. The Wetland areas are seeing another invasive plant called Phragmites. This grass–is overwhelming ditches and drains and lowlands everywhere–look at the Mall area between ALDI and Meijer to see a large colony of it.
We know, from Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) and Little Forks Conservancy (LFC) efforts, that removing the invasives can help bring back the native plants. The invasive plants colonize rapidly and crowd out and sometimes use chemicals to stunt or kill the other plants. Please help Wild Ones, LFC and CNC in their clean up efforts and encourage the County and City Parks to get rid of the invasive plants. You can also make sure your own property is free of these rapidly spreading plants by working with LFC.
Meanwhile, keep looking for the native wildflowers!