When I was in college, one of the classes I had to take for my botany degree was woody plants. I loved that class! Who wouldn’t want to take a walk in the woods instead of sitting in a classroom for four hours?
Each week we would travel to a different wooded area in southeastern Michigan and learn to identify 20-30 new trees and shrubs. And when I say identify, I mean by the silhouette, buds, bark, and twigs.
My class was held in the fall, so by mid-semester all the leaves had dropped, and there weren’t any leaves to help us figure out what we were looking at.
We had to learn to look at bark patterns, the shape and color of buds, how branches split, and the overall shape of a plant to determine what it was.
And to look at flowers. Yes, there’s one shrub that would bloom in mid-fall. Do you know it? (I’ll share it at the end of the post.)
One of the places we visited was Miller Woods, a beech-maple forest in Plymouth Township which still stands today. I love going back to Miller Woods in the spring, since it’s easy to locate the native wildflowers bursting into bloom. It’s one of the few places I find the red trillium.
This past week I stopped in for a walk through the woods. With our long winter, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was delightfully surprised to see several wildflowers and shrubs just starting to bloom.
The wild allium covers the higher ridges near the back of the woods. No trilliums to see yet. But I’m hoping to go back this week to find them.
The trout lilies, hepatica, and spring beauties are out. The May Apples are shooting up from the forest floor.
Did you guess the shrub that blooms in the fall in Michigan? It’s the native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. The long, yellow petals on the flowers stand out in the fall, and attract the bees and flies that don’t have any other flowers to gather nectar and pollen.