Redbud in a Blue Sky

Eastern Redbud Blooming in Michigan by Lee Rentz

Eastern Redbud Blooming in Michigan by Lee Rentz

A Michpics reader shared that the blooming of redbuds was one of her favorite signs of Spring & I heartily agree!

Lee got this shot of Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) in bloom last week. For sure check out his blog for some great travel stories including a Michigan bear encounter & view and purchase his work on his website.

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Building a Backyard Habitat

Prairie by Natalie Cypher

Prairie by Natalie Cypher

Rayna Skiver of the Great Lakes Echo has an article on the benefits of building a backyard habitat for Michigan wildlife that says in part:

A habitat can be as simple as a place that provides food, water and shelter for wildlife, said Natalie Cypher, naturalist and educator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Adventure Center.

Building a habitat in your backyard can require as much or as little space as you want, Cypher said. It depends on what type of wildlife you want to attract.

Research is the first step.

“If you’re looking to provide a habitat for monarch butterflies, you have to use milkweed,” Cypher said. “Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed plants and it’s the only food that their caterpillars will eat.”

…Backyard habitats benefit both wildlife and the people making them. For wildlife, they provide food and a safe place to nest. People benefit because of the positive feelings associated with added greenery and the presence of wildlife.

In a suburban neighborhood, a lot of land doesn’t provide habitat, Cypher said. One million acres of wildlife habitat are lost every year due to suburban development, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

“Providing a small patch of habitat can be high impact,” Cypher said.

The National Wildlife Federation reports benefits like higher percentages of native plants, indicator species, tree coverage, water conservation and wildlife presence.

Native plants use less water and sequester carbon, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Home gardeners benefit from native pollinators such as bees and butterflies because they can increase fruit and vegetable production and help with pest control, Cypher said.

Read on for much more at the Echo. You can learn more about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Adventure Center & even apply for a job on their website!

More Michigan gardens & gardening on Michigan in Pictures.

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Faerie Lights: Bioluminescent Oyster Mushrooms

Bioluminscent Oyster Mushrooms by Jeff Baurs

Bioluminescent Oyster Mushrooms by Jeff Baurs

It’s not every day that I learn something new about Michigan, but the fact that Michigan has mushrooms that produce their own illumination is a new one to me!! PlantSnap explains that Bitter Oyster Mushrooms (Panellus stipticus) are one of over 80 species of bioluminescent mushrooms:

The mushrooms use a class of molecules called luciferins, which paired with an enzyme and oxygen, release light. Panellus stipticus (also known as the bitter oyster) is one of the brightest-glowing examples of bioluminescent fungi. It is found throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. These flat mushrooms grow on tree branches creating a mesmerizing effect as soon as the sun goes down. Foragers are able to find this variety growing around birch, oak, and beech trees.

The luciferins found in bioluminescent mushrooms are the same compound found in fireflies and underwater creatures.

They recommend that the best way to find them is by identifying them in the daytime, and you can head over to It’s Nature for a look at the bitter oyster mushroom.

Jeff took this photo a couple nights ago in southwest Michigan (Barry County). You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram for more great pics!

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August 20: Giant Swallowtail with Thistle

Giant Swallowtail with Thistle Jacqueline Verdun

Giant Swallowtail with Thistle by Jacqueline Verdun

I’ve been saving this photo for 6 years apparently!! Way back in 2015 the Ann Arbor Observer had a feature titled The Biggest Butterfly: Seeking Giant Swallowtails that said in part:

The aptly named giant swallowtail is the biggest butterfly in Michigan.

Form your two index fingers into pointers and touch them to each other: if you take a large glove size, the butterfly’s maximum wingspan is approximately the length of both fingers put together. The field guides say around six inches.

The giant swallowtail’s coloration is as spectacular as its size. From the top, its wings look dark brown to black, with yellow dot ribboning and a yellow eye-shaped spot on the end of each wing. When the wings are raised, the bottom is revealed to be a subtle cream interrupted by wavy blue and rust bands.

Ronda Spink, coordinator of the Michigan Butterfly Network (michiganbutterfly.org), says she sees more and more of these butterflies each year. This species spends its Michigan winter in the pupa stage and emerges in two broods each summer, the first in May through June, the second in July through early September.

Read on for more including tips on the best time of day to see them!

Jacqueline took this gorgeous photo on August 20, 2014. You can check out another shot she took of this butterfly right here & see more in her Macro Insects etc gallery.

More Michigan butterflies on Michigan in Pictures.

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Foraging Friday: Black Raspberries growing wild

Black Raspberries Growing Wild in Michigan by Lee Rentz

Black Raspberries Growing Wild in Michigan by Lee Rentz

One of the things I love about summertime in Michigan is stumbling upon a snack when I’m out for a walk! Lee found these beauties near Battle Creek.

Head over to Lee’s Flickr for the latest & also check out his Facebook & leerentz.com to view & purchase prints.

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The Last Thing You’ll Ever See

The Last Thing You'll Ever See by William Dolak

The Last Thing You’ll Ever See by William Dolak

Bill shared this photo from the West Lake Nature Preserve in Portage in our Michigan in Pictures group on Facebook & writes:

If you were a fly or a mosquito, this grotesque monster might be your conveyance to the afterlife. Michigan has several native carnivorous plants growing in bogs throughout the state; this one is the pitcher plant. It entices its prey by collecting rainwater; when the insect climbs in for a drink it is trapped by barbs and drowned in the pool. The plant then absorbs the nutrients from the decaying bodies…most gruesome, indeed.

You can check out some more pics from West Lake preserve by Bill including these shots of a Pink Lady Slipper on Facebook.  Read more about the pitcher plant (with another pic from Bill) on Michigan in Pictures!

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Bringing the Busy Bee back to Michigan

the-busy-couple-of-bees

The busy couple, photo by Jiafan (John) Xu

John writes that this photo was taken at a small pond with pink lotus and some other water plants at the Michigan State University farm in Novi, Michigan. That segues nicely to this Greening of the Great Lakes interview with Dr. Rufus Isaacs, bee researcher and professor in the Department of Entomology at MSU about what we can do to make our farms and gardens better for bees.

He (Dr. Isaacs) believes the use of pesticides, disease and reduced natural habitat from the development of land for residential and agricultural purposes have made it difficult for the over 400 different bee species native to Michigan to survive and pollinate.

Among other things, Isaacs and his colleagues hope to expand spaces for wild bees to thrive close to farmland. His strategy to improve pollination sustainability involves luring wild bees to farms so producers don’t have to rent commercial honey bees. By planting wildflowers and using bee-safe pesticides, farmers can become less dependent on high-cost and out-of-state honey bees to pollinate their crops.

“We’re supporting those bees with pollen, nectar and a place to nest, “ he says. “That’s boosting those wild bee numbers to help honey bees when it’s bloom time in the Spring.”

Similar procedures can also be done on a smaller scale to increase pollination and mitigate bee decline. Isaacs explains that home gardeners can look to resources like MSU’s Smart Gardening program to attract pollinators to their fruit and vegetable plantings.

Click through to listen!

View Jiafan’s photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

Blackcaps: Blackberry or Black Raspberry?

Blackcaps Michigan Blackberries

Blackcaps, photo by David Marvin

When I first saw these, I was sure they were blackberries, but after reviewing Blackberry or Black Raspberry? from Identify that Plant, I’m changing my mind. They say that Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) is frequently confused with Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis).

I’m leaning towards Black raspberry based on the appearance of the berry, but I could certainly be wrong. What do you think?

View David’s photo background bigilicious and see more in his macro goodness in his slideshow.

More summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Tragic Tree Tuesday: Beech Scale & Beech Bark Disease

Twined Trees at Treat Farm

Twined Trees at Treat Farm, photo by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
~William Shakespeare

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore shared this photo from their Tweddle/Treat Farm property saying:

The two hugging trees on the trail to Treat Farm share a similar fate to the star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The beech scale brings a fungus that is deadly like a poison, and kills off the American beech trees. The Emerald Ash Borers pierce the hearts of the ash trees to take the nutrients.

Invasive species have made their way to the fair Lakeshore of Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can help prevent the spread by purchasing local firewood, and burning it within the local area.

Beech Scale and Beech Bark DiseaseI’ve written about the Emerald Ash Borer on Michigan in Pictures, so here’s a bit about beech scale & beech bark disease from MSU:

Beech bark disease is one of the latest exotic pest problems to plague Michigan forests. Beech bark disease refers to a complex that consists of a sap-feeding scale insect and at least two species of Nectria fungi. Beech bark disease begins when American beech (Fagus grandifolia) becomes infested with beech scale (Cryptococcus fagisuga Lind) (=Cryptococcus fagi Baer.). The tiny scale insects, found on the tree trunk and branches, feed on sap in the inner bark. White wax covers the bodies of the scales.

When trees are heavily infested, they appear to be covered by white wool. Minute wounds and injuries caused by the scale insects eventually enable the Nectria fungus to enter the tree. Nectria kills areas of woody tissue, sometimes creating cankers on the tree stem and large branches. If enough tissue is killed, the tree will be girdled and die. Other trees may linger for several years, eventually succumbing to Nectria or other pathogens. Some infected trees will break off in heavy winds — a condition called “beech snap.” Dense thickets of root sprouts are common after trees die or break.

Read on for lots and also see Beech Bark Disease from the National Forest Service where I got these photos.

View the photo bigger on their Facebook page and learn all about the Lakeshore from their website.

Michigan Holly or Winterberry

Holly

Holly, photo by Third Son

How like the holly in deep winter time
How like the star in the dark night shine
How like a path on the snow driven plain
How like the candle — how like the flame
How like the winter that promises spring
How like the carol we sing.
~Joel Mabus (How Like the Holly)

The Hope College Biology Nature Preserve has this to say about Michigan Holly (Ilex verticillata: Aquifoliaceae):

Michigan Holly is a medium sized shrub not normally growing taller than 12 feet and usually about 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. It has densely branched stems that grow into a round crown and flower in May and June with small yellow-white flowers. The fruits are highly distinguishable and grows in bright red clusters of small berries, forming in September and October and persisting into mid-winter. Michigan Holly (also known as Winterberry) is dioecious, so both male and female plants are needed for fruit production and only females bear fruits.

Michigan Holly is found throughout Eastern and Central North America, but does not grow well in the West, Southwest, or Lower Midwest because of dry winds and heat. It is found naturally in wetlands and will tolerate standing water or swamps, however, it prefers to grow in well-drained, acidic, damp, loamy or sandy soils and full or partial sun.

Click through for photos and a little more information.

View Third Son’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Early Winter 2015 slideshow.

More winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures. Also, definitely check out Michigan sonwriter Joel Mabus’s CD How Like the Holly – one of my favorite holiday albums ever!