This year as part of the 25th Anniversary of Sylvan Solace Preserve, I’ve decided to try to catalogue all of the various wildflowers found on the preserve (including trees and shrubs). An undertaking such as this requires planning and commitment. Depending on weather conditions, some flowers may begin blooming as early as February and the latest blooms may not appear until late September or early October (or even later). Some species will bloom for as little as twenty-four hours and can be missed entirely I’m not diligent. Each species has its own unique habitat requirements of soil, moisture, and light so I have to plan ahead to search specific areas when I think species will be blooming. It helps to have some preexisting knowledge but it also means that I have to perform advance scouting to try to track down every bloom.

I’ll share with you each species that I find including the date I first discovered them. I will not be sharing the exact location of these blooms – some species may be represented by a single bloom or they may grow on sensitive terrain that cannot handle more than a few footfalls without becoming degraded. If you seriously want to know the location of a flower reach out to me by email ( and I will probably be willing to share it with you. My intent is not to hoard information but rather to share my love of wildflowers while still protecting the resource.

Do I have a goal in mind for the number of species, I’ll find? The short answer is, yes, I have a goal (but I’m not sharing it). Ultimately this is not about the numbers; it’s about the experience and the thrill of discovery. I hope you’ll join me in this journey.

#1 Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) – photographed 19 March 2021

The first wildflower of the year is also my favorite!

#2 Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – photographed 02 April 2021

Although largely wind pollinated, Red Maple is still an important food source for early pollinators such as bees, flies, and beetles.

#3 Speckled Alder (Alnus incana) – photographed 02 April 2021

The long dangling flowers are the male (pollen-producing) catkins; the much smaller female (seed-producing) catkins can be seen directly above the male catkins.

#4 Pennsylvania Bittercress (Cardamine pensylvanica) – photographed 07 April 2021

Pennysylvania Bittercress flowers have four petals, just every other member of the Brassicaceae or “Mustard” Family. This is one of several Cardamines I hope to find.

#5 Bigtooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata) – photographed 07 April 2021

The long dangling catkins of Bigtooth Aspen are easy to overlook if you walk around the woods staring at your feet (or your phone). Look up and you’ll notice thousands on each tree.

#6 Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – photographed 07 April 2021

When not in bloom, Northern Spicebush can be identified by the spicy, citrusy smell given off by crushed twigs and leaves.

#7 Boxelder (Acer negundo) – photographed 12 April 2021

Boxelder is Michigan’s only maple species with compound rather than simple leaves.

#8 Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) – photographed 12 April 2021

With its high sugar content, Acer Saccharum sap is the source for most of our maple syrup production but any native maple species (including Boxelder) may be tapped.

#9 Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – photographed 12 April 2021

The bane of lawnkeepers everywhere, Common Dandelion is both an important early season nectar source and a highly versatile wild food with flowers, leaves and roots all being edible.

#10 Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) – photographed 12 April 2021

Common Blue Violet may be “common” in abundance but it is certainly not “common” in looks. Hopefully this will not the only violet species that I’ll find at Sylvan Solace.

#11 Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) – photographed 12 April 2021

A true showoff in the spring swamps! March Marigold is impossible to miss but can be hard to approach given its preference for soggy spots.

#12 Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) – photographed 12 April 2021

The distinct purple lines on each petal are known as “nectar guides”. Insects see a broader spectrum of light including UV and these lines serve as highly visible arrows pointing toward the flowers nectar. Nectar guides are a common feature on many flowers- scroll back up and you’ll notice that they also appear on the Common Blue Violet and Marsh Marigold

#13 American Hornbeam (Caprinus caroliniana) – photographed 12 April 2021

American Hornbeam is a small tree best identified by its distinctive smooth bark that appears to underlain with sinewy muscles, giving the species the alternate name “musclewood”.

That’s it for the first (tree heavy) installment of the Wildflowers of Sylvan Solace. I’ll post the next installment as soon as I have a batch to share.