Photos and article by Donna Iverson
Wildflowers are usually associated with Spring…..trillium, snowdrops, hepatica, and columbine, to name a few. But fall wildflowers are also lovely and a welcome addition to any garden or yard. And now is the best time to plant the seeds for a fall showing. Here are four varieties that are easy to grow and native to our area:
You can choose from two varieties of wild aster...New England aster and New York aster. One clue to telling them apart is the leaves. The New England aster has hairy leaves while the NY aster has smooth leaves. Both can grow to 6 feet tall with snowy purple, lavender, or blue flowers.
They are a nectar source for Monarch butterflies, native bees and late season pollinating insects. Plant the seeds in the fall for blooms in August, September and October.
Not as snowy as aster, Jewelweed is covered in inconspicuous yellow or orange flowers and often found near poison ivy. Yes, poison ivy. Both plants like damp soil near creeks and ditches. But whereas poison ivy will give you a rash; Jewelweed is the antidote.
Break off a handful of Jewelweed’s leaves, stems and flowers and crush it in the palms of your hands. Then rub the crushed plant material on the rash for relief from the itch. It also speeds healing. A note of caution, a few people are allergic to this plant so test it on a small area of skin before rubbing it on a rash.
In late fall, Jewelweed’s ripe seed pods will explode in your hands when touched, earning this annual’s common name touch-me-not. Butterflies and hummingbirds love it too as do the neighborhood deer.
While some people view goldenrod as a noxious weed that gives them allergies, I will argue that it is a beautiful wildflower and it’s the nearby ragweed that is causing the sniffles.
So take a second serious look. It adds a golden beauty to the landscape and blooms well into the fall. Like most native wildflowers, it attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. It is drought tolerant and survives just about anywhere. You won’t have to fertilize it and it provides a food source for birds, mammals, insects and the Monarch butterfly. And unlike Jewelweed, it is deer resistant.
The last fall wildflower on this list is rose mallow. Often found near jewelweed, goldenrod and asters, rose mallow has small delicate rose-like flowers that also bloom late into fall. It is found near wetlands, or along creeks or river beds.
Also called swamp hibiscus, rose mallow attracts native butterflies and is best planted along a flower border or in a water garden.
Seeds for these fall wildflowers can be ordered from the Michigan Wildflower Farm in Portland. Website: michiganwildflowerfarm.com. Phone: 517.647.6010.
If you would like to see these fall wildflowers in bloom, checkout Heritage Landing in Muskegon. These native fall wildflowers are featured in a restoration project under the direction of the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership Stewards.
The 2021 Fremont Harvest Festival and Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce wants your best loved recipe for the 15th Annual Pumpkin & Apple Dessert Recipe Contest!! Make your families favorite fall recipe and entry in this community event.
Bring your dessert to Veterans Memorial Park Pavilion, downtown Fremont, between 11:00 am and 12 noon on Saturday, September 25th along with your completed entry form and recipe. All entries need to be in disposable containers.
Judging will begin promptly at 12:30 pm with a public tasting from 1:30 pm to 2:00 pm. Winners will be announced that day at approximately 1:30 pm at the Veterans Memorial Park Pavilion.
Entry forms for the dessert recipe contest are available at the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce office, 7 E. Main Street, downtown Fremont, (231) 924-0770 or visit our Facebook page at Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce.
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Recently I checked out a newly-published book from the public library entitled “The Ecological Gardener,” written by British author Matt Rees-Warren. In it, he places “ecological concerns above all else,” when it comes to gardens while not sacrificing the importance of aesthetics.
His vision includes growing native plants and choosing plants that fit the ecology of the place, whether it is beach sand, wetlands, or meadow land. Rees-Warren prioritizes trees, bushes and plants that benefit local wildlife, including pollinators like native bees and butterflies.
As I am already thinking about next year's planting, I have decided to take this ecological imperative to heart when planning next years garden.
So when I spotted bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) in my neighborhood, I checked out its ecological credentials. And it passed. It is both a native plant and suited to the sandy soil in my local community garden. Pollinators, especially native bees, find it irresistible. And it is drought tolerant and likes full sun. And it is easily grown from seeds which are readily available from garden centers and seed catalogs.
Bee balm would fit well into any native garden, pollinator garden, herb garden, cottage garden, or butterfly garden. It attracts hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. And it is avoided by deer and rabbits. It is both fragrant, noninvasive and displays attractive lavender blue blossoms from late summer into fall.
Herbalists use it to make tea from the leaves and its flowers are also edible. The tea soothes the symptoms of colds and seasonal flu. It can also be found in the wild where it has naturalized. Foragers find it in waste places in the company of Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s Lace and goldenrod.
Historically, Native Americans also used it to make Oswego tea. And colonists switched to Bee balm herbal tea after dumping traditional black and green tea into the sea during the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
Other uses include herbal sleep pillows, linen closet sachets, and potpourris. It can be used fresh or dried. If you are already growing bee balm, cut it down to two inches above the soil come frost.
When Stars Collide by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Review by FADL Staff--Amy Martin
Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of my tried-and-true authors to read. I always know I'm in for a good story when I read her novels. This book is about a football player and an opera singer doing a sponsor tour for an expensive watch. He thinks of her as a diva, and she thinks badly of him because of something a friend told her wrongly happened with him years ago. The Diva is being stalked by someone out for revenge for the suicide of her ex-fiance and his protective tendencies kick in when he sees how scared she is. They are complete opposites, so of course this path to true love doesn't go smoothly, and the reveal of her stalker takes a couple unexpected twists and turns throughout the story.
This book is available to be put on hold in a variety of formats here: https://fremont.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S147C4217668
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Recently on a stroll through my neighborhood, I came across a Crab apple tree …the small hard apples were strewn across the sidewalk. And while it was messy, the tree itself was beautiful.
The Crab apple (Malus sylvestris) is the original apple tree from which modern day apples have been cultivated. This native wild apple tree is almost disappearing as the larger sweeter cultivated apple varieties have taken over.
In a book titled the Ecological Gardener, author Matt Rees-Warren lists the Crab apple as his first choice if you are looking to plant a tree in your garden. He recommends the Crab apple as a way to save the wild apple and provide food for wildlife. As an added benefit, it is an indigenous native tree that will provide beauty year around.
As for the mess, the wild life will likely eat the crab apples before you have to worry about it. As for the apples, admittedly they are small and bitter, less than two inches in diameter. But wildlife love them, including squirrels, rabbits, foxes, badgers, chipmunks, and raccoons. The fruit is also a favorite of blackbirds and crows.
In early spring, the Crab apple will produce white/pink blossoms that will cover the tree and provide some of the first food for pollinators, birds and butterflies alike. The tree will grow in sun or shade, is not fussy about soil type and is drought resistant. Although the roots are not invasive, it should be planted at least 10 feet from your house. Prune dead and diseased branches in late winter. Final height will be 13 to 40 feet.
And while humans can eat them as they are not toxic, they are better used in jams and jellies. You can also steep them in gin or vodka for three months, for an apple-flavored cocktail. Crab apples aren’t grown commercially because they are difficult to pick. It can take hours to pick a bushel.
Planting a Crab apple is a way to rewild your garden. The fruit can be processed into a delicious jam or jelly. And the wood of a Crab apple can be burned in a bonfire producing an intoxicating aroma. Wildlife will benefit and the tree will provide shelter and food for many bird species. And finally you will be saving the original wild apple which is in danger of disappearing.
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
A bunny who looked a lot like Peter Rabbit had been circling my garden bed all summer. “Please,” I pleaded with him repeatedly. “Take whatever you want but leave the sunflowers alone.”
Last summer, a critter had cut my sunflower plants down to the quick before they bloomed. And Peter Rabbit was a prime suspect.
Almost every day during July, I checked the now eight-foot tall stalks waiting for the bright yellow disks to open. The process seemed painfully slow. Then a few days ago, on a sunny summer morning, the yellow flower heads unfurled and faced the sun in all their cheery glory. The rabbit was rewarded with carrots.
There are a lot of reasons to grow native sunflowers, with just enjoying their spectacular blooms being number one on my list. For example:
Sunflowers can be used to purify your soil. They soak up heavy metals like zinc and copper. And if you can believe it, they also have the ability to remove soil radiation and were planted by the millions around the Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan.
Farmers plant fields of sunflowers to attract pollinators and birds that eat insect pests, thus improving the odds of a strong harvest. They also make great chicken fodder.
On the culinary front, try growing, harvesting and roasting your own sunflower seeds. In the fall, when the blooms are spent, cut the stem about a foot from the flower head and place in a paper bag to dry. Roasting the seeds in a hot oven produces a healthy snack.
Native Americans ground the seeds to make sunflower flour, which was mixed with water and Buffalo fat and fried into small cakes. The flowers and seeds were used to make dye, both purple and yellow. The roots were eaten or brewed into a medicinal tea. Crude flutes were made from the stalks by the Navajo. Learning from the Native Americans, the colonists used the stalks to start fires and to make cloth or paper from its fibers.
Today, Russia grows the most sunflowers in the world while in the USA, North Dakota holds the record for sunflower production. Almost 2 million acres are planted which are processed into sunflower oil.
Lastly, in late fall, you might want to try a garden technique called “chop and drop.” Chop up the sunflower plants and drop them into the garden for a terrific winter mulch.
By Terry Grabill
I made a decision in late December, 2020 that 2021 would be a big year for me. I’ve been amazed and somewhat obsessed with birds for as long as I can remember. By 1970, my parents had nick-named me Bird Man. As interested as I was in birds, however, a detailed man I’m not. In the introduction to my first field guide to the birds, Roger Tory Peterson suggests that birders should keep a life list of species they find and journal observations. Right, that wasn’t going to happen!
It wasn’t until my junior year at Central Michigan University that I discovered I was not alone in this avian obsession. I learned that many of my classmates in ornithology class had detailed journals stretching back years and years. They had been groomed as birders as adolescents and benefited from a network of birding clubs and organizations. I was floored! No one in Newaygo County had told me that such things actually existed!
2021 finds me close to the end of my teaching career. Andrea, my dear wife and I have been involved with birding clubs, birding websites, and birding festivals. I envy the young birders that have an avenue to let their interest in birds blossom!
I absolutely LOVE the book and movie The Big Year. Yes, it’s a story about birding and it is delightful. For years, this story has kindled a dream in this old heart to dedicate a year to birds, not forsaking all other interests, but, yeah...birds.
The story that will follow, for several weeks, is my journal of 2021 birding. As I prepare to submit installment #1, I almost blush as I read it. My take on my Michigan Big Year has evolved so much since January 1 that I almost don’t recognize it.
These journals are posted on Andrea’s and my website: www.birdgoober.com. I invite you to join us there to follow the Big Year as it progresses on the BirdGoober blog.
Welcome to my story!
Michigan Big Year Part 1: January 1-10
I absolutely LOVE Mark Obmascik's book The Big Year as well as the film adaptation starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. The passion for birding portrayed in these stories is heart-warming and exciting. These stories follow birders across the United States, each trying to tally the most bird species seen in a calendar year. I've often found myself fantasizing about joining the adventure, hotel by hotel, rental cars and airline miles, meeting up with folks that share the quest. At least at this point, a US big year is quite out of the question. However...perhaps a big year of a more modest scale might just fit the bill! This year, 2021, I will be filling weekends searching Michigan in an effort to put together a big list in my home state. I'll not be focussed on breaking any records held by other birders, simply putting together my best list of Michigan birds for the year.
Week 1 (ish):
Feeders at home: I tallied 15 species before leaving home.
My goal was to build the list fast the first day and I set off for Muskegon planning to spend most of the day at the Muskegon Wastewater Treatment facility. I picked up a bald eagle and a cooper's hawk on the way. Before MWW I decided to check the Muskegon channel from Muskegon State park. There, I added 10 species, including long-tailed duck.
Off to my destination by 11am. Picked up a big flock of rock pigeons on the way. As usual, the wastewater didn't disappoint! I tallied 31 birds there, (including 2 snowy owls) 15 of which added to my day one total of 43 species.
I decided to stay in my home county of Newaygo and find some open water to build the list with. Pickerel Lake and Croton Dam, here I come! Highlight of the day's list was a flock of evening grosbeaks that flew up in to a tree full of mourning doves. Evening grosbeaks are an irruptive species that has been found all over Lower Michigan this winter...except at my feeders. Finished the day at 50 species. It became immediately apparent that building a big January list would mean getting out of my local area.
44. Hooded merganser
46. Greater scaup
48. Trumpeter swan
49. Evening grosbeak
50. Pileated woodpecker
Sunday. After church, I drove to Oceana county to see about some marsh specialties at Walkinshaw wetlands.. I only picked up eastern bluebird to add to the list there, but found what I figured to be a great location to watch for short-eared owl! Had a terrific view of an adult male northern harrier (gray ghost). Importantly, I met Marie Rust, another Newaygo County birder at the wetlands. Intrigued by my thoughts about short-eared owls, she left for Pentwater and returned to Walkinshaw at dusk and found the owls! I knew where I'd be tomorrow!
Picked up a great-horned owl just before midnight behind the house.
51. Eastern bluebird
52. Great-horned owl
Back to Walkinshaw for the short-eared owl at dusk. I met a nice couple from Pentwater there who were also looking for the owls. Marie's post on eBird had brought them. Had a terrific view of a northern shrike and, just before dark, 3 short-eared owls foraging over the marsh. What a silly flight...kind of like watching a giant moth! So far, I'd not had my birding partner and life partner, Andrea with me and I knew we'd be coming back here together very soon. Indeed, on Jan. 7, Andrea and I took Tori Martel to Walkinshaw where we had long, terrific views of these beautiful owls.
53. Northern shrike
55. Short-eared owl (life bird)
56. Barred owl (at home)
Time to "get outta Dodge". Day trip to Shiawassee NWR in Saginaw County to find the glossy ibis that had somehow found its way to the middle of Michigan! There had been eBird and facebook notifications of this bird for over a month and I knew I'd better get over there before it wised-up or was taken by a raptor. Found this little Florida vagrant as soon as I parked the truck! I finished a long hike with 24 species, 6 to add to the Big Year list.
57. Red-winged blackbird
58. Song sparrow
59. golden-crowned kinglet
60. Glossy ibis
61. Sandhill crane
62. Tundra swan
I'd been watching reports of a SMEW a couple of hours south, waiting to see if it was confirmed to be a wild bird or an escapee from a zoo or private collection. It appeared to have a leg band that might indicate a non-wild bird. So, Andrea and I decided to give the Muskegon wastewater another shot. I still needed a couple common birds like cedar waxwing. We put together a pretty good day list but the only addition to my year list came in the form of an immature Lincoln's sparrow on a back road while driving to Muskegon.
63. Lincoln's sparrow
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Poisonous, mind-altering, and hallucinogenic are some of the words used to describe the native plant, Datura. Commonly known as jimsonweed, it has naturalized in the Muskegon River Basin especially in wetlands.
It was there I found it growing along the Lakeshore Bike Trail which runs from Muskegon to Hart. I might have kept riding, except for a recently-published book I was reading by Michael Pollan, entitled This is Your Mind on Plants.
In the first section of the book, Pollan describes growing poppy flowers in his garden and a particular poppy, Papaver somniferum. According to Pollan, the seeds of this poppy can be used to make opium tea. It is legal to grow the poppy plant as long as your intention is just to enjoy its decorative qualities. But if your intention is to make homemade opium from the seeds, that is a serious drug felony.
Turns out, Datura has a lot in common with the opium poppy. It’s seeds are also hallucinogenic and mind-altering. But it is not classified as an illegal drug although it is a very dangerous plant. Native Americans used it in sacred ceremonies but warned its tribal members: “eat too much and don’t wake up.”
Frankly although I found both plants fascinatingly beautiful, I wasn’t about to try growing either one of them. As for the opium poppies, I didn’t want to risk tangling with the FBI. As for Datura, I didn’t want to risk a fatal dose.
Ironically, even though Datura was used medicinally in our colonial past to treat pain and fever and induce sleep, today only it’s alkaloids are approved by the FDA. These include atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine.
A member of the nightshade family, Datura has acquired many names over the years: moonflower (because it opens and closes at night), locoweed, Mad Hatter, zombie cucumber and Hell’s Bells.
Gene Autry sang about it in his signature song “Back in the Saddle Again,” when he crooned, “I’m back in the saddle again where the longhorn feed on the lonely jimsonweed.”
In 1676, British soldiers in Jamestown reportedly feasted on boiled salad made from the plant turning them into “natural fools.” It took almost two weeks for them to recover. Afterwards, they remembered nothing of the incident, history books report.
In 1971, the author Hunter Thompson mentioned jimsonweed in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And Georgia O’Keefe often painted the plant, which grew wild around her New Mexico home. In 2014, one of her jimsonweed paintings sold for $44 million.
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
On a recent bike ride along the Lakeshore Trail, I spied a large bush of black raspberries. It was the first wild black raspberry bush I had seen in many a year.
There were only a few ripe black berries to pick but I considered it a major treat anyway. They are tastier than their red raspberry cousins. No doubt about that.
Black raspberries are not easy to come by. They aren’t usually available at farmers markets or grocery stores, because they are not easy to ship. And not many people grow them in their gardens.
Once home and having savored them, I checked online to see if black raspberry plants were available at local nurseries. None were found although if I’m wrong, I hope someone will point me in the right direction. The plants can be ordered and shipped from out-of-state nurseries, however.
Wild black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) have a short growing season. Native to North America, they are often found in waste areas along streams, like the one I discovered near Beidler Creek adjacent to Heritage Landing on Muskegon Lake.
If you are foraging, there are no poisonous lookalikes to worry about. The only berry they might be confused with are blackberries, and both are safe to eat when you find them. While the two berries are related, they are from different horticultural families, with black raspberries belonging to the rose family.
The name raspberry harks back to the Old English word, rasp, which translates as rough berry. Although it also may have been derived from the German word raspoie, meaning thicket or from raspise, meaning rose wine. Other names for the plant include scotch cap, black cap and bear’s eye raspberry.
The inky-black color comes from the chemical Anthocyanin which is believed to strengthen blood vessels. Native to our area, black raspberries also contain polyphenols, and high levels of Vitamin C.
If you do decide to grow them in your yard or garden, they can reach 10 feet tall with 6 foot long stems. They need watering and annual pruning and are susceptible to disease. In the fall, when the berries are gone, the leaves will turn a glowing red. Deer will eat them. They are also invasive. But who cares ??
Photos and article by Donna Iverson
Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are an old fashioned flower that haven’t lost their appeal. Can you walk by a stand of hollyhocks and not stop and stare? I can’t. In whatever garden or yard they are grown, they tower over the other flowers in summer. Only sunflowers can compete, and then not until August.
Hollyhocks, which are members of the Mallow family, evoke visions of old cottage gardens and maybe memories of Beatrix Potter’s book illustrations of Mr. McGregor’s garden in the Peter Rabbit adventures.
Hollyhocks are easily grown from seeds in the spring and may flower the first year but may not, as they are biennial. While staking isn’t necessary, they do better grown along a fence or wall for protection from gusty winds. They are short lived, lasting only two or three years but readily self-seed.
Hollyhocks can grow as high as nine feet tall and prefer a sunny location in moist rich ground. Water from below so as not to damage the tender blossoms which come in multiple colors including pink, white, violet, red and black. Unfortunately they are susceptible to a lot of pests, including leaf mites, beetles, slugs and powdery mildew. On the plus side, they attract beeswax, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
In herbal medicine, hollyhocks are a laxative and an emollient. In olden days, they were used to treat inflammation, bleeding gums, sore throats and bed wetting. They are non toxic to people and animals although leaves and stems may cause rashes on sensitive skin.
Hibiscus flowers are also edible. They were often found in the kitchen gardens of colonial New England. The colonists made Hibiscus tea from the flowers. There is a black flower variety called Nigra which is an heirloom plant once grown in the Monticello gardens of Thomas Jefferson. It is four hundred years old and is still a favorite of gardeners and botanists.
While there is one Hollyhock native to the Americas, the common variety grown in this country is native to China. It was discovered there in the 1400s by an Englishman named William Turner, who wrote the first Herbal book. He called it “Holyoke”