Friday, 25 July 2014

Michigan Lilies in Stoney Creek.                

By Bruce Mackenzie

Something new popped up this June along the Dofasco Trail!

The Dofasco Trail - on the Mountain in Stoney Creek - passes through many different habitats and there are always some surprises to please the trail walker. We often think of wild flowers as adorning the forest in the spring. Spring wild flowers take advantage of the sunshine in the forest before the leaves come out on the trees that shade the forest floor. After the trees create their canopy of leaves overhead wildflowers mostly disappear from the shaded forest floor. There are some exceptions of course, and the Michigan Lily is one.

The lily starts growing in April but because of its large size it is not ready to bloom until the end of June with just exceptional orange blooms. The Michigan Lily is not commonly found in our area so it is a real treat when one comes across it. If you find one you are likely to find a hundred or more. At the very east end of the Dofasco Trail there is a lovely woodlot that the trail cuts through just west of the 11th Line. Here the Michigan Lily grows along the trail. Most of them are just on the other side of the fence (private property) but all are easily viewed from the trail. They are pretty big plants so their beauty can be enjoyed close and at more of a distance.

Michigan Lilies are normally considered plants to be found in Tall Grass Prairies in Ohio and Michigan and points west. Finding them growing in the woodlot is indeed a treat. They are perennial plants that sprout each year and they grow from a corm. A corm acts like a bulb. The lily’s corm has the appearance more like a funny clump of white rice. They generally spread by seeds released in the fall.  They grow up to almost 2 m. in height and depending upon their age the number of blooms on each plant will increase. As many as ten blooms on one plant have been found. Most of the plants in this woodlot are about a meter in height with 2 or 3 blooms.  Canada Day always seems to be when the blooms seem to be at peak.  The show usually lasts until mid July.

This June there was a whole new stand of these lilies next to the trail with several hundred plants. But this new patch is not in the woodlot but just adjacent to it on the east side of the woods in a most beautiful meadow. Here the plants are growing in full sunshine and in full competition with the grasses, milkweeds and vetches. Wow, what a sight… but why this year? Lilies have not been seen growing here before.

Well, one difference this year is that cattle that normally graze in this field have not been put out in this pasture to date. Just maybe in the past the cows have taking a liking to nibbling on Michigan Lilies in the past. This year we can thoroughly enjoy the fact that the cows are somewhere else. We will wait to see what happens in June next year.

So keep your eyes out for the brilliant orange blooms of the Michigan Lily along the Dofasco Trail. If you miss the Michigan Lily don’t be disappointed for there are many more flowering plants along the trail that will be blooming throughout the summer and into October. The Yellow Jewelweed is another favorite that is found along various sections of the Dofasco Trail.

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