Michigan Botanical Club Spring Foray 2007
Nordhouse dunes, Ludington, MI
May 25-28

Nordhouse Dunes

(Saturday, all day)

Explore the open dunes, jack pine stands, and oak-forested dunes of Lower Michigan’s only federally-designated wilderness. Nearly 800 acres of its 3450 acres have been designated as a Research Natural Area. Noteworthy species such as Pitcher’s thistle and rams-head lady-slipper thrive in areas close to Lake Michigan. This portion of Manistee National Forest was closed to ORV use in 1973 and received wilderness designation in 1987.  While still a proposed wilderness, its flora was the subject of a MSU Master’s thesis by leader Brian T. Hazlett. A description of the area and catalog of 365 vascular plants were published in the Michigan Botanist in 1986. Bring water and expect moderately difficult hiking. Insect repellent may be necessary, especially if we explore the forests and edges of wet places farthest from Lake Michigan.  

Brian Hazlett, currently a Professor of Biology at Briar Cliff University in Iowa, is eager to return to the Nordhouse Dunes.

Brandy Creek Wetlands

(Saturday, all day)

Located west of Lake Mitchell near Cadillac, the Brandy Creek wetland complex supports several wetland communities characteristic of northern lower Michigan. The poorly drained, sandy outwash plain supports high quality examples of nutrient-poor, acidic peatlands, including one of the few documented occurrences of muskeg in lower Michigan. Nearby, drainages and areas influenced by nutrient-rich groundwater support examples of cedar swamp and hardwood – conifer swamp. This diversity of natural communities has led to the designation of the Brandy Creek wetlands as a Candidate Research Natural Area by the U.S. Forest Service. We will go into the home of sphagnum mosses, carnivorous plants, swamp laurel, and Labrador tea. Following a picnic, we will venture into the darkened hallways of the cedar swamp, where we will be greeted by a diversity of spring-blooming wildflowers. Expect areas of standing water and wet muck, and dress accordingly. This trip is rated moderately difficult due to unstable footing. 

Brad Slaughter is an Ecologist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory.

Sand and Swales

(Saturday, all day)

One of the most distinctive features of the sandy landscape in the Ludington area are the gently rolling sandy plains, left over from past levels of the Great Lakes. Higher, drier areas are dominated by oaks and pines, the most barren sites are even with jack pine, with lower areas of wet meadows, shallow lakes, and, rarely, open, prairie like habitats. Some of the showiest wildflowers occur in this type of habitat and, depending on the spring, we should see the beginnings of flowering of the Puccoons (Lithospermum caroliniense), the tail end of the inland sand cherry (Prunus pumila), and many other, less showy but interesting things. We will look at areas of this type of landscape either in southern Manistee County, or in Oceana County, depending on how early the spring is. We will also visit some wet swale areas, with interesting sedges and rushes. Often the drier edges of these swales contain some of the most interesting rare species.  The trip will be relatively easy over generally gentle, rolling terrain, with modest walking from the car.

Leader Tony Reznicek is Curator of Vascular Plants at the University of Michigan Herbarium.  He is also a Director of the Michigan Natural Areas Council and Chairman of the Endangered Species Technical Committee for Plants, Michigan DNR.

Pere Marquette River by canoe

(Saturday, all day - Additional  canoe rental fee $16.00/adult)

Canoe the Pere Marquette River with seasoned canoeist and outdoor enthusiast Bob Walters.    This river is moderately paced and relatively free from obstacles, making it suitable for all but absolute beginners, while its occasional sharp bends and light rapids will entertain intermediate paddlers.  Find out first hand why the Pere Marquette is rated one of the finest rivers in the state for canoing. 

Bob Walters is a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America where he teaches canoing and outdoor leadership skills.

Ferns of the Pere Marquette River                                                                                                                  (Saturday morning)

This three mile loop hike begins on a wooded road through a sandy dry-mesic forest then drops down to the banks of the Pere Marquette River south of Branch, MI.  There are at least 11 different species of ferns along this route.  It is also the right time of year to perhaps spot One-Flowered Cancer Root (Orobanche uniflora), and many other woodland spring ephemerals.  

Joan Young lives in Mason County where she has located many botanical hot spots.  She is author of North Country Cache: the National Scenic Trail.

Big Trees Tour 

(Saturday morning)

Woody Ehrle will take us to the Lake Bluff Audubon Center in Manistee where we will see three marvelous champion trees - Giant Sequoia, Dawn Redwood and Sycamore Maple.  The Center is situated on 76 acres with 1/3 mile of high bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan that offer spectacular views.  If time allows a fourth tree will be added to the excursion.  Easy walking. 

Elwood J. Ehrle (Woody) is the Michigan Big Tree Coordinator, author of “The Big Trees and Shrubs of Michigan” recently published in the Michigan Botanist (45:2),and retired biology professor at Western Michigan University. 

Freesoil Swamp

(Saturday afternoon)

On this hike we’ll explore a bottomland hardwood swamp east of Freesoil, MI. Here leatherwood (Dirca palustris) and several species of ferns and sedges grace the landscape.  Although just 1/2 mile from parking area this trip is for brave souls who bring waders or high boots, or who don’t mind getting wet, since this time of year the water will be the deepest.

Joan Young lives in Mason County where she has located many botanical hot spots.  She is author of North Country Cache: the National Scenic Trail.

Lost Lake Trail, Ludington State Park

(Saturday afternoon)

This pleasant and gentle walk circles Lost Lake by traversing boardwalk and bridges connecting narrow islands.  Plan to see aquatic and terrestrial plants and communities at Lost Lake, a land locked bay of the larger Hamlin Lake.  The islands form a narrow crest of land with just enough elevation to support select mature woods and understory that benefit from the buffering effect of Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake.  Much of the time we will have water on both sides as we weave between tree trunks and over roots.  Once we reach the northwest end of the trail we will walk through dune ecosystems and mature beech maple forests to a boardwalk that will allow us a close-up, yet dry, look at the aquatic flora.

This foray will bring Connie Crancer, Leader,  back to her home stomping grounds.  She is a Horticulturist and Natural Areas Specialist at U of M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.  She is also working on restoring an endangered prairie fen at the Botanical Gardens as part of her Master Degree program at U of M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Big South Candidate Research Natural Area and Whelan Lake

(Sunday, all day)

On this trip we will explore parts of a 1,842 acre natural area that contains a variety of interesting vegetative communities including bog, intermittent wetland, oak-pine barrens, southern floodplain forest, and emergent marsh. It represents a large, diverse, relatively undisturbed floodplain with high floral and faunal diversity.  Upland areas adjacent to the floodplain provide ample landscape context for the study of ecological processes. 

Pat Ruta McGhan and Alix Cleveland will lead us through this wonderland of plant diversity.  They come to us from the US Forest Service, Huron-Manistee National Forest where Pat is Botanist for the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District, and Alix is Research Natural Areas program manager.

Ferns, Ferns, Ferns

(Sunday, all day)

We will give as much time as we can to four fern habitats. (1) Shady, moist rich hardwood forest for Dryopteris, Osmunda, and associates, like northern maidenhair for example. Within the forest, along cool streams and at the edges of vernal ponds, we should find Thelypteris (marsh fern) and relatives, and beech fern along with bulblet fern. (2) Next we’ll stop at a scenic river crossing for horsetails and scouring “rushes.” (3) Then we’ll peek into sandy upland areas for lycopods and, possibly, Botrychium (moonworts). We will try to find species in addition to those that may be seen on the Nordhouse Dunes excursion. (4) Finally, we’ll stop at a boggy or fen area to check for the more specialized lycopods; Lycopodium hickeyi and, if we’re lucky, some Selaginella.  Generally speaking, the ferns and fern “allies” have not received adequate study in Mason and Manistee Counties. The chances of finding previously unreported species are good.  This trip is on mostly level ground with short distances on foot so it will not be difficult.

Fern expert Bob Preston will lead this excursion and he will have additional directions for finding fern habitats not covered on the organized trip.

White River Prairie & Triple Lakes Creek

(Sunday, all day)

Our trip will start in a prairie remnant near the White River in Oceana County where last year’s culms of big-blue stem will wave over us as we search for spring treasures.   Nestled in the Manistee National Forest, this is one of the higher quality tracts of native prairie remaining in Michigan.  The afternoon will find us in the emerald green quiet of a rich conifer swamp in northwest Newaygo County where cool, clear creeks braid through mossy hummocks festooned with sundew and curly dwarf horsetail.  The afternoon excursion will have the potential for wet feet and will be moderately difficult.

Bev Walters is a Botanist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory.

Pere Marquette River floodplain

(Sunday morning, repeats Sunday afternoon)

Explore the rich floodplain forests along the Pere Marquette River with leader Bill Luitje.  In 1978, 66 miles of the river were designated a National Wild and Scenic River.   The river’s cool, clear waters wind through sandy bluffs and dry-mesic woods of the Manistee National Forest.  This dynamic landscape changes as the river floods periodically, shifting sands and dispersing seeds.  It creates microclimates that give many more southerly plants the opportunity to extend their range northward and it is perfect habitat for many of Michigan’s finest spring wildflowers.  

Bill Luitje is a computer systems consultant with a keen interest in plants and a broad knowledge of animal interactions with them.

Nordhouse Dunes

(Sunday morning, repeats Sunday afternoon)

Join Judy Kelly to pick up the highlights of the Nordhouse Dunes without risking a heart attack.  This excursion will cover some of the same areas as the Saturday dunes trip (see description above), but it will be a less strenuous event. 

Judy is an instructor in the Biology Department at Henry Ford Community College and also Webmaster for MBC’s website.

Bear Swamp

(Sunday morning)

We will explore this large 2139 acre Candidate Research Natural Area with John Legge of The Nature Conservancy.  The area contains several high quality wetland communities including a rich conifer swamp, a southern swamp, and intermittent wetlands.  Highly variable drainage conditions create conditions for a diverse flora, but be prepared for wet feet as we search for some of the rare plant species known to inhabit these areas.  This trip will be moderately difficult.

John Legge is West Michigan Conservation Director for the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

The Jack Pine Landscape

(Sunday  Afternoon)

The “sand country” of the northern Lower Peninsula is unique in its extensive sand plains with fire generated jack pine ecosystems. We will try to look at various stages of that ecosystem and see the changes in the plants and vegetation to understand the jack pine fire cycle (on which Michigan most famous bird, the Kirtland’s warbler depends). This ecosystem contains some very interesting plants, including some that are quite showy, such as puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense) and sand cherry (Prunus pumila), which should be in good bloom. With any luck we will also see the rare disjunct Michigan race of Allegheny plum (Prunus allegheniensis) and many other, less showy but interesting things. Trip difficulty: Generally more or less flat terrain with modest walking from the car.

Sylvia Taylor, Ph.D. Botany, University of Michigan,  is a UM School of Natural Resources and Environment  Adjunct Assistant Professor, and after a career with the State of Michigan took  a 1991 early retirement and returned to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Coastal Plain Marshes of Newago County

(Monday morning) 

The coastal plain marshes in Michigan are unusual wetland habitats harboring populations of many rare plants that are disjunct from the core of their ranges in the marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. We will explore several marshes in central Newaygo County where many state-listed species are located, though it will be too early to see most of them.  The marshes we will visit are easily accessed and you can choose to wade in for a more personal experience or be content with the view from shore. 

Bev Walters is a Botanist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory.

Big Sable Point lighthouse

(Monday morning)

We will botanize along the sandy Lake Michigan beach as we walk the service lane to the Big Sable Point lighthouse.  This is an easy and relaxing walk.  For our return some may choose to have a carefree walk along the beach while others may choose the more rigorous Lighthouse Trail through the back dunes.  Either route will be a great way to wind up your Foray weekend

This foray will bring Connie Crancer, Leader,  back to her home stomping grounds.  She is a Horticulturist and Natural Areas Specialist at U of M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.  She is also working on restoring an endangered prairie fen at the Botanical Gardens as part of her Master Degree program at U of M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.