We had a very warm and sunny morning for our nature walk! Close to 50 eager attendees showed up to learn about shoreline native plants from one of our premier area plant experts, Connie Crancer. Connie had prepared a plant list for us of species she had identified along the shoreline causeway between Whitehall and Montague; Michigan native species, as well as non-native “adventive” species and invasive species. (“Adventive,” provided to me by Connie, is defined by dictionary.com as “not native and not usually well established.”)
Her goal was to help us identify plants, and also learn about them if we want to use them in our gardens or landscaping.
One of my goals was to explain about the natural shoreline restoration project that the sites were included in, and how it related to the delisting of White Lake as a Great Lakes Area of Concern. The $2.17 million dollar project, which encompassed 10 public and private sites on White Lake, helped to boost the lake toward restoration and delisting by removing the impairments related to loss of fish and wildlife habitat and degraded fish and wildlife populations. See Restoring White Lake for more information about restoration of White Lake.
Connie’s list provided us with the scientific plant names as well as their common names. She also included information on the types of areas they were suited to – wet or dry. And finally, she included a code with a C or W. According to Connie, “The C codes give the relative coefficient of conservation, which indicates the affinity of a species to the degree of man-made disturbance. The W code represents the species affinity to wetlands and indicates the likelihood of finding these species in a wetland.” Further she told me, “You can say the W represents the soil moisture content each species is likely to be found in, ranging from saturated to dry.”
Connie talked about natives and invasives and explained how it was a complex topic. She also pointed out the presence of poison hemlock, which is a concern, but told us that some invasives are really not as bad as others. For example, goldenrod is a native, but even so, it can also be somewhat invasive. On the positive side, it provides benefits to local wildlife.
There was quite a bit of Japanese knotweed, an invasive that requires regular control.There was also spotted knapweed, an invasive that is also very difficult to eradicate.
We had good timing with this walk as the causeway sites and coastal wetland were in nice bloom. Attendee Margot Haynes reminded us that not all the plants in the wetland restoration project were natives – some had been added for color. The mix of plants in the sites will change over time, due to many factors, none the least being seeds carried by birds!
The restored coastal wetland had been a “grown over” landfill, once used by the city of Montague, filling up the original wetland area. Due to extra funds available from the shoreline restoration project, the site’s trees were removed, it was excavated and debris removed, then it was landscaped and planted. It is now part of the city of Montague’s park system and there is a local group of student volunteers that regularly visit to clean up remaining bits of glass.
We saw many plants on our walk, including milkweed, elderberry, Indian hemp, red osier dogwood, wild oregano, white Echinacea, spiderwort, bee balm or bergamot – two colors, one native and one not, butterfly weed, and blazing star.
As usual, attendees did not want to leave – there was too much good information and knowledge to learn! Some attendees visited the popular Celebrate White Lake festival at Goodrich Park in Whitehall, and then the walk for July was done.