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Five Faves – Wildflowers

Best places to see summer wildflowers

It’s late summer and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy‘s public nature preserves are bursting with colorful wildflowers and buzzing with pollinating insects. Our staff and volunteers have put in tons of work bringing historic prairie and savanna habitats back to many of our preserves, and these five spots are sure to have sights that will delight the eyes and senses.

8400 block of East Main Street, Comstock Township

This preserve is beautiful in any season, but summer is when its restored prairie really shines. Take an evening stroll through the open part of the preserve to marvel at the hot orange butterfly milkweed, pretty pink common milkweed, bright yellow “gray-headed” coneflowers, deep pink blazing stars, and golden native sunflowers. Not to mention butterflies, which love all these flowers.

1500 block of Lakeshore Drive, Glenn

Wau-Ke-Na South Tract is rich in late summer with asters and goldenrods, offering delicious eye candy to humans and nutritious nectar to bees, beetles and migrating monarch butterflies. The wide-open spaces here give us humans plenty of room to stretch our legs and put in some steps, but don’t move so fast that you miss shy floral gems like the purply blue bottle gentians tucked into shady spots near the edges of the prairie. You may see piles of brush where non-native trees and invasive shrubs have been cut and stacked, since SWMLC is working hard to make this preserve into a paradise for grassland birds like meadowlarks and rare sparrows, which will make pollinator insects buzz with happiness too.

8700 block of West KL Avenue, Oshtemo Township Trails

The summer wildflowers at Wolf Tree seem to get better every year, thanks to the tireless efforts of SWMLC staff and the Weekly Warrior Volunteers, who have been thinning the trees pushing into open areas, lopping off invasive shrubs, and boosting the habitat by sowing native flower seeds collected from our other preserves. Hike the Blue Trail to get an eyeful of gorgeous golden sunflowers and black-eyed Susans, bright yellow goldenrod, delicate violet bergamot and rare beauties like wild white indigo.

28700 block of 49th Avenue, Paw Paw

This preserve is lovely in all four seasons, but late summer is when its wetland fens begin to show their colors. Volunteers pitched in to build the sturdy boardwalk that ventures into this unique habitat along the shore of Lime Lake. Visitors may find shrubby cinquefoil with its plentiful golden-yellow flowers, bristly pink swamp thistles, constellations of asters that look like tiny white daisies, and bright pink and white swamp milkweed, where you might glimpse a monarch butterfly or two.

4000 block of Otis Lake Road, Hastings

The sweeping skies, breezy hilltops and restored prairie of Hidden Pond Preserve will soon be liberally sprinkled with several kinds of bright yellow goldenrod, each with its own specially shaped flowers. Don’t worry that goldenrod pollen will make you sneeze; blame that on ragweed, whose modest green flowers shed lots of wind-borne pollen at the same time. Goldenrod pollen is too heavy to blow around and into your nose, so it relies on beetles, bees and butterflies to do the pollination work, which they’re happy to provide.

Amelia Hansen

Kalamazoo native Amelia Hansen is the media specialist at the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, where she is very grateful to use her creative skills to help protect nature in her own community.

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