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Wildflowers of Michigan

I love nature-- experiencing the simple joy of flowers, shrubs, plants, clouds, lake water-- all that stuff. I also like to think myself a student of how we approach nature. I love how we fix it to be just so, like in my periodic shots of the retention pond outside of the California Pizza Kitchen in Warrenville, IL:

Suburban Nature, California Pizza Kitchen, Warrenville, IL, August 30, 2010

Rather than approach this vista with contempt, like Thoreau might, I want to see and appreciate it for what it is-- the conscious work product of a well-minded landscape architect who made a series of choices about this spot. Here it is from above:

View Larger Map

Can't you just see the ordered drawing of a professional there? I assume this little pond serves a purpose (catching runoff rain water), but it also provides a welcome view before pizza-flavored num-nums.

So while I dig this order that comes from our studied approach to nature, I am also crazy for the disorder of nature. And one of the most common ways for an Illinoisan/ midwesterner to get in touch with the joyously fractured nature of nature is to go into the woods and look at wildflowers.

So that's what i did, on Mother's Day morning, with a learned family friend, Lyla Rodgers, who took me on a short walk and pointed out wildflowers as we went. Here's the complete set and here are some highlights:

Wildflowers of Michigan: Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple) Detail

I had never heard of a Mayapple before. It is a very widespread flower that pops up in bunches and yields a teeny little apple. Careful, though-- apparently it has some toxicity:

The ripened fruit is edible in moderate amounts, though when concussed in large amounts the fruit is poisonous. The rhizome, foliage and roots are also poisonous,[4] Mayapple contains podophyllotoxin,[5] which is used as a cytostatic and topically in the treatment of viral and genital warts.

I like the specificity of living things. Marsh marigolds apparently really like to hang out near wet areas:

Wildflowers of Michigan: Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold)

Makes sense.

There are dozens of photos in the set, with links to more information about each species, but I'll leave you with one more, the Eastern Skunk Cabbage. Tear off a piece of this leaf and you'll know why it's called that.

Wildflowers of Michigan: Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage) Detail


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Daniel X. O'Neil: Chicago-based writer and internet developer. I am a co-founder of and the People Person for EveryBlock, a site that pulls together local news and public information. I run dozens of personal projects and websites for clients, and also own half of a poetry book company.


EveryBlock: A news feed for your block.
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CityPayments: Database of all vendors, contracts, and payments that have been posted by the municipal government of the City of Chicago
Wesley Willis Art: Site dedicated to the fact that Wesley Willis was an artist.
Wide Right Turn: An incomplete look at the role of variation in a capitalist society.


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