Trailside Pokeweed of Summer’s End

purple pokeweed berries

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As summer heat begins to fade, Pokeweed, a native shrub-like plant, accelerates its growth and draws attention to the edge zones of many of our most popular trails and woodlands of the Oakland County landscape. It often appears under power lines and is rather common in sections of our larger parks and State Recreation Areas. Sometimes, it thrives within front and back yards of homes and near areas of new construction. At night, its ripening fruits take on a special eye-catching beauty when captured by a camera’s lens. However, by the time pumpkins are coated with frost, pokeweed mysteriously vanishes.

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Oakland County’s White-Tailed Deer

a buck in green field

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the deer family, which include moose and elk, but without a doubt, they are the largest and one of the most frequently seen mammals of Oakland County. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay. Our diverse natural habitats, landscaping practices, and travel corridors gift them with an abundant food supply, places to take shelter, and the opportunity to leisurely graze on a great variety of seasonally changing wild plants and fruits, including leaves, grasses, forbs, fiddleheads, mushrooms, acorns, twigs, nuts, wild fruits, and at times, our vegetable and flower gardens, and farm crops.

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Poison Sumac: Tale of a Toxic Trailside Beauty

red poison sumac

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the crisp days of autumn draw near, I increase my explorations of the wondrous world of our wetlands, swamps, and marshlands. They take on a special peaceful splendor in the waning days of summer, especially in the dawn’s early light. The wetland-embracing trails on the wilder side of Oakland County lure me in as surely as honey bees fly to flowers for nectar and pollen. However, this year as in the years before, I will be watchful for and ever wary of one wetland plant in particular. This plant presents a clear and present danger to humans that have the misfortune of making physical contact. Even touching or brushing against any part of this toxic trailside beauty may lead to a world of woe and in some severe cases of exposure, a visit to an emergency department follows.

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Chicory: Queen of the Roadside!

blue chicory blossoms

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The sultry days of summer are here. Goldfinches flutter over meadows. Dragonflies patrol the sky. Bullfrogs sound off from ponds. Tomatoes ripen on vines.Crickets sing to the night. Rabbits are everywhere. Thunder rumbles. But it’s chicory (Cichorium intybus) that really proclaims that the heat of summer is on.

Chicory is one of our most abundant midsummer flowers but sadly, it also carries the demeaning title of being classified as a weed. I guess that’s technically correct since it’s a non-native plant that grows profusely along many rural roadsides and other areas that have disturbed, well-drained soils that are bathed in full sunshine. However, their beautiful periwinkle blue flowers on spindly stalks make them an unmistakable sign of summer. It’s abundance in mid-August also reminds me summer is at its peak and the season will soon fade away.

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Flying Dragons of Summer!

An upclose Yellow-legged Meadowhawk

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Dragonflies have ruled the skies of planet Earth since before the time of the great dinosaurs. They survived cataclysmic extinction events that eliminated other species and set back human evolution In the blink of an eye, dragonflies can change their flight direction, speed, and elevation with aerodynamic skills that even the most advanced, high-tech drone cannot master. Dragonflies can detect, track, pursue, intercept, catch, and consume flying prey that are plucked from the air. Perhaps this makes them one of nature’s finest tuned killing machines, true masters of aerial predation. Some of these perching “flying dragons” appear to smile, just as this Yellow-legged Meadowhawk seemed to do. 

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