Who’s Doing the Tall Bloomin’ of June?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the month of May faded, frisky fawns frolicking in meadows drew attention away from emerging spring wildflowers. But by the middle of June, the fawns will retreat into the protective shelter of woodlands where they will continue to learn the ways of the wild under the watchful eyes of the does. The meadows, woodlands edge and lakeshores are now ablaze with some of summer’s finest and tallest wildflowers, and by the time the heat of July takes hold, they will be at peak beauty. A half dozen of our tallest and most beautiful wildflowers of summer are now competing for center stage, and the fawns go unnoticed. Continue reading

The Giant Water Bug of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

This mystery bug is not reluctant to take on prey many times its size. It’s a fierce predator with a pair of powerful forelegs that are tipped with hook-shaped claws to grasp and hold prey. And then the real nightmare begins, for this voracious predator of Oakland County with a seemingly endless appetite is equipped with a rostrum, a beak-like projection that is used to pierce flesh and then inject a potent enzyme that poisons and begins to digest the victim while it’s still alive. Once the enzyme does its work and liquefies the internal parts of the sometimes still squirming victim, the rostrum is used to suck up the slurpee-like partially digested soupy mix of flesh. That’s not science fiction; that is science and the ambush hunting behavior of the Giant Water Bug. And yes, they do live in Oakland County. Continue reading

Secrets of the Lawn Lobster Chimneys!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Mysterious miniature “chimneys” have emerged in wet meadows and moist lawns all across our county. They are gateways to the secret underground world of several species of crayfish, collectively known as Chimney Crayfish. Mudbugs and crawdads are two other frequently used common names for crayfish, a group of arthropods that look very much like miniature lobsters. I like to use the eye-catching title of Lawn Lobsters to describe them when writing about them, and that’s just what I did four years ago when creating text for an interpretive sign for Oakland County Parks that featured the chimney construction skills of Cambarus Diogenes, a local species commonly known as the Devil Crayfish. It is also one of the most widely spread crayfish of the United States.

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Ephemeral Wildflowers of Tenhave Woods

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

They emerged right on schedule in the small window of time that starts soon after wild turkeys began to gobble, but will end before trees leaf out, creating patterns of dappled sunlight on the forest floor. For that’s the way it is for ephemeral wildflowers that add spectacular beauty to the woodlands of Oakland County. This year I did not miss the spectacular and still ongoing southern Oakland County show.

Signs of spring creep slowly but steadily from the southern end of our county to the ever so slightly colder and higher elevation of the more heavily wooded northern hills of Oakland County. With that in mind, last Saturday I headed to Tenhave Woods in the highly developed “flatlands” of the City of Royal Oak in the southern part of our county to greet the wildflowers of early spring that thrive in our midst. The word ephemeral, meaning transient, fleeting, or short-lived is almost always used when describing early spring woodland wildflowers. Their delicate blossoms don’t last long, but their appearance signifies that spring is firmly entrenched. Continue reading