Michigan lily sighting

Bob Dluzen
Special to The Detroit News

We like to take long walks along this one quiet country road for a couple of reasons. One is for exercise, so we move at a fairly brisk pace. The other reason is to spot birds and observe wildflowers, native grasses and other wildlife.

Earlier this week, we went on one of our walks. During the early part of our two mile round trip, we came across a nice stand of little bluestem, a prairie grass.

A little further was a stretch of wild lupine growing fairly close to the road. It unfortunately had been mowed down by the county road crew so wasn’t able to produce seed pods this year. But, Iit was still nice to see that they were still there.

We passed by a woods and from the stand of trees, a limb of an unusual oak was hanging near the edge of the road. I haven’t had the chance to identify it yet. On both sides of the road, sassafras trees were growing along our route.

In quick succession we found monarda, Joe-Pye weed, mountain mint, blue vervain and rudbeckia hirta.

A red-headed woodpecker lives in that general area and we were hoping to get a good look at him, but he was a no-show.

Past the woods was a corn field. About the midpoint of the field, there’s a lane that the farmer uses to get his farming equipment into the field.

We were looking in the opposite direction at some wildflowers as we approached the lane. Then in the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of orange movement. It was a small stand of Michigan lilies growing on the bank where the farm lane crosses the ditch. Somehow they had escaped the road crew’s mowers. What a surprise!

In the wild, native Michigan lilies grow as single stalks.
Michigan lily flowers are about 3 inches across. They are visited by hummingbirds, sphinx moths, swallowtails and other large butterflies for their nectar.

Now these were not the common orange daylilies or ditch lilies as they are sometimes called.

Michigan liles are quite uncommon in our neck of the woods and to spot one in the wild is a real treat.

Many times a stand will grow in a location for a few years, then suddenly disappear never to be seen in that spot again.

They are fairly picky about where they take up residence, preferring low pH, acidic soils that are relatively damp and not prone to drying out completely during a growing season.

These lilies also are much more likely to bloom during rainy summers, just like the one we’ve been experiencing this year.

The plants we saw were a little over 3 feet high, which seems to be the usual height in the wild. They can get taller when domesticated in a flower garden.

We’ve never seen Michigan lilies in that area before. So the question that came to mind was, how did they get there in the first place? They can reproduce by either bulbs or seeds. Since each plant produces a large number of seeds it’s likely a seed was transported there somehow and spouted.

Michigan lilies do well in gardens and plant material can be purchased at plant nurseries, but the domesticated ones just don’t provide the same thrill as finding them in the wild.