By Ryan Kuesel

Matthaei-Nichols student intern Ryan Kuesel is working in the Great Lakes Gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens this summer. The Great Lakes Gardens features plants native to our region and recreates the habitats in which they grow, such as dune, wetland, limestone plain, prairie, and others. Ryan’s photo gallery, taken over several weeks, reveals the amazing diversity of Great Lakes native flora. Scroll through to see what’s blooming today, and what to expect in the spring and late summer.
Here in the Great Lakes Garden, our team of volunteers, staff and interns has been working to create botanically diverse display gardens that are representative of the many unique natural environments present in Michigan and the Great Lakes. Many of these plants and their habitats are either hard to access in the wild or require a long road trip to see in their natural state. However, we believe that these ecosystems are both beautiful and fascinating, and we hope to share some of that wonder and excitement with you. Perhaps after seeing each unique ecosystem in miniature at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, you will be inspired to make the trip and see one or more ecosystems in their full grandeur somewhere in Michigan!
As a recent graduate from Michigan’s Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology program, I have had many opportunities to explore and learn about the natural areas of Michigan. The most memorable and astounding were the daily trips into the wilderness of northern Michigan with my Field Botany class at Michigan’s biological station. As someone who has personally explored and learned about the flora of the many habitats showcased in the Great Lakes Gardens, I am excited to be able to assist in creating little pieces of each here in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. And if you need a little more encouragement to make a trip to see some of the environments in their natural form, I can vouch for their beauty!
As summer kicks into full swing the gardens have metamorphosed through different stages of color. While vibrant hues once lay at your feet in the early spring when ephemeral wildflowers bloomed, the buds of shrubs and tall herbs are now beginning to open. A range of colors are here for your enjoyment now, and you can watch over the next few weeks as more plants begin to open their blossoms, adding to the spectrum of the garden.
Here we’d like to show you just a snapshot of the spring flowers that have flowered and faded, the colors that spot the garden today, and the buds that are waiting to burst into vibrancy soon.All of the images were taken within the Great Lakes Garden this spring and summer.
Spring Ephemerals and other Early Bloomers: Spring ephemerals are perhaps better known as spring wildflowers. They pop early in the spring before the leaf-cover appears to block the sun they need to thrive. The ephemerals die back or drop their flowers quickly as shade begins to take over the understory. Anyone who’s ever gone looking for wildflowers in local nature preserves knows that these colors don’t last long. But, when you find a large patch of their blossoms, or just scattered spots of their color, their vibrancy is matched by few natural wonders. Come visit the gardens next spring to see these in person!
Dutchman’s-Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria): 
Oddly-shaped flowers of the Dutchman’s-Breeches

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): Short, white blossoms of the Bloodroot.

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris Lacustris): Short, showy bloom of the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Lakeside Daisy (Tetraneuris herbacea): Short, yellow heads of the Lakeside Daisy.
Marsh-Marigold (Caltha palustris ): Plentiful, yellow blossoms of the Marsh-Marigold.
Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum): These strange tufts of purple hairs are the flowers of Prairie Smoke.

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata): Tall, showy blooms of the Wild Blue Phlox.

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis): Purple flowers and hairy seed pods of the Wild Lupine.
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum): 

Brilliant and delicate flower of the Yellow Trout Lily.

Yellow Lady Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum): Unique, shoe-shaped blossoms of the Yellow Lady Slipper.
Currently Flowering: These plants currently have their colors on display in the garden. While the understories of forests bloom with color in early spring, currently Michigan’s grasslands, shorelines, wetlands, and sand dunes are in bloom. Some plant species hold on to their flowers for a long time while others come and go quickly. Warm, sunny weather tends to speed up their cycle, while cool, moist weather tends to keep them flowering for longer. Come visit today to see these in person!

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): Yellow heads of the Black-Eyed Susan.

Blue-Eyed-Grass (Sisyrinchium albidum): Small, violet flowers of the Blue-Eyed-Grass.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): Showy, orange clusters of the Butterfly Milkweed.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): Round, purple clusters of the Common Milkweed.

Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis): Purple, three-petaled flowers of the Common Spiderwort.

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus): 
Plentiful white and yellow heads of the Daisy Fleabane.

Foxglove Beard-Tongue (Penstemon digitalis): Large, white blossoms of the Foxglove Beard-Tongue.

Golden Ragwort (Packera paupercula): Small, yellow flowers of the Golden Ragwort.

Indian-Hemp (Apocynum sibiricum): Small, white clustered flowers of the Indian-Hemp.

Kalm’s St. John’s-Wort (Hypericum kalmianum): Plentiful, yellow blooms of the Kalm’s St. John’s-Wort

Lake Huron Tansy (Tanacetum bipinnatum): 
Tall clusters of yellow heads on the Lake Huron Tansy.

Limestone Calamint (Clinopodium arkansanum): Tiny, purple flowers of the Limestone Calamint
Prickly-Pear (Opuntia humifusa):
Large, yellow blossoms spout from the tip of the Prickly-Pear cactus.

Silverweed (Argentina anserina): 
Yellow flowers crawl along the ground on the Silverweed.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): 
White flower cluster of the Yarrow.

Late Bloomers: Many plants such as blazing stars, asters, and goldenrods bloom in late July to early August. Come back in a few weeks to see their blossoms!

Common Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum): 
Distinct white clusters will dot the Common Mountain Mint.

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum): 
Large, sunflower-like blossoms will top the Compass Plant.

Culver’s-Root (Veronicastrum virginicum):

Joe-Pye-Weed (Eutrochium maculatum): 
Large, purple flower clusters will top the Joe-Pye-Weed.

Marsh Blazing-Star (Liatris spicata): 
Frilly, purple spikes will cap the Marsh Blazing-Star.

Ohio Goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis ): 
Clusters of tiny yellow flowers will top the Ohio Goldenrod. 
This one’s a little early. 

Prairie-Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum): 
Showy, yellow heads will top the Prairie-Dock.