Wild Bloomers on Mackinac Island

Have you been to Mackinac Island? If so, did you venture beyond the fudge shops and beaches to the untamed interior? As a lover of all things that bloom, I felt like I was in paradise once I made it to the island’s internal trails.

If you’re into wildflowers too, you may know that timing dictates the species. I visited in early June this summer, so the initial bloomers were popping up all over. Colorful petals and fresh, shiny leaves kept my nature-loving friends and me captivated.

“Interesting,” uttered Jonathan Schechter, my nature writer cohort. “I’ve never seen last year’s growth with the new leaves of poison ivy before. You can tell how high the snow was this winter (2-3 feet settled) because that’s how high the remnant fruit grows.” We marveled at the glossy new poison ivy growth shooting out of last year’s woody stalks. The new leaves were conspicuously burgundy in color. Never finding much of this plant in Copper Harbor, I’m glad I was with someone who knew better than to touch those intriguing leaves.

While wandering onward, we found some more exotic species – plants I don’t see in my neck of the woods. The large-flowered trilliums (below) made my jaw drop multiple times. The blossoms were the size of my fist! I was pleased to learn that they turn pink as their season wanes. They made a beautiful sight throughout the island.

Trillium on Mackinac Island

We also found clusters of yellow lady’s slippers (below). Having never seen them in Copper Harbor, I was again in awe. Their “booties” reflected the sunshine even under tree cover, and the “laces” spiraled down like a ballerina just untied them. A bit more covert were the pink lady slippers. We saw these just a couple times during our meandering. Both colors were a treat for our senses.

Lady Slippers on Mackinac Island

Though they are invasive ground covers on Mackinac Island, the lily of the valley and periwinkle (below) were a sublime sight as well. The little white bells of the former cast their sweet aroma throughout the pathways. I didn’t even have to kneel down to sniff them; the light breezes wafted their fragrance through the air.

 Lily of the Valley and Periwinkle on Mackinac Island

The clintonia fields (below) were more expansive than I have ever seen before. I thought they grew more solitarily, but this plot of sunny, yellow florets proved me wrong. The wild sarsaparilla was quite expansive too, and they were just starting to flower their white firework-like blooms.

Clintonia on Mackinac Island

Other lovely fresh sprouters were the gay wings, common Solomon’s seal, winter cress, baneberry and cow parsnip (below), which almost looked like a monster among the forget-me-nots.

Cow Parsnip on Mackinac Island

For plants to be able to grow so vast and large, they must remain primarily untouched by humans. If I was roaming these trails during July and August, I’m sure I would see more people on the nature trails. At least I would hope so because we didn’t meet many others on our travels. It seemed to me that most of the people stuck to the downtown area and the shorelines.

That makes me wonder: Do tourists even know how amazing the flora is on Mackinac Island? Whether they know the names of the plants or not, the scenery is simply stunning to anyone who can appreciate nature’s eye candy. To me, it’s sweeter and more rewarding than the fudge.

If I was on the island right now, the landscape of colors would be totally different than last month. Sometimes I daydream: What is blooming on Mackinac Island now? I’ll have to get back there one of these mid-summers to find out.

Have you been there lately? Please leave a comment below to let me know what you saw blooming on Mackinac Island!

See you in the woods!

Words and Photos by Amanda Wais. Amanda is an outdoor adventure writer based in the Keweenaw and travels through the Upper Peninsula. If you would like to learn more about wildflowers in the Upper Peninsula, Amanda offers Wildflower Walks in Copper Harbor. If you wonder what’s going on in the Harbor, stay updated on her blog.