Must-Known Michigan Wildflowers
The entire state is full of diverse and beautiful flora and fauna species and among the flora, the Michigan wildflowers stand out as particularly special.
The sheer variety of Michigan’s wildflower populations is worthy of awe, but when out hiking, it’s hard to know just what flowers you’re encountering.
It becomes easy to overlook really special and perhaps even rare wildflowers if it’s not something you already have expertise in.
Not to worry, though, since you can learn about, identify, and appreciate the wildflower species of Michigan without committing to understanding the complexities of botanical science in order to do so.
We’ve prepared a help guide to help you recognize a beautiful wildflower for the next time you step out into Michigan nature to take a hike and explore our state.
Here are some of our favorite wildflowers in the mitten and just a bit about them to help you search for, identify, and admire them.
Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris)
Of course, no Michigan wildflower list is complete without the inclusion of the official state wildflower, the dwarf lake iris.
These little blue beauties are found along the northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron shores. They are are a threatened species, meaning they’re likely to become endangered in the near future, so they’re a bit tough to spot.
Finding one is something of a treasure hunt, being both rare and remarkably small since they stand only about two inches off the ground, but when you do find one, the search yields a state treasure unlike any other.
Fun Fact: The Dwarf Lake Iris was first discovered on Mackinac Island.
Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)
The Indian Paintbrush is a common Michigan wildflower which also goes by the name butterfly weed because of the butterflies attracted to it for pollination.
Butterflies are not the Indian Paintbrush’s only pollinators, though. The structure of these flowers make them perfect for hummingbirds to enjoy, too.
Look for it in fields and along sandy roadsides, especially in woodland openings. We’ve seen many of them along the roads in the Leelanau Peninsula.
Fun Fact: The indian paintbrush is often confused for the cardinal flower due to their similar color and structure.
“Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) & Brown-Eyed Susan ( Rudbeckia triloba)
The ‘“Susans” are some of the most recognizable summer wildflowers in Michigan.
From June to late August and September these little yellow flowers brighten open fields and woods throughout the state, resembling their much larger relatives: sunflowers.
Try telling the difference by looking at the petals: black-eyed susans will have longer, slimmer petals than their brown-eyed sisters.
Fun Fact: Western Michigan University’s earthy brown and gold colors are said to have been inspired by the brown-eyed susans that bloom in the Kalamazoo area.
Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
Dame’s rocket is actually an invasive species here in Michigan. It is one of the few wildflowers people are encouraged to pull from the ground, much like another member of the mustard family, garlic mustard.
While beautiful with their purple and pink colors and delicate petals, they are troublesome due to their rapid reproduction which interferes with the reproduction of other vital native plants and the lives of all the animals that rely on Michigan’s balanced botanical ecosystem.
Fun Fact: Dames rocket can often be confused for wild blue phlox, which is a threatened native species. Note the difference by counting petals: dame’s rocket has four petals per flower, phloxes have five.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
The purple coneflower is unbelievably rare, so much so that the last undisputed wild populations in Michigan haven’t been observed since the 1800s.
While this flower is practically impossible to find in the wild, it’s still worth knowing about. Large and colorful, they make great additions to domestic gardens, bringing plenty of butterflies to your yard.
Fun Fact: Purple coneflower is medicinal – the flowers can be used to make a tea that strengthens the immune system.
Fringed Orchid (Platanthera lacera)
Fringed orchids are unique residents of Michigan. This threatened species grows in wetlands, such as marches, wet meadows, and bogs, particularly in northern Michigan and the upper peninsula.
From late June to early July these wildflowers bloom, with blossoms peeking over the edges of the tall grass, this only lasts for about 7-10 days though, so finding one in the wild is highly time sensitive.
Fun Fact: Each fringed orchid stalk can yield up to 40 individual flowers – talk about being overbooked!
Water Lily (Nymphaeaceae)
Water lilies are the sleeper hits of the Michigan wildflower world.
Because they’re rather common we tend to overlook them, but next time you see one floating atop the water at your favorite pond spot take a moment to appreciate it. You may find that you appreciate the way that the splash of bright white or pink contrasts the green all around.
Fun Fact: Famous impressionist painter, Claude Monet took great inspiration from the water lilies in his flower garden in Giverny, France and became the main focus of much of his later works.
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
When they emerge with their speckled trout-like patterns on full display in April, it’s safe to say springtime has officially arrived. Large colonies thrive throughout the rich soils in Michigan’s Maple-Beech forests, like those in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, bringing a flash of bright, warm colors into the woods.
A standout among other lily species, this particular wildflower is a treat to behold.
Fun Fact: Research has suggested that the average age of trout lily colonies can be up to 150 years old with the potential to reach over 1,000 years old if left undisturbed.
Blazing Star (Liatris squarrosa)
Found on the dry prairies of North America and some parts of southeast Michigan during midsummer, the blazing star is a bright flower among the earthy colors of pine trees and plains.
This unique flower gets its name from its appearance. It resembles something like a firework with the way its petals flare out and drift downward.
Fun Fact: Several Native American tribes have a history of using the blazing star plant for both food and medicine. The Cheyenne used the roots for pain relief and treatment for contagious disease, while the Montana Indians used its leaves for upset stomachs and antiseptic wash, and the Paiute tribe ate the seeds for food.
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)
Daisy fleabane are diamonds in the rough as far as flowers go. These special plants tend to flourish in disrupted areas, like well-traversed fields, roadsides, or even waste areas.
Though common across the US and found in relatively busy areas, this adorable daisy is worth a second look, should you come across it on your next hike.
Fun Fact: Daisy fleabane, like other types of fleabane, gets its name from the superstition that dried clusters of the plants could get rid of fleas.
Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
The pink lady’s slipper (common name: moccasin flower), is a flashy flower, growing rather tall at two or three feet with flowers that measure about two inches across.
Though it is a member of the orchid family its heavily veined and deeply cleft pouch make this a distinctive relative.
Able to grow anywhere, but not everywhere means that this wildflower can be found in many different habitats. It still requires special circumstances to support its long life cycle.
Fun Fact: Bees that enter this oddly shaped flower to pollinate cannot exit the way they came in, so in the bee’s efforts to find a new way out, it ends up gathering more pollen and nectar on its legs and back to take to the next flower. It’s sort of like orchid insurance – covering all the bases, just in case.
Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
One of the more unique shaped wildflowers out there, dutchman’s breeches look exactly like how you’d think. When the plant blooms, it’s easy to imagine the white flowers are pants for fairies that hang up on the stem like a clothesline.
The plant itself sits low to the ground and is found in rich wooded areas. Aside from its unique shape, this plant reproduces in a unique way, too. They rely on ants as their main seed transportation.
Fun Fact: The flowers will wilt immediately if the dutchman’s breeches plant is picked. It’s best advised to appreciate this plant without disrupting it.
More Michigan Wildflowers to watch for:
- Goats Rue (tephrosia virginiana)
- Wild Geranium (geranium maculatum)
- False dandelion (hypochaeris radicata)
- Yellow Trout Lilies (erythronium americanum)
- Mayapple (podophyllum peltatum)
- Prickly Pear cactus (opuntia humifusa)
- Blueeyed Grass
- Trailing Arbutus
- Twinleaf (jeffersonia diphylla)
Where to Find Michigan Wildflowers
The Wildflower Association of Michigan website is an excellent resource for leaning more about flowers that are native to Michigan.
You can also find a more extensive wildflower guide, which includes a wildflowers database here.
We also love the Michigan Nature Guy’s blog. His site serves as an extensive database of wildflowers native to Michigan. This includes helpful information such as the scientific name and where these flowers can be spotted.
Michigan Wildflowers in Your Garden
If you’ve spent some time reviewing the database of wildflowers and have identified the Michigan seed that you need to start our own natural garden, you can find wildflower seed here. They are a supplier of premium seed.
You can also purchase a seed mix which has many native Michigan flowers mixed together for some real spring beauty.
About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor with mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.
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