070909 Michigan Lily3

There was recently an exciting find at the Nature Center: the beautiful Michigan Lily! Even more exciting was how the flower bloomed… almost fifteen years after the seeds were planted!

To find out more, read on.

In 1995, the Nature Center, along with the help of many school children and others, planted huge bags of native grass seed in an effort to return some badly eroded land to prairie. In addition, Education Facilitator Jan Aiels planted a small bag of rare flower seeds. Jan carefully selected areas for those seeds (Michigan Lily among them)… and then we waited.

And waited. And waited. (This was one of those cases where Mother Nature reminded us that she is not on our schedule.) And then, two weeks ago, director Rich Patterson discovered that the lily had finally arrived… more than fourteen years later!

So what was the hold up? Rich asked that very question to prairie expert Jerry Willhelm. Jerry explained that soil that has minimal organic material in it experiences greater temperature fluctuation because it holds less water. Many seeds cannot tolerate this temperature fluctuation, and therefore will not germinate under those conditions.

What does this mean for the Nature Center? Well, our soil is becoming more enriched as prairie plants die and decompose, adding to the organic matter in the soil. Seeds that lie dormant are benefiting from the soil and are finally showing up to the party…

And those of you who come out to the Nature Center to experience the beauty of the natural world have a new flower to hunt for!

(Special thanks to Jerry Willhelm for his help, and to Nancy Lackner for the lovely picture of our Michigan Lily!)

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