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—Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, philosopher and Detroit community organizer
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Michigan Plants and Animals

Join us in exploring the names, habits, and habitats of our Great Lakes plant and animal neighbors and see what the Eco Girls are learning about ecology, botany, and environment through the lenses of diverse cultural understandings.

Professor Scott Herron, an ethnobotanist, created these pages to help us identify various plants, trees, and animals for our Camp Bluestem hike at the Biostation. Click on each image to see a larger version.


Bloodroot — A woodland wildflower whose roots produce a reddish colored juice when cut open. Native people have developed ways of using bloodroot for medicine, dye, and insect repellent.

Common Milkweed — This plant is an herb that can be used for medicine, food and fiber for making rope. Monarch butterflies depend on this Michigan native plant for food. They feed on its leaves as caterpillars and as butterflies they extract nectar from its flowers. Juices from the plant make insects taste bitter so that other predators will not eat them.

Compass Plant — A native of the tallgrass prairie (which includes parts of southern Michigan), this plant tends to orient its leaves in a north-south direction, giving it its common name.

Eastern Garter Snake — This beautiful, medium-sized snake is grey, brown or greenish with long stripes down the length of its body and a kind of checkered pattern. Garter snakes can grow up to 4 feet long. One female garter snake can have as many as 80 snakes in a litter! So that other snakes can find them, they leave a strong scent behind them on their trail — it also tells other snakes whether they are male or female.

Gray Tree Frog — These frogs are not grey at all. They change color (grey, green or brown) depending on their surroundings in order to camouflage themselves. They do live in trees, though, and can be found in woods, swamps and even back yards!

Gray Wolf — One of two types of wolves that live in Michigan (the other is the Eastern Wolf), they survive by eating deer, and smaller mammals, including coyotes, as well as rabbits and rodents. They are also known to eat insects, fruits and grasses as they roam in packs in areas as large as 100 miles. Just 30 years ago, wolves in Michigan were nearly extinct but today wolf populations have fully recovered.

Jack Pine — One of Michigan’s three native pine species, the jack pine’s cones only disperse their seeds after a fire. Without forest fires, this species of pine tree cannon survive and grow new trees.

Kirtland’s Warbler — One of the rarest members of the wood warbler family, the only place in the world that this endangered bird nests and breeds is in grasses and shrubs beneath stands of jack pine trees in northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario! Since jack pine trees need fire to release their seeds and reproduce, Kirtland’s warblers are also dependant on occasional forest fires for survival.

Photo credit: Rosemary Ratcliff

Monarch Butterfly — Not only does this insect undergo an amazing metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult butterfly, but over three or four generations, this delicate insect migrates all the way from Michigan and other northern states to Mexico and back!

Midland Painted Turtle — This is the official turtle for the state of Michigan — Who knew states had official turtles? You will recognize a midland painted turtle when you see one because has bright red, orange or yellow stripes across its head, legs and tail. It has a black or dark green shell that is mostly yellow on the underbelly and webbed feet to help it swim. Turtles represent patience, peace and determination in many stories passed down for generations.

Mosquito — A common Michigan insect, mosquitoes are born in the water where they live as larvae and pupae before flying out when they mature. Adult female mosquitoes suck our blood to get enough nutrients before they can lay eggs. Although annoying, mosquitoes are an important food source for many animals including bats, dragonflies, and frogs. Listen to a mosquito song: www.cdbaby/joereilly4.

Walleye — One of the most popular species for sport anglers, these fish are also an important food source for many people in the region. For thousands of years, the Anishnaabek have harvested walleye in the springtime of the year, when the fish travel to shallow waters to lay their eggs, also known as spawning. Some Anishnaabek spear spawning walleyes by shining lights on their reflective eyes in the evenings. Traditionally, they used birch bark canoes and birch bark torches for spring spearing.

White Birch — The bark of this great tree has provided traditional forms of transportation and shelter for Anishnaabe people indigenous to Michigan for thousands of years. Anishnaabe use birch bark to make canoes, baskets, and as a traditional covering for wigwams.

White-tailed deer — The official animal of the state of Michigan, the white-tailed deer uses its white tail as a danger signal to warn other deer of predators. White-tailed deer hunting is a popular recreational activity for many people in Michigan. These animals have also been important source of food for people in the Great Lakes region and beyond for thousands of years.

Wolverine — A fierce predatory mammal of the northern forests, this animal is the mascot for the University of Michigan. Wolverines don’t actually live in Michigan anymore, although one was a sighted near Ulby, Michigan in 2004. It was the first wolverine seen in the state in over two centuries. Changes in the animal’s habitat and trapping by human beings contributed to wolverine population decline. They require very large areas of land with little human activity. The development of roads, houses and other buildings have broken up (or fragmented) wolverine habitat, shrinking the overall geographic area where they live (also known as their range) and dramatically reducing their total population.