Category Archives: Plant Identification

Beauty in our Backyard: Amen to Aman Park!

We moved from Michigan’s northern peninsula about 24 years ago, and one of the lingering memories I’ve cherished
is that of northern spring woods carpeted with trillium and wildflowers. Actually, we have a sprinkling of trillium in my backyard, but nothing like the gauze of white that drapes the hillsides near Fayette in the Upper Peninsula, so I’ve harbored a pensive ambition to return some spring just to feast my eyes on the wildflowers that bloom there. Therefore, I could hardly believe my eyes after church last Sunday when some friends showed me photos of the woods filled with trillium at Aman Park, which is just off Lake Michigan Dr. only about 10 miles east of downtown GR.In all the years we’ve lived here, I’d never stopped by to check out this park!  Talk about a deplorable lack of curiosity! (Well, I’d been curious a few times, but never enough to do anything about it!) Susan and I decided to go hiking there.It was S.O. beautiful! The little ridges of the woods seemed sprinkled with frost. Not only are the trillium in bloom, there are wonderful patches of Virginia bluebells and delicate hepatica, wild phlox, vinca minor, and violets. If you live in the area, love wildflowers, and have a couple of hours free in the next few days, consider visiting. It’s free. 🙂But, take a photo of the map on your cell phone for reference, because the trails are very poorly marked. The red (“Interpretative Trail” aka “B”) is only 1.5 miles long but gives you a wonderful experience  of peaceful trails through mazes of flowers.  I laughed with joy, but I also laughed at myself. In 24 years, I’d longed to drive hundreds of miles north (which I never did) rather than figuring out if there were any woods filled with trillium right here! I wonder, is there anything you’re missing and wishing for from days gone by? You might not be able to find exactly the same thing where you are,
but how about doing a little research? Perhaps like me, you’ll find some unexpected and wonderful opportunities
very close to home. In fact, it may be that heaven is closer than you think.Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee
” (Psalm 73:25).

(All these photos were taken on April 24, 2017 at Aman Park. If you miss it this year but want to try next year, they seem to bloom about the time the daffodils have peaked and the tulips are starting to bloom, which I’m guessing would be true anywhere trillium grows. Look online…you might have woodlands filled with wildflowers wherever you are!)

The Wild Bergamot and The Bees: a Lesson in Unintentional Consequences

bergamot-and-black-eyed-susans-charylene-powersEven though many of the wildflowers have gone to seed in August, the wild bergamot plants are thriving. As I walk the trails at the John Luton Prairie Restoration Park, I immediately notice a great number of black and yellow bees. The buzzing bees traverse from flower to flower gathering the nectar they need to survive. My desire is to take advantage of the afternoon sun; photographing this beautiful prairie and all the inhabits that call it home.bergamot-by-charylene-powersThe Flower  – Wild Bergamot
The soft lavender flower heads of the wild bergamot plants look like a little fireworks display.  The unending historical medical uses for this plant include; poultices for boils and lacerations, as well as minty tea infusions for headaches, indigestion and colds.  The Ojibwe tribe placed these leaves in warm water baths for their babies. In addition to medical uses, the Indigo Buntings build their nests using the strong square wood stems. charylene-powers-birdThe Pollinators – Bees
It is estimated that a third of the food we eat is dependent on bee pollination.  Bees pollinate by carrying pollen on their bodies from the male part of the flower to the female part of the same kind of flower. The stiff hairs all over the bees’s bodies attract the pollen. The bees gather nectar from the flowers to eat. As the bees feed themselves, they provide a service that feeds all of us.bee-on-bergamot-charylene-powersObservations
Focusing on the task of gathering nectar, seems to be all consuming for the bees. When I move in to take my shot, the bees do not notice me, even though I am inches from them. I’m sure  my desire to get a close up of flower and bee will result in a stinging retort from the bees. However, they just keep doing what God has intended them to do. I need to be this focused with my assignments from God.

“So be careful to do what the Lord you God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 5:32, NIV)

Thoughts to Ponder
I think of the work of the bees and what they actually accomplish. They gather nectar to sustain themselves and pollinate our food source for us.  The work of pollination is really an unintentional consequence on their part. God has a bigger plan in mind for the work He has given to the bees. A plan that the bees cannot even imagine nor will they ever know. What about my assignments from God?  Am I as focused as the bees? Does God have a bigger plan in mind for the assignments He has given to me?  A plan that I – like the bees – cannot even imagine nor will I ever know.

bergamot-field-charylene-powers“As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV)

(Guest author: Charylene Powers. Thank you, Charylene. This is just beautiful!)

Inspiring Friends (Written by my Inspiring Friend, Lisa!)

How do you respond when you’re stumped by a question from a child?  How important is the correct answer?  Even trivia can be challenging.

luton-park-mi-wildflowers“What’s that flower called, Grandma?” my friend, Charylene’s, granddaughter asked as they walked along a trail through the woods.  She answered honestly, “I used to know that, but now I don’t remember.”img_6793 This exchange challenged my friend anew to research flowers, their names as well as facts about their biology, history, and use.  img_6792Sharing a love of photography with her granddaughter, they “hunted and shot” flower pictures from various angles, providing invaluable time together.   achillea-millefolium-white-yarrow-charylene-powersThen, after gathering accurate information, she decided to write a description of each flower’s fun facts as well as how she saw God working through them to speak to her faith, since all creation declares His glory.  daisies-by-charylene-powersAs she learned more about flowers and their various purposes, she tied in spiritual truths to be “rooted and built up in Christ” (Colossians 2:6-7).  asclepias-tuberosa-butterfly-weed-by-charylene-powersNow she’s joined our writer’s group and is in the process of making a book to share with her grandchildren, combining the beauty of macro-lens photos with the glory of God’s living and active word.  She’s sharing her faith through wildflowers!  echinacea-purple-coneflower-by-charylene-powers
I appreciate seeing her progress as she works toward this worthy goal.  She sets an example that it is never too late to learn or try new things so she can share wisdom and faith with the younger generation.  She offered and took me to the prairie restoration site near her home so I could experience and learn for myself.  luton-park-miI felt inspired and challenged to consider how I can share my passion for learning and for the Lord with others.  I even spent time at our writer’s retreat writing a devotional about how we can pay attention and share the various gifts, truth, and talents we’ve experienced with others.  img_9081Who asks you questions? What gifts, wisdom, and talents do you have that can be shared to inspire others?  img_0413Romans 1:20 – “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  img_0430Isaiah 40:6-8 – “A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?'”

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

The most important question and answer:  And Jesus continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29 (NASB)

(Guest Author: Lisa Walkendorf. Thank you, Lisa!! You’re a gem. Also, Charylene shared four of the flower photos that she took that day, so a special thank you to Charylene as well!)

Lessons from the Desert: Bloom Where You’re Planted?

What else can I do beyond praying for the healing of this broken world?
Cactus in Tunisian wildernessWhile in Tunisia, I was struck more deeply by the significance of the admonition Cactus in Gardens  “Bloom where you’re planted” as I observed the ubiquitous cacti. Dry River Bed. Tunisia I don’t usually think of cacti as something that blooms
or is even intentionally planted, Tunisia. Cactus Fencesbut in Tunisia, cacti are planted in long rows to form hedges around crops. Tunisian Cactus and potThey are planted in gardens and used to adorn courtyards.Cactus FencesI suppose this is largely because they can survive drought
when most other plants would die out. Tunisia Cactus Flowerering Now, you might argue that most of the world’s cacti (and perhaps most of the world’s plants and people) aren’t “planted” but rather grow wild Tunisia Cactus flowers and trash…and if we’re a cactus,
we can hardly be expected to bloom in a barren wilderness! Tunisia. Cactus starting to flowerI beg to differ. Goat herder. TunisiaI believe that those of us who appear to be wild varieties
have still been planted by God, Herding Goats. Tunisiabased on David’s testimony that God was leading him no matter where he went, Wilderness through Tunisiabe it heaven or hell (Psalm 139:7-10).Wilderness of TunisiaAfter staring listlessly out the window at nothingness for hours on end,
I would say that the wilderness of Tunisia fits on that continuumBarren Land. Tunisia…possibly near the end. Tunisia Cactus everywhereFurthermore, I believe we are all encouraged to bloom,
regardless of our circumstances. Wilderness Road in TunisiaOn my trip, seeing a cactus punctuate the landscape gave me singular delight, and when I found some that were actually blooming, I was all agog! Blooming Cactus in TunisiaSo, even when we’re feeling as prickly as a cactus living in a desolate wasteland, let’s try to bloom.  Cactus. TunisiaWe might be one of the only plants tough enough to survive in such trying circumstances, and our little blossoms will doubtless bring joy
and encouragement to others. Cactus Flower. Tunisia“Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”
(1 Corinthians 7:24)

The Ins and Outs of Jams: Redeeming Each Day

Wild Thimbleberry JamLast Friday I mentioned that wild Thimbleberry jam is very pricey, and part of this is doubtless because thimbleberries are hand-picked and hard to come by. Green thimbleberriesMany of you may not be familiar with thimbleberries, or perhaps you know them by one of their other names, such as salmon berries or snow brambles. Thimbleberry flowers They are native to North America and abundant in Michigan’s upper peninsula, but I don’t think they’re much different from raspberries. In fact, I personally think they tend to be mushier and have a less distinctive flavor than raspberries, so unless you have an unavertable penchant for thimbleberries, I’d like to offer an invertible counterpoint:
Make your own jam at home for a fraction of the cost using raspberries! Crab Cakes BenedictDo you ever make your own jams? Wherever we go, my kids tease me because I say, “We could do that!” when we’re served some lovely new dish, like the crab cakes Benedict I had the other day. Truly, if we can figure out the flavors and are willing to do a little experimenting (and/or searching online), most of us could make a lot of delectable dishes at home. Ripened thimbleberry For instance, most berries can be turned into jams by simply adding equal parts of fruit and sugar, and boiling the mixture down until it’s thick enough to please the palate. I consider this the perfect way to preserve the remains of my carefully picked seasonal fruits, particularly if I’ve already frozen enough fresh and fear the last of my labors may be lost. Jams at home As I was pouring out a pint of raspberry jam the other day, it occurred to me that there are probably many similar situations in my spiritual life…ways of preserving the last bits of life’s experiences (even ones that seem to be turning bad) so that even the remains of the day will be redeemed. Of course, it will take thought, the willingness to experiment, research and practice…a little sweetener, a little heat, and a little time…but that’s okay, isn’t it?

Poorrock Abbey Jam“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Messages to Magnificent Kyoto

Osaka Castle 2Osaka Castle Osaka Castle  3  Stands tall against the moonlight. Girls trying to scale Osaka Castle  Fear no one but God.Scaling Osaka Castle

Kyoto 4.16.14Two thousand temples.  Kyoto City Scape+ Cherry Blossoms Kyoto, have you heard of Budhhist Worshipper 4.16.14  The God who loves you? Girls with Cherry Blossoms“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
(The Bible, Jeremiah 31:3) Buddhist Temple
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
(The Bible, John 3:16)

What Wondrous Love Is This?
An American Folk Hymn

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Rise Up, My Love (124): The Nine Fruits in the Garden

Fir0002:Flagstaffotos Permission through WikipediaSong of Solomon 4:13-14 “with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon…” Although the center of the garden was an orchard of pomegranates, adorning it on every side were other wondrous trees and shrubs. The word for “pleasant” is the Hebrew meged, which means “costly” or “precious.” Other translations render it as “rare” or “choicest.” I like the Jerusalem Bible, which reads “rarest essences.” The bride is a paradise of the rarest, most precious sensory delights.

Let’s take a few minutes to study the properties of each of these spices and then meditate a little on the possible spiritual parallels: Lawsonia_inermis_(Mehndi)_in_Hyderabad,_AP_W2_IMG_0524 Camphire, also known as henna, is an everblooming shrub which grows about ten feet high and bears clusters of tiny, intensely fragrant, white or yellow flowers. It was used fresh to signal the joy of life—in bridal bouquets and coronation garlands, clustered about the neck, or as a bouquet to grace a household table. But, it was also used in extract as an exquisite perfume…or as a paste for dyeing toenails and fingernails, men’s beards, and even horsetails! As a crushed powder, it was used as the Old Testament version of bath salts.  SpikenardEssentialOilSpikenard was also known as “nard” and was from a plant grown in the Himalayan region of India. It was extremely costly and perhaps the most highly prized perfume known at that time (John 12:13). Spikenard was used to anoint the head and feet of our Lord before His crucifixion (Mark 14:3). Saffron Saffron is only mentioned this one time in the Old Testament. It is made from the dried, powdered pistils and stamens of the crocus sativus, which is a native of Asia Minor (although it is grown in this country—and in my garden!—as the “autumn crocus”). It has a distinct but subtle flavor, and I love it as an addition to rice dishes, but it is very expensive spice because I’ve read that producing a single ounce requires over 4,000 blossoms! Calamus_(Acorus_calamus) “Calamus” means “reed” and was probably the Calamus aromaticus (although I couldn’t find a picture of that species, and I think it may be renamed), which was a wild grass with a gingery smell. It was processed either by powdering or by extracting the oil and was popular as both a spice and a perfume. It is mentioned only three times in Scripture but is notable because it was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil for the temple priests (Exodus 3:23). Cinnamon Sticks When I was a child, cinnamon was primarily considered a spice for cooking, although today it is popular as a fragrance for candles and household potpourris. The pleasurable odor was also the quality most appreciated in ancient times, when the Hebrews used it in perfumes because they thought it had a “glorious scent” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1977, Vol. 1, 866). The best cinnamon was made from three-year-old branches of the Cinnanomum zeylanicum tree in southeast Asia, which grew to about thirty feet and bore clusters of small, white flowers. The bark was stripped and softened in sea water before extracting the oil for perfume. Today strips of the bark can be bought as “cinnamon sticks,” or in its most common form—ground into powder—cinnamon is used for spicing sweet breads, pies, cookies, cider, etc.  Frankincense_2005-12-31Frankincense was derived from the resin of the Boswellia tree, which was usually imported to Israel from near Sheba in Arabia. Boswellia trees have leaves like the Mountain Ash and star-shaped flowers which are pure white or green and tipped with rose, so the tree would have been handsome in the garden as well as being a source of aromatic resin for producing perfume. Frankincense speaks of praise and the exaltation of our Lord (See Song 3:6;4:6). Commiphora_myrrha_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-019 Myrrh distilled like tears from the Balsamodendron myrrha tree of Arabia, oozing out as an oily sap that solidified as it was collected into wooden squares. It was used to perfume clothing (Psalm 45:8) and bedding (Proverbs 7:17) as well as the body, and there is historical evidence that it was even used as a gargle to sweeten the breath. It was an exquisite incense, brought to our Lord as a gift by the magi (Matthew 2:11), used to anoint him by Mary in life (John 11:2), and administered in embalming him for his burial (John 19:39). The tear-like drops of myrrh speak of sorrow and grief…the way of the cross…the way of suffering and death…but also of the transcendent perfume that arises from the crushed life. Split_Aloe The word for “aloes” comes from a root Hebrew word meaning “odoriferous tree,” most likely the Aloe succotrina, from which a spicy perfume could be extracted after the leaves were crushed. It was a large shrub native to the island of Socotra from the southern end of the Red Sea (Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary, 1984, p. 126). However, in Numbers 24:6, the nation of Israel was likened to a garden of aloe trees planted by the Lord, so they could be grown in Israel and obviously thrived in Solomon’s wonderful gardens as well. Today, aloe is a common ingredient found in many skin lotions and herbal medications, particularly burn ointments, and it is well known for its power to soothe and heal.

Next week, I want to begin considering how the plants growing in Solomon’s garden parallel the fruits of the Spirit, which our heavenly husbandman grows in the gardens of our hearts.

(Although I study widely, two of my leading sources for these descriptions are:

Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984.

Tenney, Merrill C., ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corp., 1977.

The pictures are all from Wikipedia: pomegranate: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos; camphire: Lawsonia_inermis_(Mehndi)_in_Hyderabad,_AP_W2_IMG_0524
spikenard: By Itineranttrader (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  saffron: By USAID Afghanistan (100525 Hirat Marble Conference 546) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. calamus: By Mokkie (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons. cinnamon: By Thiry (Photo taken by Bertrand THIRY) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons. frankincense: By snotch (photo taken by author) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Common. myrrh: By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (List of Koehler Images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. aloes: Pictures from Longwood Gardens taken by Raul654 On May 1, 2005. {{GFDL}})