Golden Pert?

2020 November 29

I was down in the swamp on the northern part of our property on July 13, 2020 when I spotted these little yellow flowers growing amongst the cattails. I didn’t have my camera along, so I brought a sprig up to the house to photograph.


They were actually pretty numerous, and seemed to be growing well as an understory plant under the protection of the cattails. The flowers are a strong yellow, with five petals.


The best match I can find in “Blooming Seasons” (a guide to our local wildflowers in the Keweenaw) is listed as Golden Pert, Gratiola aurea. This species appears to be more commonly referred to as Golden Hedge-Hyssop.


Only one problem, though: according to the USDA/Forest Service page that I linked to above, it has only been documented in one county in Michigan. And according to the Michigan State University Extension Service, that county is Gogebic County. And I live in Houghton County, over 100 miles away (Gogebic is down on the Wisconsin border). So either I have stumbled across a plant never before recorded in this area, or I have misidentified it. Given my general level of expertise here, I suspect that “misidentified” is more likely, although one never knows. I suppose that in the spring, when they start growing again, I should contact an expert about it.

Anyway, if it is Golden Pert, I can see where it might have been missed in surveys of the area. The specimens we have only stick up a few inches from the ground, are completely surrounded by taller plants, and are in the sort of mucky area where it is hard to walk because if you stop moving for even a few seconds, your boots start to sink in and you are likely to get stuck[1]. And while it is too wet for easy walking, it isn’t wet enough to go in with a canoe. Unless somebody has a specific reason for going in there, mostly one wouldn’t[2].

These plants are listed as “amphibious”. They can apparently grow and spread submerged in shallow water as a non-flowering waterweed, but when they grow up out of the water (such as up on a beach) they can then bloom.

[1] Swamps and bogs are notorious for stealing shoes and boots. If you stand still long enough for your foot to sink in, the muck basically grabs onto your boot and won’t let go. In extreme cases, the only way out is to abandon your footwear. I haven’t lost a boot yet, but there have been a few close calls.

[2] And at this point you may be asking, “So, what were you doing in the swamp, then?” Well, see, the swamp is where the black flies and mosquitos come from, and so I was back there with a bag of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis granules, broadcasting them about in likely mosquito and black fly breeding areas. We use this because it is a highly selective biological control specifically for the biting insects that we care about, with no noticeable effects on other organisms. It seems to work, but it does mean I have to slog through the bog a couple of times a year.

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