Phlox in Toivola Cemetery

2022 November 27

On May 30, 2022, we were on our way to Agate Beach[1], and stopped off at the Toivola Cemetery[2] which is right next to Misery Bay Road[3]. We were obviously there just in time to see these purple flowers blooming. They were clearly dominating the area. The areas where they weren’t growing tended to have moss rather than grasses or other large vegetation, implying that the soil is probably thin, rocky, and not particularly hospitable to most other plants.

The majority of the blossoms were a relatively dark purple variety,

although there were some that were lighter in color

I believe that these are varieties of Creeping Phlox, Phlox stolonifera. They are very popular ground-cover plants, and it is easy to see why. They are very attractive flowers, and also seem to be very good at covering over and stabilizing otherwise poor soil. They spread by runners, and it looks like they pretty much take over. They come in lots of different color varieties, but these look like they all came from one or two original plantings.

Unlike a lot of other ground-cover ornamental plants, these are actually native North American species. Granted they weren’t originally from around here, but as I have noted numerous times before, the glaciers from the Ice Ages made sure that nothing is originally from around here. At least in this case, the Creeping Phlox would most likely have made it to this area at some point on its own, without any help from us.

[1] Agate Beach is a fairly exposed beach on Lake Superior, where there are large expanses that wave action has graded by size. Some stretches are sand, some are various sizes of gravel, and some are roughly fist-sized rocks. If one rummages around on the parts of the beach that are roughly gravel-sized, there are Lake_Superior_agates that can be found. The best time to look for agates is in the spring, when they have been pushed up onto the beach by wave and ice floe action. Of course, we weren’t looking for agates specifically, we were just there to play around on the beach and see what we could find.

[2] Toivola is not a town as such. It has a post office, a few widely-dispersed houses, the Mosquito Inn, a cemetery, and a fire hall, scattered over an area of several square miles. The cemetery is almost two miles down the road from the post office, and the fire hall is another mile beyond that. The whole “Toivola community” evidently stretches all the way across to Lake Superior.

[3] Agate Beach is just northeast of Misery Bay. Nobody seems to know exactly how Misery Bay got that name, although there are theories involving black flies, storms off of Lake Superior, and getting cut off from supplies in the winter. There is some speculation that it is named after the “Misery” branch of the Ojibwe tribe, who supposedly lived in the area, but that just raises the question of why they would have had the name. From Google Maps, it looks like there are currently a lot of houses (mostly vacation homes) up in the northeastern part (“Santa Monica Beach”), but Misery Bay proper is mostly uninhabited and open to the public.

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