In the dark forest of Crossroads at Big Creek’s Ida Bay Preserve, flowers are blooming near Zenith Street. When these flowers called beech drops bloom, most people overlook them. These wildflowers tend to blend in with fallen leaves and the people who do notice them assume they are pinkish-brown twigs on the forest floor.
Beech drops, though aesthetically unremarkable, are amazing plants and parasites. They have tiny, scale-like leaves, but they do not contain chlorophyll and must depend on the sugars and nutrients provided by the roots of a beech tree.
The blossoms of the plant are inconspicuous – white with brownish purple stripes. The flowers at the top of the flower stalk open, but the lower flowers never bloom. The plants reproduce through self-pollination. During the winter rains, the seeds of these annual parasites will be planted and germinate the following spring. In a beech/hemlock forest, shade is so deep that even in early spring, most wildflowers simply cannot grow. Beech drops can, so under almost every beech tree in the region throughout the fall, beech drops bloom.
On Nov. 18 at 10 am, go on a nature hike in search of beech drops at Ida Bay Preserve. In the event of light snow, hikers will still find these unusual flowers. Meet at the Zenith Street entrance (between Canal and Cove roads). This hike is free and open to the public.
Also on Nov. 18, at 7 pm, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold a public viewing night at the Leif Everson Observatory and StarGarden, located at 2200 Utah Street. In addition to familiar fall constellations, the viewing targets will be the Pleiades, M 34, and possibly a few meteors from the Leonid Shower (which peaks Friday night/Saturday pre-dawn). Viewing nights are free and open to all ages.
Crossroads is a donor-supported learning preserve made up of The Cove, Big Creek and Ida Bay preserves. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan, is open 2 – 4:30 pm daily and during scheduled events. The preserves and restrooms are open, free of charge, 24/7.