Wildflowers of the Indiana Dunes


Indiana Dunes National Park in northeastern Indiana is full of unique ecosystems created by the tall sand dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. Lots of people visit this park for the beautiful sandy beaches, but hikes through the surrounding landscape are a must for any plant lover.

close up of an organize lilly with dark spotsSouth of the dunes are wetlands and moist woodlands full of interesting moisture-loving wildflowers, like this stunning Lilium michiganense (Zones 4–8). In the wild, this lily usually grows in low, wet areas, though it doesn’t demand those conditions to thrive in a garden.

close up of bright red bee balm flowersRed bee balm (Monarda didyma, Zones 4–9) is a common garden plant, but it’s very cool to see it growing in the wild, the showy bright red flowers attracting every hummingbird in the neighborhood.

wide view of grass covered dunesIf you hike up the dunes, the landscape changes completely. The hills of pure sand let water drain away instantly, so the forest is replaced by grassland, full of completely different wildflowers.

small cactus with large yellow flowersMost people don’t associate cactus with Indiana, but eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa, Zones 4–9) thrives here in the dry sand, blooming like crazy in early summer.

close up of bright orange Butterfly weedButterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosus, Zones 5–9) enjoys the dry soil as well—a clue to keeping this beautiful plant happy in the garden. It really prefers good drainage and will rot out in soil that stays too moist.

clump of yellow flowers on the beachWith a view of the lake, hairy puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense, Zones 3–8) covers itself with intense yellow flowers over a long period in early summer.

tiny white flowers growing between tall grassIn late summer, Euphorbia corollata (Zones 3–8) puts out clouds of airy white flowers. Think baby’s breath, but native and blooming from June to September. I’m not sure why this fantastic perennial isn’t grown in more gardens; it is so beautiful!

shore of lake MichiganAnd the reward for any hike at the park is a view of beautiful Lake Michigan itself, nearly as lovely as all the wildflowers that grow along its shores.

 

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