Evaluate your fen (plant facts)

Working in fenThese plants are indicators to help you determine whether you have prairie fen, and to help you assess the progress of your prairie fen restoration. The species included here are those that you are most likely to find at different stages in restoration in the sedge meadow sub-community of prairie fens. They are in three broad groups: plants found in degraded areas, plants you are likely to find in recently restored or disturbed areas, and plants characteristic of high-quality fen.

These species were chosen as representatives for several reasons: they are primarily wildflowers that are straightforward to identify when flowering, and they are quite common in many fens. There are many more plant species than those listed here, especially sedges and grass species. In addition, remember to look for other signs that you have a prairie fen, including peat and marl soils, and water seeps. The best time of year to assess your fen based on plants is in late August and early September, when many of the larger flowering species are in bloom.  

Click for a list of plant species sorted by:

HABITAT QUALITY

Low includes species that are invasive or would be found in shaded areas with invasive species. Medium includes species that become more common in the several years following restoration activities. High includes species that would be found in intact prairie fens, that is, areas that have few invasive species and are not densely shrubbed in. Species may be found in more than one of those situations, so some are included in more than one of these categories.

Low quality

Medium quality

High quality

American skunk cabbage
American water horehound
Canada thistle
Cattail
Clearweed
Climbing nightshade
Common buckthorn
Dwarf raspberry, dwarf red blackberry
Enchanter’s nightshade
Glossy buckthorn
Golden ragwort
Great blue lobelia
Multiflora rose
Northern bugleweed
Northern spicebush
Ohio goldenrod
Poison sumac
Purple loosestrife
Reed canarygrass
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
Sensitive fern

American burnweed
American water horehound
Arrowleaf tearthumb
Bottlebrush sedge
Clearweed
Climbing nightshade
Common boneset
Devil’s beggartick
Ditch stonecrop
Eastern marsh fern
False nettle
Fowl mannagrass
Golden ragwort
Great blue lobelia

Green bulrush
Jewelweed
Marsh skullcap
Northern bugleweed
Ohio goldenrod
Poison sumac
Purpleleaf willowherb
Riddell’s goldenrod
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
Sensitive fern
Swamp milkweed
Swamp thistle
Virginia mountainmint
White panicle aster

American water horehound
Alder-leaved buckthorn
Black-eyed Susan
Common goldstar
Eastern marsh fern
Flat-topped aster
Fourflower yellow loosestrife
Golden ragwort
Grass-of-Parnassus
Great blue lobelia
Joe-pye weed
Northern bugleweed
Ohio goldenrod
Poison sumac
Purplestem aster
Riddell’s goldenrod
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
Sensitive fern
Shrubby cinquefoil
Swamp milkweed
Swamp rose
Swamp thistle
Twig-rush
Upright sedge
Virginia mountainmint
White panicle aster

COMMON NAME

Alderleaf buckthorn
American burnweed
American skunk cabbage
American water horehound
Arrowleaf tearthumb
Black-eyed Susan
Bottlebrush sedge
Canada thistle
Cattail
Clearweed
Climbing nightshade
Common boneset
Common buckthorn
Common goldstar
Devil’s beggartick
Ditch stonecrop
Dwarf raspberry, dwarf red blackberry
Eastern marsh fern

Enchanter’s nightshade
False nettle
Flat-topped aster
Fourflower yellow loosestrife
Fowl mannagrass
Glossy buckthorn
Golden ragwort
Grass-of-Parnassus
Great blue lobelia
Green bulrush
Jewelweed
Joe-pye weed
Marsh skullcap
Multiflora rose
Northern bugleweed
Northern spicebush
Ohio goldenrod

Poison sumac
Purple loosestrife
Purpleleaf willowherb
Purplestem aster
Reed canarygrass
Riddell’s goldenrod
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
Sensitive fern
Shrubby cinquefoil
Swamp milkweed
Swamp rose
Swamp thistle
Twig-rush
Upright sedge
Virginia mountainmint
White panicle aster

SCIENTIFIC NAME

Asclepias incarnata
Aster lanceolatus
Aster puniceus
Aster umbellatus
Bidens frondosa
Boehmeria cylindrica
Carex hystericina
Carex stricta
Circaea lutetiana
Cirsium arvense
Cirsium muticum
Cladium mariscoides
Epilobium coloratum
Erechtites hieraciifolia
Eupatorium maculatum
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Frangula alnus
Glyceria striata

Hypoxis hirsuta
Impatiens capensis
Lindera benzoin
Lobelia siphilitica
Lycopus americanus
Lycopus uniflorus
Lysimachia quadriflora
Lythrum salicaria
Onoclea sensibilis
Parnassia glauca
Penthorum sedoides
Phalaris arundinacea
Pilea pumila
Polygonum sagittatum
Potentilla fruticosa
Pycnanthemum virginianum
Rhamnus alnifolia
Rhamnus cathartica

Rosa multiflora
Rosa palustris
Rubus pubescens
Rudbeckia hirta
Scirpus atrovirens
Scutellaria galericulata
Senecio aureus
Solanum dulcamara
Solidago ohioensis
Solidago patula
Solidago riddellii
Solidago rugosa
Symplocarpus foetidus
Thelypteris palustris
Toxicodendron vernix
Typha

 

COLOR

Yellow

Yellow-green

Orange

Violet/purple

American skunk cabbage
Black-eyed Susan
Common goldstar
Devil’s beggartick
Fourflower yellow loosestrife
Golden ragwort
Northern spicebush
Ohio goldenrod
Riddell’s goldenrod
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
Shrubby cinquefoil

Alder-leaved buckthorn
American burnweed
Clearweed
Common buckthorn
Ditch stonecrop
Poison sumac

Jewelweed

Canada thistle
Climbing nightshade
Great blue lobelia
Marsh skullcap
Purple loosestrife
Swamp thistle

Pink

White

Purple/white

White/pink

American water horehound
Arrowleaf tearthumb
Grass-of-Parnassus
Joe-pye weed
Swamp milkweed
Swamp rose

Common boneset
Dwarf raspberry, dwarf red blackberry
Enchanter’s nightshade
False nettle
Flat-topped aster
Glossy buckthorn
Grass-of-Parnassus
Multiflora rose
Northern bugleweed
Virginia mountainmint
White panicle aster

Purplestem aster

Purpleleaf willowherb

No flowers/flowers not readily obvious

Bottlebrush sedge
Cattail
Eastern marsh fern
Fowl mannagrass
Green bulrush
Reed canarygrass
Sensitive fern
Twig-rush
Upright sedge

 

FLOWER TYPE

When plants are in bloom, they may be identified by the number and arrangement of flower parts. A detailed description of each classification can be found on the third page of each fact sheet.

No flowers

Flowers not readily obvious

Parts indistinguishable

Irregular

Eastern marsh fern
Sensitive fern

Bottlebrush sedge
Cattail
Fowl mannagrass
Green bulrush
Reed canarygrass
Twig-rush
Upright sedge

American burnweed
Arrowleaf tearthumb
Canada thistle
Clearweed
Common boneset
Devil’s beggartick
False nettle
Joe-pye weed
Ohio goldenrod
Riddell’s goldenrod
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
swamp thistle

American skunk cabbage
American water horehound
Great blue lobelia
Jewelweed
Marsh skullcap
Northern bugleweed
Purple loosestrife
Virginia mountainmint

5 regular parts

6 regular parts

7 or more regular parts

Aster

Alderleaf buckthorn
Climbing nightshade
Common buckthorn
Ditch stonecrop
Dwarf raspberry, dwarf red blackberry
Fourflower yellow loosestrife
Grass-of-Parnassus
Glossy buckthorn
Multiflora rose
Poison sumac
Shrubby cinquefoil
Swamp milkweed
Swamp rose

Common goldstar
Northern spicebush

Black-eyed Susan
Golden ragwort

Flat-topped aster
Purplestem aster
White panicle aster

Fewer than 5 regular parts

Enchanter’s nightshade - 2-3 regular parts
Purpleleaf willowherb - 4 regular parts

 

PLANT TYPE

Plant species are sorted by their growth habit here, based on how long they live, how they grow, and whether they grow woody stems that persist into the next growing season.

Flowering annual

Flowering perennial

Flowering biennial

Arrowleaf tearthumb
Clearweed

American burnweed
American skunk cabbage
American water horehound
Arrowleaf tearthumb
Black-eyed Susan
Climbing nightshade
Common goldstar
Enchanter’s nightshade
Devil’s beggartick
Ditch stonecrop
Dwarf raspberry, dwarf red blackberry
False nettle
Flat-topped aster
Fourflower yellow loosestrife
Golden ragwort

Grass-of- Parnassus
Great blue lobelia
Jewelweed
Joe-pye weed
Marsh skullcap
Northern bugleweed
Ohio goldenrod
Purple loosestrife
Purpleleaf willowherb
Purplestem aster
Riddell’s goldenrod
Roundleaf goldenrod
Rough-stemmed goldenrod
Swamp milkweed
Virginia mountainmint
White panicle aster

Canada thistle
Swamp thistle

Sedge

Fern

Shrub

Bottlebrush sedge
Upright sedge
Twig-rush
Green bulrush

Eastern marsh fern
Sensitive fern

Alderleaf buckthorn
Common buckthorn
Glossy buckthorn
Multiflora rose
Northern spicebush
Poison sumac
Shrubby cinquefoil
Swamp rose

Grass

Cattail

Vine

Fowl mannagrass
Reed canarygrass

Cattail

Dwarf raspberry, dwarf red blackberry
Multiflora rose

Project Greeen Michigan State University Extension AgBioResearch