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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Smooth yellow false foxglove. Smooth yellow false foxglove (Aureolaria flava). Not frequently viewed on the Forest, this flower occurs in abundance in the Idlewild barrens. It is noted as being hemiparasitic on white oaks.

A profusion of savanna flowers on the corner of Baldwin and Broadway Streets. A profusion of savanna flowers on the corner of Baldwin and Broadway Streets. White flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), pink-colored tall blazing star (Liatris aspera), yellow woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus), yellow smooth false foxglove (Aureolaria flava) and Kalm's brome grass (Bromus kalmii).

A closer view of the barrens species. A closer view of the barrens species noted in the photos above.

New Jersey tea. New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), a savanna/barrens small shrub, in flower.

Idlewild Barrens

Forest: Huron Manistee National Forest

District: Baldwin / White Cloud Ranger District

Description: Savanna/barrens flora abounds in and around the town of Idlewild, Michigan. The soils are dry and sandy, which is typical of mid-Michigan. The area is historically categorized as Jack Pine / Red Pine Forest and Mixed Pine / Oak Forest. Idlewild, a town that made its national mark on the map as a jazz hotspot in the 1950s, currently has a much smaller population. The town has a fascinating history. Idlewild has rekindled some of its magical musical past with a new annual jazz festival in August. The wildflower viewing is an interesting combination of in-town roadside display, edge-of-town rural roadside display, and trail or off trail display within the white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Quercus velutina), and Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) forests. The displays are beautiful spring through fall.

Wildflower viewing: One of the best displays of savanna/barrens flora in this portion of Michigan can be found in and around the town of Idlewild. Plant sizes are robust, flowering is abundant, and populations are far larger than typically found in mid-Michigan. The displays vary with the season and site location.

In the town itself, there is are large populations of flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), lance-leaved coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), horsemint (Monarda punctata), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina) and smooth yellow false foxglove (Aureolaria flava). On the roads lining the edges of the town are large populations of Alleghany plum (Prunus alleghaniensis), blazing stars (Liatris cylindracea and L. aspera), New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), and birdsfoot violet (Viola pedata).

Along Nelson Road and a Forest Service path that travels east off of Nelson Road is a population of close to a hundred Alleghany plum, numerous New Jersey tea, prairie willow (Salix humilis), Sesquehana sandcherry (Prunus susquehana), American hazelnut (Corylus Americana), long-leaf summer bluet (Houstonia longifolia), racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama), lupine (Lupinus perennis), and tall thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana). In other areas, off the trail are populations of round-leaf ragwort (Senecio obovatus), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), and Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii), ranked globally vulnerable for population viability. At the beginning of the trail there is a variety of sun-loving savanna/barrens species such as lance-leaved coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, wild bergamot, horsemint and the state threatened prairie smoke (Geum triflorum).

Safety First: Much of the wildflower viewing is along the roadside without formal pull-off locations. Drivers need to remain alert for traffic concerns while driving slowly to view wildflowers. In addition, while the town is small and rural, wildflower viewers must remember that many of the wildflowers are growing on private property even if a house is not evident.

Directions: Driving in and around the town of Idlewild, you will find many wildflower viewing locations along the roadsides. Some of the highlights are on Nelson Road; the corner of Broadway and Baldwin Roads opposite Road Runners Grocery store; and 56th Street. All of the residential streets have areas of savanna barrens plants, but highlights are especially spectacular along the powerline corridor that goes through the town, parallel to Broadway.

For a nice vehicle tour, take US 10 heading east out of Baldwin, Michigan. Travel about 2 1/2 miles to Idlewild, off US 10. Turn south on Forman and view along the next 2 miles. Continue until 72nd Street and turn east. Travel about a mile until Nelson Road. Turn north on Nelson and continue about 2 miles until hitting Lynnon Road. Turn west and continue until returning to the start.

There is also nice viewing on Martin Luther King Road, though the road is not a through-road. There is also a dirt trail on Forest Service property that travels from Nelson Road east about 1/2 mile. The trail is lined with New Jersey tea, and Alleghany plum. At the entrance to the trail is also a nice population of prairie smoke, a Michigan state threatened plant.

Ownership and Management: Private landholdings in the town of Idlewild and U.S. Forest Service, Huron Manistee National Forest, Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District.

Next Closest Town: Baldwin, Michigan.