Protecting Groundwater and Michigan’s Most Endangered Wildflower


By Dave Dempsey

An unseen resource, Michigan’s groundwater provides drinking water to more than 4 million Michiganders, supports agricultural irrigation and manufacturing, and contributes a significant portion of the inflow to the Great Lakes. But there is still another reason to protect Michigan’s groundwater: conservation of our state’s biological diversity.

Groundwater is critical to valuable species and their habitats, including cold water trout streams like the Au Sable River–and a rare wildflower found exclusively in Michigan.

The federally listed endangered species, Michigan monkey-flower (Mimulus michiganensis) has been found in only 23 locations on earth, all in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Northwest Lower Michigan–most of them hidden where wetlands are fed by groundwater seeps and springs.

Botanist and activist Jody Marquis

This beautiful little yellow flower is extremely rare but is holding its own for now, thanks in part to botanist and activist Jody Marquis. Now retired, Marquis and colleagues helped to re-establish Michigan monkey-flower on the shores of the Glen Lakes about 20 years ago.

Over the years, shoreland owners have joined this effort to protect and foster Michigan monkey-flower, along with the Glen Lake Association and the Leelanau County Parks and Recreation Commission.

The full story about efforts to protect the Michigan monkey-flower was published by Nature Change, an online magazine that publishes conversations and conservation and climate.

Other Endangered Species and Rare Habitats

Other Michigan endangered species and rare habitats whose survival depends on groundwater:

  • Mitchell’s satyr butterfly: Native to prairie fens, a rare type of wetland habitat found in southern Michigan characterized by cold, calcium-rich groundwater that supports a range of unique plants and animals, the butterfly is now found at only 30 locations in the United States.
  • Coastal fen: Considered imperiled to critically imperiled on a global scale, coastal fen occurs along the flat, saturated shorelines of northern Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and the Georgian Bay on glacial lakeplains and where thin, discontinuous layers of glacial till overlay limestone. Coastal fen frequently develops where groundwater seepage percolates from either calcareous uplands or joints in the underlying limestone bedrock.
  • Hine’s emerald dragonfly: Critically endangered, the dragonfly lives in groundwater-fed wetlands that are perched over limestone bedrock.

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