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Michigan's Plants (An Overview)

There are just over 1,800 species of native Michigan plants. The state has diverse habitats ranging from prairie and southern forests to boreal species with several endemic species of plants associated with the Great Lakes' shorelines. The primary distribution for three threatened endemic species: dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), and Houghton's goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) is found in Michigan.

An additional 800 non-native species have been introduced into the wild flora of Michigan; some intentional and some unintentional. Many of the introduced species are commonly known weeds. Some invasive species, including Eurasian millfois, garlic mustard, spotted knapweed, and purple loosestrife have become serious problems in some wetlands and natural areas.

Development of uplands and shorelines, wetland drainage, and conversion of woodlands and grasslands to agricultural purposes have diminished Michigan's flora. Michigan has lost 46 native plant species in recent times; and currently has 51 endangered plants, 210 threatened plants, and 110 plants listed as special concern. About 23% of Michigan's native plant species are at risk.

The basic guidelines for endangered species status are three or fewer viable populations separated by areas of unsuitable habitat. Similarly, the guidelines for threatened species status are ten or fewer separate viable populations.

The most complete database for Michigan's special plants is maintained by Michigan Natural Features Inventory, a cooperative program of Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Category Quantity % of Native Plants
Extirpated Species 46 2.6%
Endangered Species 51 2.8%
Threatened Species 210 11.7%
Special Concern Species 110 6.1%
Secure Plant Species    1,383    76.8%
Total Native Plant Species 1,800 100%
Non-native Plants with
Established Populations
      800
Total Plant Species 2,600