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.
South 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.
Red 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.
If 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.
Most 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.
Butterfly 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.
With 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.
In 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!
And 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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Nice photos and description! I recently moved to Chicago and would like to visit the dunes.
I love the Great Lakes, I had never heard of the Indiana Dunes before, this is so different with all the sand dunes, I'm used to Lake Erie which is so different than this area!
Love those sand dunes and all the wild Monarda.
Surprised to see cactus, and the lilies are fabulous!
Wonderful! Enough said!
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