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People walking through
Hikers enjoying the scenery of Dowagiac Woods.
One of Dowagiac's many spring wildflowers.

here in all sizes, from seedlings to giants; two people can scarcely reach around the trunk of one specimen. It is the first tree to leaf out in the spring, and it blooms in late April.

Dowagiac Woods is a haven for nine plants and animals in danger of becoming extinct in Michigan. Among these are the black rat snake, Greek valerian, box turtle and spotted turtle. The great size of the sanctuary is vital to the survival of these species.

At least 49 kinds of birds nest here. Yellow warbler, northern yellowthroat and ruffed grouse can be heard. Not surprising in the moist woods is the presence of the Acadian flycatcher. From May through July, if you hear an explosive "split-chee!" with the second syllable higher pitched than the first, you'll know you're listening to an Acadian.

Dowagiac Woods
384.19 acres in Cass County

Many wildflower enthusiasts agree they've never seen such a magnificent display as the Dowagiac Woods in spring. This sanctuary is a living example of what the area's forests were like when early settlers arrived. Here an amazing lushness reigns in the rich, untouched leaf mold of the centuries.

These woods were virtually unknown even to people living nearby, and only came to the attention of MNA in 1975 because of a report from a member that blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia verna, grew there. Response to an appeal by MNA in 1981 for $110,000 to purchase the woods was overwhelming. Despite poor economic conditions in the state at the time, the campaign was completed in a year. Over 550 individual contributions were given, crowned by a $20,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation. In a marvelous show of community involvement, 20 percent of the amount needed was raised in Cass County alone.

Countless plants flourish in Dowagiac Woods, where over 50 species of wildflowers bloom in the spring. Here is a plant community that shows what a paradise a forest floor free from human destruction and overgrazing can be. After the first flowers open, there is a profusion of blooming, from hepatica and bloodroot right up to the time of Trillium grandiflorum. Buds unfold early on the tulip trees that grow in great numbers in the central forest, which is on slightly higher ground than the lowlands.

Cass County is a hotspot for blue-eyed Mary, and its abundance is a top attraction in Dowagiac Woods. The lower petals are blue, the upper ones white, and its dainty form enhances its cheerful look. For six full weeks, beginning in early April, it reigns supreme. Over 150 beds can be seen from the trail, each averaging 10 by 20 feet.

Nearly 50 kinds of trees have been found in the sanctuary, including blue beech, black ash, chinkapin oak, cork elm, black walnut and hackberry. The Ohio buckeye tree thrives
Getting There:

View Dowagiac Woods in a larger map
Additional Information on Dowagiac Woods:
Memorial Acres | Trail Map | Brochure | Contribute to the Dowagiac Woods Addition