Warren Gardner, a nature enthusiast, retired Norwin High School Biology teacher, and friend to Braddock’s Trail Park, is being remembered and honored during the dedication of a bench in his name. If you can’t make the ceremony on April 27th, please visit this bench throughout the spring. It was certainly his season, and his influence at the park has been a catalyst for many of the new features there. Above all, he is responsible for “teaching us about beauty”. Please meet in the parking lot at 4:30. All participants will then walk to the bench site near the waterfall, and an abbreviated wildflower tour will follow the ceremony.
Blog posts have been sparse this year – I apologize for that – but activity at Braddock’s Trail Park has not! Dozens of nature enthusiasts gathered for Dr. Jack Boylan’s talks on Saturday mornings again this spring, and they were not disappointed. We hope you made it to at least one Wildflower Walk this season. If not, there are plenty of late spring flowers left and some summer bloomers beginning to show. Please take some time to look for those on your own, and be sure to mark your calendars to sign up for a walk in April 2018.
Already done flowering for the season are Garlic Mustard, Common Winter Cress (Wild Mustard), Waterleaf, Dame’s Rocket, Phlox, May Apple, Virginia Blue Bells, Red and White Trillium, Great Solomon’s Seal, False Solomon’s Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wild Ginger, and others. You’ll still find Dandelion, Purple Deadnettle, Ground Ivy, and several more. Please find photos of these flowers in the gallery or view previous posts.
It’s hard to believe that Dame’s Rocket (above) has been labeled as Public Enemy No. 2 by Michigan’s botanical experts. Braddock’s Trail has a few dazzling varieties of this wildflower: deep pinks to white, and some cross-pollinated mixes.
Pennsylvania Bittercress (below) is edible and often used in salads, like many plants in the mustard family. There are over 3,700 species in this plant family (Brassicaceae), including Braddock’s Trail’s Dame’s Rocket and Common Winter Cress. Broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and radish are also in this group. The long pods you’ll see as Bittercress bears fruit are called “silique”.
Waterleaf (below) is on its way out, but it’s certainly a sight around the park in late spring, especially along the main roadway before Stinging Nettle and Jewelweed take over that area.
Stinging Nettle can be a monster for those who encounter it, as the tiny hairs can cause severe skin irritation. Question Mark butterflies, named for the pattern on the underside of their wings, find this plant rather useful, as adults lay eggs on nettles, and caterpillars use them as food. Humans also have uses for Stinging Nettle, many of them medicinal. Treating painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia are among those uses.
If you see a White Violet like the one below, but with a spread of purple on the underside of the flower, that is a Canadian White Violet. Braddock’s Trail seems to have both varieties. This white flower represents the willingness to take chances with happiness, and the park also has yellow and purple. These flowers like shade, so you’ll find them through the trails and out of open spaces.
Please visit the pet-friendly park over the next few months to view the summer wildflowers. A picnic area is available near the parking lot with scenic lookouts at the top of the hill on the left side of the main road. Don’t forget to explore the waterfall and all of the trails.
According to the calendar, it’s officially spring. Snow seems to have made way for rain, but only some of the plants are appreciating the change. Meteorological spring hasn’t quite caught up, and the cold weather has most flowers “sleeping”. Many of the wildflowers you’ll view later in the season are readily seen around the park. It’ll just take some time for them to bloom.
Despite the bleak forecast on this particular day, harbinger-of-spring was still seen flowering in many areas. Narrow-leaf spring beauty, pictured below with harbinger-of-spring, was not yet on display but can be identified by long, thin leaves spreading from the base of the plant. If it’s not flowering right now, it will be within days, and it’s a must-see.
A few pink hepatica plants can be spotted near the footbridge. Under better conditions, the hairy stems will straighten to support rather large white to deep lavender flowers. Hepatica have a fairly short flowering period compared to other wildflowers at the park, so be sure to look for these over the next two weeks. It’s a BTP fan favorite.
The main road through the park is a perfect place to spot a few other native plants. It’s a great time to see stinging nettle and waterleaf before they mature. Stinging nettle looks a little dangerous up close, and it can cause skin irritation. Waterleaf is easily found as a young plant with leaf colorations that appear as “water spots”. We’ll monitor these two as the season continues.
Remember, you can access more information about the plants in this post by using the monthly categories on this page, or by using the search option.
A dedication ceremony for the bench in memory of Warren Gardner is scheduled for Thursday, April 27 at 4:45. If you choose to help us honor his memory, please arrive in the parking lot by 4:30. Our first wildflower walk of the season begins at 10:30 A.M. on Saturday, April 8.
With loads of snow in the forecast, it’s difficult to believe that the spring season is so close. For Braddock’s Trail Park, it’s already begun. Though our officially scheduled walks don’t start until April 8th, it’s not too early to visit the park to see some of our start-of-spring bloomers. Of that bunch, harbinger-of-spring claims to be the “bearer of warm weather” as its name suggests. Photos in this post were taken by Jack Boylan, including the one of harbinger-of-spring below.
You’ll have to look closely for this little guy, as it tends to hide in leftover leaves, or this week’s snow, and has a short stem. Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee, Illinois, has some great shots of this flower.
The recent warm temperatures and sunshine have created an environment for other wildflowers to appear early, including purple deadnettle and Persian speedwell.
Both of these flowers can be found as early as March, especially near the parking lot of the park. This location makes sense, as the deadnettle tends to grow in soils that have been disturbed by animals, weather, or in this case, humans. Our purple deadnettle also performs its germination period during the winter months, and may even bloom during warm stretches of winter weather like the one we’ve had. Persian speedwell is also a winter annual. It gets the “speedwell” part of its name from the tradition of giving departing sailors a bouquet of blue flowers and urging them to “speed well”.
One of the most brilliant wildflowers in the park is now blooming near the footbridge. Braddock’s Trail Park’s hepatica population is sparse, but worth the look. White, pink, purple, and even a bluish variety have been seen. They can be identified by looking for a hairy stem and three-lobed leaves. A pink one is pictured below.
Speaking of photographs, we’d love to have yours featured on the blog! If you happen to capture an image at the park on any sort of digital camera, smartphones included, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe you’ll see it in a future post!
Our first scheduled walk of the season is Saturday, April 8 at 10:30 A.M. See you there!
Of course, the park is featured in the spring and summer months, but the township and volunteers are busy in the “off season” with new projects. Among those is a remulching of some lengths of the trails. Much work has been done near the waterfall, where the fence has been extended farther down the trail, and a new drainage system should eliminate the frequent water pooling there. The mulching and fence extension were completed by siblings Liz and Nick Hornicak. These projects, along with years of dedication to the Girl Scouts and Boys Scouts, helped to earn them the highest rank in each of those organizations. Congratulations, Liz and Nick, on your Gold Award and Eagle Rank! Read more about their success here.
A bench was constructed near the same area in memory of retired Norwin teacher, nature enthusiast, frequent park-goer, and wildflower tour guide, Warren Gardner. Warren is responsible for much of the park’s success. A dedication ceremony will be scheduled for early this coming spring before our tours begin.
Our plants won’t be in their dormant stage for much longer! Please visit the “Wildflower Walks” section in the Menu for 2017 walk dates. We hope to see you on the trails soon!
The increased leaf cover has blocked much of the sunlight necessary to sustain most of the wildflowers, and by late May, many of them have come and gone. On this rainy Saturday, a few remain, though our guided walks have come to an end for the season. Unfortunately, we couldn’t catch any May Apple flowering, but Dame’s Rocket was in full bloom, and can be spotted along the local roadways across the township.
This flower boasts the tallest form in May, but soon Jewelweed will take that prize. Dame’s Rocket shows up in medium purples, whites, or an explosive mix of the two (below).
This plant might be pretty, but according to the National Parks Service, looks can be deceiving. Dame’s Rocket, also known as “Dame’s Violet” or “Mother-of-the-evening,” has been tagged as an invasive plant which bullies other native plants out of their territories.
Delicate-looking, fuzzy, light purple Waterleaf is in its prime (above). Easily identified in April by the “water spots” on its leaves, this plant loses those spots before flowering in May. Braddock’s Trail has the broad-leaf variety, often called Maple-leaf Waterleaf. “Hydrophyllaceae” is the family name for this plant. That’s no surprise: the prefix “hydro” means “water.” Gerry Williamson has some great shots of this plant in Georgia.
We featured Great Solomon’s Seal in our last post. This time, it’s “False” Solomon’s Seal. Missouri Botanical Garden has more information on this plant, which may differ slightly from the Pennsylvania variety. The blooms on plants in our region, for example, seem less full, but both flower at the tip of the cascading stem.
Both Fleabane and Buttercup (above) can be seen into June, particularly around the parking lot. The Fleabane pictured here is one of the first of the season, and isn’t a great specimen. Typically the petals form a rounded flower, but because of the rain today, they look a little deformed. Take a walk at the park soon, and you’ll get a better shot! Originally from Europe, Tall Buttercup is harmful to livestock and spreads easily by seed after pollination by a variety of insects.
Though our formal walks have ended for the season, you are encouraged to visit Braddock’s Trail to view the many summer wildflowers here. Look for occasional updates over the next few months, and please contact us if you have questions or would like to submit a photo or information! Use the form below to get in touch. We look forward to seeing you at one of the North Huntingdon Township-sponsored walks in Spring 2017!
A sunny, near 70-degree morning brought another group of nature enthusiasts to Braddock’s Trail, including members of the Greenridge Garden Club. We didn’t have to go far for some springtime entertainment. A quick look near the parking lot started conversation about these four flowers:
Ground Ivy is a common sight in most grassy areas, including your own lawn. It stays low, but if unattended, can creep up to some height, especially around walls and trees. The park’s Buttercups are starting to appear, and they’ll take over the parking lot area throughout the month of May. Persian Speedwell, native to Asia, can still be seen in small patches in the same area. Emergency Outdoors lists some recipes using Winter Cress, or “Yellow Rocket,” including a bread spread, salad, and sweet potato patties. If you happen to try one of these, please let us know, but please grow your own Winter Cress!
One of our visitors spotted a lone Waterleaf flower (below). Early in the spring, this plant is easily identifiable by the “water spots” on the leaves. As the season moves on, the spots disappear, and buds appear, complete with unusual hairs.
The light purple, five-lobed flowers you’ll see throughout the park are Phlox (below). They’ll be available for your viewing for maybe another week in sunlit areas. Phlox is a common addition to gardens across the country and can be purchased readily in most nurseries.
Though we didn’t spot any “False” Solomon’s Seal, we did see the “real” thing. Check out the difference in last season’s Mid May update. Great Solomon’s Seal (below) gets its name from patterns and markings on its root system.
Horticulturist Joey Williamson features various types of Solomon’s Seal in the YouTube video below, including additional information about the origin of the plant’s nickname.
One of the most abundant plants around the park, and one that seems to have “found its roots” and spread into many areas, is sticky Bedstraw (below). Sporting tiny white flowers, Bedstraw was used by pioneers to stuff mattresses. Encyclopedia Brittanica features some other interesting uses for this plant throughout history.
Squirrel Corn is on its way out, and by the time this post is published, you may have to wait until next season to see it in person. For now, here’s a photo of its heart-shaped blossom and feathered leaves.
Near the end of our tour, we spotted this guy on the road:
While the snail has your attention, you should know that they are nocturnal creatures, so its not very common to see one in the sunlight like this. Snails can also lift up to ten times their own weight, and are one of the slowest creatures on Earth. Some of them can even live to be 25 years old. Visit Snail-World for more snail reading.
Please join us on Saturday, May 7 for another walk in search of wildflowers, and maybe a few gastropods, too.