Bench Dedication Ceremony

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.

Late March 2017

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.

Narrow-leaf spring beauty (top) and harbinger-of-spring (bottom).

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.

Hepatica.


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.

Stinging nettle (top) and waterleaf (bottom).

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.

March 2017: Snow and Speedwell

March 9, 2017

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.

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Harbinger-of-Spring

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.

Purple Deadnettle (left) and Persian Speedwell (right).

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.

 

Hepatica.

 

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 cfederinko@gmail.com. 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!

Winter Park Projects

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!

Late May 2016

May 21, 2016

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.

Dame’s Rocket in pockets through the park.

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).

The many faces of Dame’s Rocket.

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.

Waterleaf.

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.

 

False Solomon’s Seal.

 

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.

Fleabane (left) and Common Tall Buttercup (right) can be found through early summer.

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!

Late April 2016

April 30, 2016

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 (top left), Winter Cress (top right), Common Buttercup (bottom left), and Persian Speedwell (bottom right).

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.

Waterleaf

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.

Phlox

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.

 

Great Solomon’s Seal

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.

Bedstraw

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.

Squirrel Corn

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.

Mid-April 2016

April 16, 2016

A common interjection used on our walk today was “wow.” That’s hardly the word to describe the experience of our largest group of participants in the last several years, but it did the trick. Let’s start with the most obvious “wow” of the day. An April snow shower last week didn’t keep one of the state’s largest populations of Blue-eyed Mary from spreading like…a snow shower?

You can’t miss these! Blue-eyed Mary takes over the park in April.

Due to some genetic mutations or cross-pollination, you’ll spot some not-so-blue-eyed flowers from this species.

Blue-eyed Mary variations.

Shades of pink and purple are featured alongside the common blue, and even an almost bleached-white cluster was spotted (above).

Heading down to the footbridge built by Eagle Scout Brock Shaffer, you’ll find that Hepatica is almost done flowering, save one. Near that bridge, you probably won’t see any fish, but Trout Lilly (below) has been busy putting out large, drooping yellow flowers. The leaf patterns resemble the appearance of a Pennsylvania Brook Trout, hence the name.

Trout Lilly. Only about 1% of adult plants bloom.

We have an exciting development on the identification of a plant we thought was Self-Heal (Heal-All, Cure-All). Thanks to some more information and an expert eye from our senior biologist, Dianne Walters, we can now identify this early bloomer as Purple Deadnettle (below). Please accept this new identification and apply it to earlier posts about Self-Heal.


Purple Deadnettle was featured as Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s “Weed of the Month” last spring. It is a member of the mint family, but its uses in cuisine are limited. Young leaves can be used in a simple salad. Other “nettles” tend to have a sting, or cause irritation, but this plant’s sting is “dead.”

 

Dandelion (left) and Coltsfoot (right).

According to BBC’s Nature and Wildlife experts, dandelions weren’t always a target for lawn care enthusiasts. In fact, dandelions were “cultivated with care and eaten by the wealthy in sandwiches and salads” in Victorian times. Coltsfoot has a similar look, but has a much taller, drooping stem, while dandelions keep close to the ground. You’ll see both of these near the parking lot.

Purple, Yellow, and Canadian White Violet.

The park’s three varieties of violet can be seen scattered throughout the trails. Keep an eye out for only very few Canadian White Violets, which separate themselves from the common White Violet with their purple underside. Take a look for that hint of purple in the photo above.

Cutleaf Toothwort (top) and Narrow-leaved Spring Beauty (bottom).

The two flowers pictured above are familiar faces all over the park, and can be found blooming throughout April. Not only do they make themselves at home in Braddock’s Trail, they are native to much of the United States and Canada. Cutleaf Toothwort, identifiable by its jagged leaves, claims the East Coast all the way to the Midwest, while Spring Beauty, with its radiant pink “veins” shows up in all states save Nevada, Florida, and Louisiana.

We’ll leave you with some shots of Virginia Bluebell (above), which you’ll find only on the narrow footpath past the old stone water fountain. Not pictured in this post, but seen on the walk were Persian Speedwell, Kidney-leaf Buttercup, White and Red Trillium, and Pennsylvania Bittercress.

Please join us for a walk this Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 10:30. You’ll see most of the wildflowers featured here and even more. Thanks to everyone for your time, attention, and company on our last walk!