Early Spring 2018

Our first walks of the season brought local residents and Boy Scouts from Troop 251 of Larimer. Special thanks to those young men for their interest in the park and their continued support of ongoing projects there. Their questions and enthusiasm made the afternoon an enjoyable one.

In the first few days of spring, snow gave way to the early risers of the plant kingdom. Many were found in the sunlit spots through the park where snow was scarce, but much of Braddock’s Trail remained a white blanket.

The snow melted quickly on this Saturday, and over the course of a few hours, the landscape changed dramatically as white turned to color. Let’s start with a new one to the blog. We don’t talk much about it because it doesn’t flower, but it’s a common sight as winter ends. Frequently called “onion grass” or “wild chive,” this plant makes its home in yards and wilderness alike. It’s completely edible, even its white, subterranean bulbs, and many use it as a garden chive substitute.

“Onion Grass”

Some of the first flowers to appear, and always near the parking lot are purple deadnettle and Persian speedwell. As Jack likes to point out, you don’t have to go far to see wildflowers. These two are commonly found in your own backyard.

Purple Deadnettle (top) and Persian Speedwell (bottom).
Narrow-leaf Spring Beauty

Narrow-leaf spring beauty (above) and harbinger of spring (below) are two of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the park. Only a handful were seen on this day. Late-season snowfall and cold temperatures have delayed their cycles.

Harbinger of Spring

Cutleaf toothwort is easily identified by its jagged leaves. Many were hiding in the snow, but none were in bloom. By the time this post is published, they’ll have opened with four-petaled white flowers.

Cutleaf Toothwort

One of our morning walk participants spotted these young bloodroot plants near the stream at the top of the waterfall. Not many of them have been seen at the park, but based on this new sighting, they seem to be doing well. They enjoy well-drained soils and streams, so this new foothold suits them perfectly. Large, white flowers open in sunlight, close at night, and are short-lived.

Bloodroot

A few light purple hepatica were spotted in their usual area across the footbridge. They’ll be gone by mid to late April, and are brilliant when fully open. Expect them to be gone soon!

Hepatica

Some honorable mentions this week, which were identified by leaf patterns, are Dutchman’s breeches, waterleaf, Virginia bluebell, chickweed, and jewelweed. Dutchman’s breeches will bloom soon if it hasn’t already, along with chickweed. Virginia bluebell will follow later in April, followed by waterleaf, and then jewelweed in early summer.

Clockwise from top left: Dutchman’s breeches, waterleaf, jewelweed, and chickweed.

Please join us for our second walk on Saturday, April 14 at 10:30 A.M.

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Summer 2017

As the days grow shorter, you don’t want to run out of opportunities to see summer flowers at the park. This post features many of the plants you’ll see at the park during summer months (June-August) including a few plants that have not previously been identified on the blog.

First, a common sight in Pennsylvania: Crown Vetch (below). Once hailed as the end of soil erosion, this conservationist’s dream is the gardener’s enemy. You won’t find much of it around the park, but our curbsides and hillsides are covered with Crown Vetch. Penn State University researchers introduced a modified version of Crown Vetch or “Penngift” in 1953 for the purpose of stabilizing soil, namely along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Pennsylvania Crown Vetch.

Yellow Jewelweed is a common sight throughout the park in July. Orange is its typical color, although Braddock’s Trail does not have that variety. Coincidentally, Jewelweed is found near Stinging Nettle in the park, and it can be used to treat the itching sensation that Stinging Nettle or other plants like poison ivy can induce.

Jewelweed.

There are many varieties of Fleabane which all have similar features, the most prominent being that they have a daisy-like appearance. Three common varieties found across the United States include Daisy Fleabane, Prairie Fleabane, and Philadelphia Fleabane. As far as we can tell, Braddock’s Trail houses Prairie Fleabane. Only subtle differences exist in the hundreds of varieties of fleabane across the country.

Prairie Fleabane.

Pennsylvania Smartweed enjoys sun and disturbed soil, so you’ll see this pointy-leafed plant near the parking lot and gate. The flowers will barely open and usually appear as oval-shaped, pink buds as shown in the photo below. Smartweed is native to most states in the country and is considered a noxious weed in Minnesota.

Pennsylvania Smartweed.

White Avens blooms in early summer throughout much of the middle and eastern chunks of North America. Like Smartweed, it enjoys disturbed ground, and the parking lot is a great place to look for it. Unlike other flowers, it appears to be missing petals, forming five that are spaced apart evenly with green, pointed sepals in between each petal. Sometimes called Canada Avens, this plant was used by the Iroquois to create a “love medicine.”

White Avens.

Black Medic (Medicago lupulina) is often confused with Hop Clover (Trifolium campestre). Braddock’s Trail Park has the former near the parking lot area. Black Medic differs in two noticeable ways: 1) it has toothed leaves, particularly the pointed edge at the tip of the leaf; 2) the trifoliate leaf pattern is similar to Hop Clover, but the terminal leaf is on a longer stem than the two alternate leaves. This is visible in the photos below.

Black Medic.

If you see a blue flower that looks rather incomplete, it’s probably Asiatic Dayflower, also called “mouse ears” for its two rounded petals. There aren’t many of these through the park, and though it shouldn’t be difficult to spot this bright blue, they are small. To make catching these a little more problematic, they only bloom for one day, hence the “dayflower.” As with many wildflowers, Asiatic Dayflower is edible, but please grow your own!

Asiatic Dayflower.

Maybe the most noticeable and brilliant of the summer flowers, Tall Bellflower (American Bellflower), can be seen blooming in June along the main road through the park. Its stalks grow taller than average humans and the blueish purple flowers attract hummingbirds and bees.

Tall Bellflower.

Be sure to sign up for a Wildflower Walk starting next April. Check back in March for an updated 2018 schedule.

Late Spring 2017

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.

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Dame’s Rocket.
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.

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Dame’s Rocket.
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”.

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Pennsylvania Bittercress.
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.

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Waterleaf.
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.

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Stinging Nettle and Question Mark butterfly.
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.

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White violet.
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.

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!