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!

Early Season 2016

A walk through Braddock’s Trail Park on the first Saturday of “wildflower season” provided a look at some early bloomers and a preview of things to come! Unfortunately, the Saturday, April 9th walk was cancelled due to some unusually cold weather. Many wildflowers have begun flowering ahead of schedule because of some warm days in late March:

  • Harbinger of Spring is done flowering, one of our earliest.
  • Hepatica is on its way out. With the cold weather recently, it may be lost until next season.
  • The most impressive Virginia Bluebell are starting to flower. Catch them while you can!
  • Dutchman’s Breeches will be out in full force soon.
  • The park’s huge population of Blue-eyed Mary is flowering ahead of schedule. They’ll soon blanket most of the area.
  • May Apple, Trillium, Bloodroot, Solomon’s Seal, and Trout Lilly are probably a week or two away from flowering.
  • Growing, but far from blooming are Waterleaf, Stinging Nettle, and Jewelweed.
  • The “fraternal twins” Coltsfoot and Dandelion are around. As we know, Dandelion will outlast his brother into the summer.
  • Self-Heal and Ground Ivy can  be found in grassy areas near the parking lot in abundance.

Special thanks to Dr. Jack  Boylan for these notes.

Our April 16th walk will prove to be an exciting one, and many have already signed up. See you on the trail!

Late April Update 2015

April 25, 2015

With our largest turnout of the season, we braved this chilly Saturday morning, and our effort paid off!

Jack and Sandy Boylan leading the crew across the footbridge.

Yellow, Purple, and White Violets. Photos by Chris Federinko.
The park features three varieties of Violet, pictured above, and we were able to see all three this morning. Purple and yellow can be seen scattered through the park, but the only sighting of the white species was near the waterfall. Dr. Boylan pointed out that the underside of this White Violet is a purple color, and is actually a Canadian Violet. This type of Violet is not only rare in Braddock’s Trail, but it has also found its way into a few state-specific endangered species lists.

Bedstraw. Photo by Chris Federinko.
Bedstraw (above), also known as Goosegrass, Cleavers, or Stickywilly, has historical significance like many other plants in the park. Lacking modern mattresses and pillows, early pioneers used Bedstraw to stuff their bedding. It could be gathered easily because of its “sticky” properties. Notice the Velcro-like hairs on the leaves and stem. These latch together and allowed settlers to collect large quantities and transport them back to the homestead. Varieties of the Bedstraw sport tiny white flowers.

Trout Lily. Photos by Chris Federinko.
Trout Lily gets its name from the pattern on its leaves, which apparently mimic the design on our state fish, the Pennsylvania Brook Trout. Some also refer to it as a Dogtooth Violet, though it is not related to the violet family. A large, yellow flower hangs from a long stem. Only a small percentage of these plants actually bloom. Like May Apple, which we’ll feature next month, Trout Lily splits to two leaves in the adult plant. The younger, underdeveloped, single-leaf plants do not flower, and many can be found near marker #3.

Wild Ginger. Photos by Chris Federinko.
We got a better look at the Wild Ginger this week, which has an odd flower that hides close to the ground. It’s pictured above. Thanks for the hand modeling help, Gina! Join us next week and Sandy will show you where to find this plant.

Virginia Bluebells. Photos by Chris Federinko.
Taking the narrow path to the left of the footbridge will lead you toward the Virginia Bluebells. The small, pinkish flowers will eventually open and turn blue. You can see that change in the photo above. They prefer a wet but well-drained soil, which is probably why you can find them at the bend of the stream. If you’re a country fan, Miranda Lambert has a song named after this wildflower.

Blue-Eyed Mary. Photos by Chris Federinko.
The most visible wildflower in the park at the end of April through the first two weeks of May is the Blue-Eyed Mary. You’ll find these little guys everywhere, and if viewed from far away, they may take on the appearance of a blanket of snow. Most are blue, with some blooming in a pink or purple. A study produced several years ago claimed that Braddock’s Trail Park contains the second largest population of Blue-Eyed Mary in Western Pennsylvania. More to come on that interesting research.

Squirrel Corn, Red and White Trillium, Self-Heal, Ground Ivy, and others are also flowering at this time. We’ll feature Trillium next week along with Phlox and Solomon’s Seal.

Join us in the parking lot on Saturday, May 2, at 10:00A.M. for our next Wildflower Walk.

Mid April Update 2015

April 18, 2015

April showers have brought many flowers to Braddock’s Trail. We spotted a few “newcomers” blooming throughout the area with several species of wildflowers still blooming even weeks later.

Ground Ivy. Photo by Chris Federinko.

You might find Ground Ivy (above) in your own back yard. Most homeowners may cringe at the mention of this “invasive” plant. It spreads rapidly and grows in many areas across the country. If you’re a horse owner, be sure to avoid this flower, as it can be toxic to them.

Photo Apr 20, 6 19 41 PM
Hepatica (left) and Wild Ginger (right). Photos by Dr. Jack Boylan.

The rare but beautiful Hepatica (above) has now finished flowering. You’ll have to visit next year to see this one in person, but check out the Wildflower Gallery to see the park’s blueish and white varieties. You may also find it in shades of pink. You can find the three-lobed leaves around the newly built footbridge.

Pictured next to the Hepatica is another rare plant in the park, and you’ll have to ask one of our wildflower guides for its “secret” locations. Wild Ginger will soon form a reddish brown flower, which is not the most spectacular blossom at Braddock’s Trail, but the plant does attract butterflies, and the stock can be used as a substitute for ginger when cooked with sugar.

Photo Apr 20, 6 22 32 PM
Squirrel Corn (top) and Blue-Eyed Mary (bottom). Photos by Dr. Jack Boylan.

Two wildflowers that are becoming increasingly visible during this time of year are pictured above. The first, Squirrel Corn, may look much like Dutchman’s Breeches. The fern-like leaves of both plants make it difficult to tell them apart when not blooming. The flowers, though both have the same off-white coloring, show some differences. Dutchman’s Breeches blooms with a yellow band around the bottom and may look tooth-like. Squirrel Corn, as you can see from the photo, has a heart-shaped appearance.

Soon the park will be covered with Blue-Eyed Mary, which come in many different shades of blue and pink. The one pictured above is one of the first of the season, and these wildflowers will blossom well into May. If you visit the park at the right time, you’ll view a sea of blue and white created by Blue-Eyed Mary. Variations of this flower were documented by Lewis and Clark on their journey west to the Pacific.

Photo Apr 18, 10 27 17 AM
Red Trillium or “Wake-robin”. Photo by Dr. Jack Boylan.

The largest and most visible flowers at the park are Trillium, and Braddock’s Trail has two color varieties: white and red. You’ll find these blooming throughout the park starting in mid April, specifically in the valley near the waterfall. Naming the plant “Trillium” should come as no surprise to you. The prefix “tri” means “three”. Trillium grows with three distinct leaves and three petals on the flower. Ohio named Trillium their official state flower in 1986.

Our next wildflower walk is this Saturday, April 25, at 10:00A.M. See you there!

Early April Update (Part 2) 2015

April 11, 2015 

Our walk this Saturday uncovered an astounding number of blooming flowers. Participants were able to enjoy several wildflower sightings on this cool, sunny morning. Learn from some photos and descriptions of those plants, and feel free to click any links you see to access other informative websites.

Coltsfoot, Self-heal (Heal-all), Ground ivy, Persian Speedwell, and Pennsylvania Bittercress were spotted near the parking lot, particularly next to the large rocks.

Self-heal (top left), Persian Speedwell (bottom left), and Pennsylvania Bittercress (right). Photos by Chris Federinko.

Heal-all, also called “Self-heal” or “Cure-all,” is part of the mint family. A very common wildflower, it can often be found in your own backyard. This herb was widely used as a remedy for various illnesses, hence its nicknames. Brian Johnston created a website that gets up close and personal with this wildflower. Click here to view it.

If you don’t look closely, you’ll miss the tiny flowers of Persian Speedwell, which is also a common wildflower in our country. It’s non-native, however, and was brought from Asia some time ago. Since then it has spread throughout North America.

There was some debate among our wildflower enthusiasts about those tiny, white flowers pictured above. Eventually, we settled on Pennsylvania Bittercress, which has been spotted in every state but Arizona. Maybe it should be called “Everywhere But Arizona Bittercress”.

Cutleaf Toothwort (top) and Harbinger of Spring (bottom). Photos by Chris Federinko.

On the trails to the left of the main road, you’ll find Harbinger of Spring (above). This flower is one of the area’s earliest bloomers, and there were just a few left. The term “harbinger” refers to something that foreshadows or tells of an upcoming event. In this case, that event is the season of spring. If you happen upon one of these, you’ll know that spring is right around the corner.

Cutleaf Toothwart (above) was spotted throughout the park. Look closely for it’s rough-edged leaves. Its name comes from the “tooth-like projections” on its underground stems.

Bloodroot (left) and Dutchman's Breeches (right). Photos by Chris Federinko.
Bloodroot (left) and Dutchman’s Breeches (right). Photos by Chris Federinko.

Two “fan favorites” of the park are pictured above. Each has very noticeable, unique characteristics. The leaves of Bloodroot, for example, collapse around the stem to form what could be a protective and supportive structure. The large, white flower opens in sunlight and closes at night. Come out to the park and we’ll show you this one in bloom! Naming this wildflower comes easy, as the roots and stem produce a reddish juice, which Native Americans used as a dye for clothing and paints.

Dutchman’s Breeches provide an unusually shaped flower. After examining the photo above, you’ll notice that the flower takes the form of a pair of upside down “breeches,” or pants, with a yellow “belt”. My fiance claims that they should be called “Dutchman’s Molars” due to their tooth-like appearance. I prefer either of its nicknames to the scientific name of Dicentra cucullaria. Whew!

Join us this coming Saturday, April 18, at 10:00A.M. for another look at the wildflowers of Braddock’s Trail. Bring a friend!

Early April Update 2015

Even this early in the season, there are many things to see at Braddock’s Trail Park. You may notice plants and animals coming to life in your own neighborhoods, and that’s certainly the case along the trails here.

Visitors to the park have reported sightings of Coltsfoot in bloom, which may look much like a “typical dandelion” to most people. Some main differences between the two flowers include leaf patterns and stem length. Coltsfoot is pictured below. You’ll find this flower near the main parking lot near the entrance to the park.

Coltsfoot - Flowers and Roots
Photo courtesy of Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

Some blooming Hepatica were also spotted near the newly constructed bridge near the old water fountain. Click here to visit the USDA Forest Service website and learn more about this plant. Braddock’s Trail features white and blueish varieties of the flower, pictured below.

Hepatica. Photo by Chris Federinko.
Hepatica. Photo by Chris Federinko.

You’ll find Spring Beauty and Harbinger of Spring blooming throughout the park as well. Narrow-Leaf Spring Beauty is pictured below, and is one of the park’s earliest bloomers.

Narrow-leaf Spring Beauty. Photo by Chris Federinko.
Narrow-leaf Spring Beauty. Photo by Chris Federinko.

The next wildflower walk is scheduled for Saturday, April 11 at 10:00A.M. Please call the North Huntingdon Township Parks and Recreation office at 724-863-3806. We hope to see you at the park!