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!

Summer 2015

June 24, 2015

Summer visitors to the park can still enjoy a few varieties of flowers, but they can be found only in sunlit areas. These spots are limited due to the tree leaves forming a canopy that blocks much of the sunlight, so you’ll have some hunting to do.

If you own a garden or any bit of landscaping, you may fear the sight of this one. To the rest of you, it’s a beautiful addition to Pennsylvania roadways. Historically, Crown Vetch was brought to North America as a solution to soil erosion. The plant spreads rather quickly in many types of soils, and its roots are strong and widespread. Most ecologists admit that Crown Vetch is invasive and in many cases wildly out of control. Let’s keep an eye on this one around the park.

Crown Vetch.
Daisy-like Fleabane can be seen near the parking lot. This plant is identifiable by its hairy leaves and stems, and has a composite flower consisting of about 40 white petals in a radial pattern. According to historical reports, Fleabane was dried in bunches and used to banish fleas from homes. Approximately 200 species are known throughout the world.

Fleabane.
The prominent leaves of Jewelweed can be seen as early as April, and its bright yellow, lobed flowers bloom throughout June. Some know Jewelweed as “Touch-Me-Not,” a name that comes from its explosive seed pods. The oils from the stems and leaves of the plant have been known to treat ailments such as skin irritation.

Jewelweed (Pale Touch-Me-Not).
The odd flowers of Pennsylvania Smartweed are so tiny that you may miss them. Up close, they’re quite impressive but are difficult to spot at a distance. Smartweed is a common food source for ducks. Has anyone seen any ducks at Braddock’s Trail Park?

Pennsylvania Smartweed.
Some wild blackberries were spotted at the park. A few interesting facts from Huffington Post:

  • They can help create younger looking skin.
  • The leaves of the plant can be brewed for a cup of tea.
  • These berries can help with labor pains. Who knew?

Please be aware that other animals eat them. They’re “for the birds!”

Please check back in early March for the 2016 Wildflower Walk schedule, or subscribe to this blog by clicking the “Follow” button. See you in the spring!

Mid May 2015

May 9, 2015

Another great turnout this weekend as our spring wildflower tours come to a close. As the leaves on the trees develop and block essential sunlight from our wildflowers, we begin to see the end of the spring blooming season.

Dr. Jack Boylan summarized the group’s discoveries this weekend:

“Gone are the Harbinger of Spring, Hepatica, Bloodroot, Narrow Leaf Spring Beauty, Cutleaf Toothwort, Wild Ginger, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Squirrel Corn.  Starting to fade are Trillium, Virginia Bluebells and Blue-eyed Mary.  However, we did find in flower Buttercups, Waterleaf, May Apple, Solomon’s Seal, False Solomon’s Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Phlox, Dame’s Rocket, Sweet Sicily, Sedem and Bed Straw, along with the faithful Self Heal, Speedwell and Ground Ivy.”

It appears that we must wait until next year to see many of the park’s wildflowers. Thanks for your contribution, Dr. Boylan!

For some of the flowers mentioned above, you may find information and photos in earlier posts or in the Wildflower Gallery. Buttercup, Waterleaf, Dames Rocket, May Apple, and both varieties of Solomon’s Seal are featured below.

Common (Tall) Buttercup. Photo by Chris Federinko.

The scientific name for the Common Buttercup (above) is Ranunculus acris. The Latin word “acris” translates to the English word “acrid,” which refers to an unpleasant taste or smell. This sweet little flower apparently has an aggressive side, using the unappetizing juice within it to defend against hungry predators. You can find this flower near the parking lot. It’s difficult to miss.

Waterleaf. Photos by Chris Federinko.

Waterleaf is in full bloom along the main road and in patches throughout the park. The leaves have shed their “water spot” appearance and sport a pale purple, delicate flower. There are several varieties of Waterleaf throughout the country, but all consistently have hairy stems, flowers with five lobes, and similar leaf patterns.

May Apple. Photos by Chris Federinko.

Catch the May Apple (above) before the large, white flowers fade. The month of May will last for a few more weeks, but these wildflowers won’t. You’ll find them all over the park. Look underneath the adult plants with two leaves; the flower will appear where the stems form a “V”.

Dame’s Rocket. Photos by Chris Federinko.

The photos above feature Dame’s Rocket, which has popped up in colonies near the parking lot and along the main road. According to the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry‘s information on invasive plants, this wildflower’s spread across the country is contributed to its inclusion in garden seed mixes. It can be confused with Phlox, but has some distinct differences. Dame’s Rocket has a four-lobed flower whereas Phlox blooms with five.

Solomon’s Seal (top) and False Solomon’s Seal (bottom). Photos by Chris Federinko.

Though many of the plants in Braddock’s Trail Park carry stories and history, both varieties of Solomon’s Seal are particularly interesting, and connect with the symbolism and legends of King Solomon. Markings on the roots of these plants are similar to the “Seal of Solomon,” which is a six-pointed, star-like shape. The legend of King Solomon also contains tales of healing powers, and this wildflower has been known to have medicinal properties. The Royal Horticultural Society of Britain recognized Solomon’s Seal with its Award of Garden Merit.

“True” Solomon’s Seal and “False” Solomon’s Seal have a very similar build, with oval-shaped, paired leaves cascading down a long stem. You’ll find the main difference in the flower. “True” Solomon’s Seal flowers along the underside of the stem, whereas “False” Solomon’s Seal forms a cluster at the very tip of the plant.

Though we will not perform any guided tours for the remainder of the season, we encourage you to visit the park. Perhaps you’ll make some discoveries of your own. Thank you for reading, enjoy the summer months, and be sure to visit the park next spring for more adventures!

Early May 2015

May 2, 2015

Today’s walk brought a large crowd to Braddock’s Trail Park. I’m sure the sunlight and warmth had something to do with it as well. Though we’ll have to wait until next spring to see many of the wildflowers, participants in this walk were able to view the last of the bloomers.

The first of note you’ll find near the parking lot and along the main road through the park. Its greenish white flowers are unimpressive and inconspicuous, but the irritation this plant can cause is anything but subtle.

Stinging Nettle. Photo by Chris Federinko.

Stinging Nettle, pictured above, uses long hairs to distribute a “sting” to anyone brave enough to touch them. The University of California’s pest management website has more information on identification and other interesting facts about this plant.

Blue-eyed Mary. Photos by Chris Federinko.

One of the most impressive sights at Braddock’s Trail during the spring season carpets the ground around the trails. Blue-eyed Mary, which was featured in last week’s post, is flowering all over. Catch them before the leaves on the trees block the sunlight from reaching the forest floor.

May Apple. Photo by Chris Federinko.

Those umbrella shaped canopies that have developed in colonies around the park are called May Apple. These produce a small, green apple which can be toxic to humans. May Apple will produce a somewhat large white flower on the adult plants, which can be identified by their “double umbrella” appearance. Young, non-flowering plants have only one stem.

Kidney-leaf Buttercup. Photo by Chris Federinko.

Our wildflower crew was able to identify the tiny, yellow, star-shaped flowers in various areas of the park as Kidney-leaf Buttercup. Further research on this plant revealed that there are somewhere around 275 species of buttercup, which typically have the small, yellow flowers pictured above, but in different shapes and sizes. You’ll find more about this plant, including some interesting legends and stories, at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden website. Apparently, it’s the oldest public wildflower garden in the U.S.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Photo by Chris Federinko.

If you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss Jack-in-the-Pulpit. We found it loitering in a few random places, specifically along the fence near the waterfall, with one sighting near the top of the Eagle #1 Trail. This plant has an interesting hood-like formation to cover a central flower. It will grow red berries in the summer, and the roots can be dried or cooked and eaten.

Our last Wildflower Walk of the season is this Saturday, May 9, at 10:00A.M. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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!