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!

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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!

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!