Summer 2017

As the days get 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.

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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!

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!