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!

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 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!