Early Spring 2018

Our first walks of the season brought local residents and Boy Scouts from Troop 251 of Larimer. Special thanks to those young men for their interest in the park and their continued support of ongoing projects there. Their questions and enthusiasm made the afternoon an enjoyable one.

In the first few days of spring, snow gave way to the early risers of the plant kingdom. Many were found in the sunlit spots through the park where snow was scarce, but much of Braddock’s Trail remained a white blanket.

The snow melted quickly on this Saturday, and over the course of a few hours, the landscape changed dramatically as white turned to color. Let’s start with a new one to the blog. We don’t talk much about it because it doesn’t flower, but it’s a common sight as winter ends. Frequently called “onion grass” or “wild chive,” this plant makes its home in yards and wilderness alike. It’s completely edible, even its white, subterranean bulbs, and many use it as a garden chive substitute.

“Onion Grass”

Some of the first flowers to appear, and always near the parking lot are purple deadnettle and Persian speedwell. As Jack likes to point out, you don’t have to go far to see wildflowers. These two are commonly found in your own backyard.

Purple Deadnettle (top) and Persian Speedwell (bottom).
Narrow-leaf Spring Beauty

Narrow-leaf spring beauty (above) and harbinger of spring (below) are two of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the park. Only a handful were seen on this day. Late-season snowfall and cold temperatures have delayed their cycles.

Harbinger of Spring

Cutleaf toothwort is easily identified by its jagged leaves. Many were hiding in the snow, but none were in bloom. By the time this post is published, they’ll have opened with four-petaled white flowers.

Cutleaf Toothwort

One of our morning walk participants spotted these young bloodroot plants near the stream at the top of the waterfall. Not many of them have been seen at the park, but based on this new sighting, they seem to be doing well. They enjoy well-drained soils and streams, so this new foothold suits them perfectly. Large, white flowers open in sunlight, close at night, and are short-lived.

Bloodroot

A few light purple hepatica were spotted in their usual area across the footbridge. They’ll be gone by mid to late April, and are brilliant when fully open. Expect them to be gone soon!

Hepatica

Some honorable mentions this week, which were identified by leaf patterns, are Dutchman’s breeches, waterleaf, Virginia bluebell, chickweed, and jewelweed. Dutchman’s breeches will bloom soon if it hasn’t already, along with chickweed. Virginia bluebell will follow later in April, followed by waterleaf, and then jewelweed in early summer.

Clockwise from top left: Dutchman’s breeches, waterleaf, jewelweed, and chickweed.

Please join us for our second walk on Saturday, April 14 at 10:30 A.M.

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March 2017: Snow and Speedwell

March 9, 2017

With loads of snow in the forecast, it’s difficult to believe that the spring season is so close. For Braddock’s Trail Park, it’s already begun. Though our officially scheduled walks don’t start until April 8th, it’s not too early to visit the park to see some of our start-of-spring bloomers. Of that bunch, harbinger-of-spring claims to be the “bearer of warm weather” as its name suggests. Photos in this post were taken by Jack Boylan, including the one of harbinger-of-spring below.

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Harbinger-of-Spring

You’ll have to look closely for this little guy, as it tends to hide in leftover leaves, or this week’s snow, and has a short stem. Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee, Illinois, has some great shots of this flower.

The recent warm temperatures and sunshine have created an environment for other wildflowers to appear early, including purple deadnettle and Persian speedwell.

Purple Deadnettle (left) and Persian Speedwell (right).

Both of these flowers can be found as early as March, especially near the parking lot of the park. This location makes sense, as the deadnettle tends to grow in soils that have been disturbed by animals, weather, or in this case, humans. Our purple deadnettle also performs its germination period during the winter months, and may even bloom during warm stretches of winter weather like the one we’ve had. Persian speedwell is also a winter annual. It gets the “speedwell” part of its name from the tradition of giving departing sailors a bouquet of blue flowers and urging them to “speed well”.

One of the most brilliant wildflowers in the park is now blooming near the footbridge. Braddock’s Trail Park’s hepatica population is sparse, but worth the look. White, pink, purple, and even a bluish variety have been seen. They can be identified by looking for a hairy stem and three-lobed leaves. A pink one is pictured below.

 

Hepatica.

 

Speaking of photographs, we’d love to have yours featured on the blog! If you happen to capture an image at the park on any sort of digital camera, smartphones included, please send it to cfederinko@gmail.com. Maybe you’ll see it in a future post!

Our first scheduled walk of the season is Saturday, April 8 at 10:30 A.M. See you there!