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!

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!

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!