Late Spring 2017

Blog posts have been sparse this year – I apologize for that – but activity at Braddock’s Trail Park has not! Dozens of nature enthusiasts gathered for Dr. Jack Boylan’s talks on Saturday mornings again this spring, and they were not disappointed. We hope you made it to at least one Wildflower Walk this season. If not, there are plenty of late spring flowers left and some summer bloomers beginning to show. Please take some time to look for those on your own, and be sure to mark your calendars to sign up for a walk in April 2018.

Already done flowering for the season are Garlic Mustard, Common Winter Cress (Wild Mustard), Waterleaf, Dame’s Rocket, Phlox, May Apple, Virginia Blue Bells, Red and White Trillium, Great Solomon’s Seal, False Solomon’s Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wild Ginger, and others. You’ll still find Dandelion, Purple Deadnettle, Ground Ivy, and several more. Please find photos of these flowers in the gallery or view previous posts.

IMG_9455
Dame’s Rocket.
It’s hard to believe that Dame’s Rocket (above) has been labeled as Public Enemy No. 2 by Michigan’s botanical experts. Braddock’s Trail has a few dazzling varieties of this wildflower: deep pinks to white, and some cross-pollinated mixes.

IMG_9458
Dame’s Rocket.
Pennsylvania Bittercress (below) is edible and often used in salads, like many plants in the mustard family. There are over 3,700 species in this plant family (Brassicaceae), including Braddock’s Trail’s Dame’s Rocket and Common Winter Cress. Broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and radish are also in this group. The long pods you’ll see as Bittercress bears fruit are called “silique”.

IMG_9464
Pennsylvania Bittercress.
Waterleaf (below) is on its way out, but it’s certainly a sight around the park in late spring, especially along the main roadway before Stinging Nettle and Jewelweed take over that area.

IMG_9462
Waterleaf.
Stinging Nettle can be a monster for those who encounter it, as the tiny hairs can cause severe skin irritation. Question Mark butterflies, named for the pattern on the underside of their wings, find this plant rather useful, as adults lay eggs on nettles, and caterpillars use them as food. Humans also have uses for Stinging Nettle, many of them medicinal. Treating painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia are among those uses.

IMG_9476
Stinging Nettle and Question Mark butterfly.
If you see a White Violet like the one below, but with a spread of purple on the underside of the flower, that is a Canadian White Violet. Braddock’s Trail seems to have both varieties. This white flower represents the willingness to take chances with happiness, and the park also has yellow and purple. These flowers like shade, so you’ll find them through the trails and out of open spaces.

IMG_9466
White violet.
Please visit the pet-friendly park over the next few months to view the summer wildflowers. A picnic area is available near the parking lot with scenic lookouts at the top of the hill on the left side of the main road. Don’t forget to explore the waterfall and all of the trails.

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!

Late April Update 2015

April 25, 2015

With our largest turnout of the season, we braved this chilly Saturday morning, and our effort paid off!

Jack and Sandy Boylan leading the crew across the footbridge.

Yellow, Purple, and White Violets. Photos by Chris Federinko.
The park features three varieties of Violet, pictured above, and we were able to see all three this morning. Purple and yellow can be seen scattered through the park, but the only sighting of the white species was near the waterfall. Dr. Boylan pointed out that the underside of this White Violet is a purple color, and is actually a Canadian Violet. This type of Violet is not only rare in Braddock’s Trail, but it has also found its way into a few state-specific endangered species lists.

Bedstraw. Photo by Chris Federinko.
Bedstraw (above), also known as Goosegrass, Cleavers, or Stickywilly, has historical significance like many other plants in the park. Lacking modern mattresses and pillows, early pioneers used Bedstraw to stuff their bedding. It could be gathered easily because of its “sticky” properties. Notice the Velcro-like hairs on the leaves and stem. These latch together and allowed settlers to collect large quantities and transport them back to the homestead. Varieties of the Bedstraw sport tiny white flowers.

Trout Lily. Photos by Chris Federinko.
Trout Lily gets its name from the pattern on its leaves, which apparently mimic the design on our state fish, the Pennsylvania Brook Trout. Some also refer to it as a Dogtooth Violet, though it is not related to the violet family. A large, yellow flower hangs from a long stem. Only a small percentage of these plants actually bloom. Like May Apple, which we’ll feature next month, Trout Lily splits to two leaves in the adult plant. The younger, underdeveloped, single-leaf plants do not flower, and many can be found near marker #3.

Wild Ginger. Photos by Chris Federinko.
We got a better look at the Wild Ginger this week, which has an odd flower that hides close to the ground. It’s pictured above. Thanks for the hand modeling help, Gina! Join us next week and Sandy will show you where to find this plant.

Virginia Bluebells. Photos by Chris Federinko.
Taking the narrow path to the left of the footbridge will lead you toward the Virginia Bluebells. The small, pinkish flowers will eventually open and turn blue. You can see that change in the photo above. They prefer a wet but well-drained soil, which is probably why you can find them at the bend of the stream. If you’re a country fan, Miranda Lambert has a song named after this wildflower.

Blue-Eyed Mary. Photos by Chris Federinko.
The most visible wildflower in the park at the end of April through the first two weeks of May is the Blue-Eyed Mary. You’ll find these little guys everywhere, and if viewed from far away, they may take on the appearance of a blanket of snow. Most are blue, with some blooming in a pink or purple. A study produced several years ago claimed that Braddock’s Trail Park contains the second largest population of Blue-Eyed Mary in Western Pennsylvania. More to come on that interesting research.

Squirrel Corn, Red and White Trillium, Self-Heal, Ground Ivy, and others are also flowering at this time. We’ll feature Trillium next week along with Phlox and Solomon’s Seal.

Join us in the parking lot on Saturday, May 2, at 10:00A.M. for our next Wildflower Walk.