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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Late March 2017

According to the calendar, it’s officially spring. Snow seems to have made way for rain, but only some of the plants are appreciating the change. Meteorological spring hasn’t quite caught up, and the cold weather has most flowers “sleeping”. Many of the wildflowers you’ll view later in the season are readily seen around the park. It’ll just take some time for them to bloom.

Despite the bleak forecast on this particular day, harbinger-of-spring was still seen flowering in many areas. Narrow-leaf spring beauty, pictured below with harbinger-of-spring, was not yet on display but can be identified by long, thin leaves spreading from the base of the plant. If it’s not flowering right now, it will be within days, and it’s a must-see.

Narrow-leaf spring beauty (top) and harbinger-of-spring (bottom).

A few pink hepatica plants can be spotted near the footbridge. Under better conditions, the hairy stems will straighten to support rather large white to deep lavender flowers. Hepatica have a fairly short flowering period compared to other wildflowers at the park, so be sure to look for these over the next two weeks. It’s a BTP fan favorite.

Hepatica.


The main road through the park is a perfect place to spot a few other native plants. It’s a great time to see stinging nettle and waterleaf before they mature. Stinging nettle looks a little dangerous up close, and it can cause skin irritation. Waterleaf is easily found as a young plant with leaf colorations that appear as “water spots”. We’ll monitor these two as the season continues.

Stinging nettle (top) and waterleaf (bottom).

Remember, you can access more information about the plants in this post by using the monthly categories on this page, or by using the search option.

A dedication ceremony for the bench in memory of Warren Gardner is scheduled for Thursday, April 27 at 4:45. If you choose to help us honor his memory, please arrive in the parking lot by 4:30. Our first wildflower walk of the season begins at 10:30 A.M. on Saturday, April 8.

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!

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!

Early Season 2016

A walk through Braddock’s Trail Park on the first Saturday of “wildflower season” provided a look at some early bloomers and a preview of things to come! Unfortunately, the Saturday, April 9th walk was cancelled due to some unusually cold weather. Many wildflowers have begun flowering ahead of schedule because of some warm days in late March:

  • Harbinger of Spring is done flowering, one of our earliest.
  • Hepatica is on its way out. With the cold weather recently, it may be lost until next season.
  • The most impressive Virginia Bluebell are starting to flower. Catch them while you can!
  • Dutchman’s Breeches will be out in full force soon.
  • The park’s huge population of Blue-eyed Mary is flowering ahead of schedule. They’ll soon blanket most of the area.
  • May Apple, Trillium, Bloodroot, Solomon’s Seal, and Trout Lilly are probably a week or two away from flowering.
  • Growing, but far from blooming are Waterleaf, Stinging Nettle, and Jewelweed.
  • The “fraternal twins” Coltsfoot and Dandelion are around. As we know, Dandelion will outlast his brother into the summer.
  • Self-Heal and Ground Ivy can  be found in grassy areas near the parking lot in abundance.

Special thanks to Dr. Jack  Boylan for these notes.

Our April 16th walk will prove to be an exciting one, and many have already signed up. See you on the trail!

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!

Mid May 2015

May 9, 2015

Another great turnout this weekend as our spring wildflower tours come to a close. As the leaves on the trees develop and block essential sunlight from our wildflowers, we begin to see the end of the spring blooming season.

Dr. Jack Boylan summarized the group’s discoveries this weekend:

“Gone are the Harbinger of Spring, Hepatica, Bloodroot, Narrow Leaf Spring Beauty, Cutleaf Toothwort, Wild Ginger, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Squirrel Corn.  Starting to fade are Trillium, Virginia Bluebells and Blue-eyed Mary.  However, we did find in flower Buttercups, Waterleaf, May Apple, Solomon’s Seal, False Solomon’s Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Phlox, Dame’s Rocket, Sweet Sicily, Sedem and Bed Straw, along with the faithful Self Heal, Speedwell and Ground Ivy.”

It appears that we must wait until next year to see many of the park’s wildflowers. Thanks for your contribution, Dr. Boylan!

For some of the flowers mentioned above, you may find information and photos in earlier posts or in the Wildflower Gallery. Buttercup, Waterleaf, Dames Rocket, May Apple, and both varieties of Solomon’s Seal are featured below.

Common (Tall) Buttercup. Photo by Chris Federinko.

The scientific name for the Common Buttercup (above) is Ranunculus acris. The Latin word “acris” translates to the English word “acrid,” which refers to an unpleasant taste or smell. This sweet little flower apparently has an aggressive side, using the unappetizing juice within it to defend against hungry predators. You can find this flower near the parking lot. It’s difficult to miss.

Waterleaf. Photos by Chris Federinko.

Waterleaf is in full bloom along the main road and in patches throughout the park. The leaves have shed their “water spot” appearance and sport a pale purple, delicate flower. There are several varieties of Waterleaf throughout the country, but all consistently have hairy stems, flowers with five lobes, and similar leaf patterns.

May Apple. Photos by Chris Federinko.

Catch the May Apple (above) before the large, white flowers fade. The month of May will last for a few more weeks, but these wildflowers won’t. You’ll find them all over the park. Look underneath the adult plants with two leaves; the flower will appear where the stems form a “V”.

Dame’s Rocket. Photos by Chris Federinko.

The photos above feature Dame’s Rocket, which has popped up in colonies near the parking lot and along the main road. According to the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry‘s information on invasive plants, this wildflower’s spread across the country is contributed to its inclusion in garden seed mixes. It can be confused with Phlox, but has some distinct differences. Dame’s Rocket has a four-lobed flower whereas Phlox blooms with five.

Solomon’s Seal (top) and False Solomon’s Seal (bottom). Photos by Chris Federinko.

Though many of the plants in Braddock’s Trail Park carry stories and history, both varieties of Solomon’s Seal are particularly interesting, and connect with the symbolism and legends of King Solomon. Markings on the roots of these plants are similar to the “Seal of Solomon,” which is a six-pointed, star-like shape. The legend of King Solomon also contains tales of healing powers, and this wildflower has been known to have medicinal properties. The Royal Horticultural Society of Britain recognized Solomon’s Seal with its Award of Garden Merit.

“True” Solomon’s Seal and “False” Solomon’s Seal have a very similar build, with oval-shaped, paired leaves cascading down a long stem. You’ll find the main difference in the flower. “True” Solomon’s Seal flowers along the underside of the stem, whereas “False” Solomon’s Seal forms a cluster at the very tip of the plant.

Though we will not perform any guided tours for the remainder of the season, we encourage you to visit the park. Perhaps you’ll make some discoveries of your own. Thank you for reading, enjoy the summer months, and be sure to visit the park next spring for more adventures!