Archive for the 'Phenology' Category

Jul 24 2016

Bladder Campion

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Bladder campion, 17 Jul 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bladder campion, 17 Jul 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

This unusual flower with a swollen calyx is blooming now in western Pennsylvania.  Though the plant stands two feet tall its bladder-like flowers weigh down the branches when it’s in full bloom.

Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) is a member of the Pink family (Caryophyllaceae) native to Eurasia.  It prefers to grow in waste places or sandy soil and is found as far north as Greenland and Alaska.  Some people call it a weed.

Why is it here?  Perhaps because its leaves and young shoots are eaten in some Mediterranean dishes.  Or because it’s pretty.

I found this one blooming by the side of the road at the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

 

p.s.  Sometimes the swollen calyx is pink as shown in this article from 2011 entitled Balloons.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Jul 23 2016

Now Blooming: Water Willow

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Water willow, Ohiopyle, July 2016 (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Water willow, Ohiopyle, July 2016 (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Here’s a plant you might not notice unless you walk to the water’s edge. Even then, it’s unremarkable from a distance because it looks like a clump of tall grass –> like this.

American water willow (Justicia americana) is the hardiest member of the tropical Justicia genus and the only one found in Pennsylvania. It likes to keep its feet wet so it typically grows on muddy shores or islands in creeks and rivers.

It’s always associated with water and its leaves resemble willows and so it got its name.

Water willow’s iris-like flowers are 1.5 inches across so they’re hard to see on a distant island.  However, I’ve found them on shore at Duck Hollow, in Slippery Rock Creek at McConnell’s Mill State Park and in Chartiers Creek at Boyce-Mayview wetlands.

In this weekend’s hot weather, check out the water’s edge.  Dianne Machesney found this one blooming at the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle.

 

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

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Jul 16 2016

Striped Wintergreen in the Woods

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Striped wintergreen, 2 July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Striped wintergreen, 2 July 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Striped wintergreen’s leaves can be found at any time of year but the plant only blooms from June to August.

The flowers hang like a chandelier from three branches on the main stem. Each flower resembles a lamp: five up swept white petals, paired anthers, and a bulbous green pistil (shown above).

You can tell the difference between striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) and its close relative Pipsissewa because wintergreen leaves are pointed, whorled and distinctly striped on the midrib.

Striped wintergreen (photo by Kate St. John)

Striped wintergreen (photo by Kate St. John)

Striped wintergreen is endangered in Canada, Illinois and Maine and exploitably vulnerable in New York.  I found this one in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Jun 28 2016

There’s A Lot Less Singing

Yellow warbler (photo by Chuck Tague)

Yellow warbler (photo by Chuck Tague)

It happens every year. By late June, birds are singing a lot less than they did a month ago. By mid July most birds are silent.

Find out why they stop singing in this article: Becoming Silent.

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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Apr 21 2016

Blooming This Week

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Early saxifrage, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 17 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Early saxifrage, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 17 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Wildflowers are blooming throughout the Pittsburgh area.  This week I traveled southeast and west to record their progress.

At Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve on April 17 the earliest flower — skunk cabbage — had disappeared among the plant’s large leaves.  Toad trillium (Trillium sessile), wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) and early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis) were open. White large-flowered trillium was not.  I found an interesting sedge but I don’t know its name.

Braddock’s Trail Park in Westmoreland County has a south-facing slope so it’s flowers were much further along than Raccoon, even though I visited a day later.  Small-flower crowfoot (Ranunculus micranthus), Canada violets (Viola canadensis) and rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) were in full bloom while blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna) carpeted the forest floor.  Trillium were already at their peak.  Dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) had just begun.

Click here or on the photo above for a slideshow of the flowers.  (Unfortunately the sun was so bright that it washed out the details of white flowers … I tried anyway.)

Look for wildflowers this weekend before the trees leaf out. Go north to see early flowers. Go south to see late blooms.

When the woods are in shade the flower party will be over.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Apr 16 2016

Buds Bursting

Horse chestnut bud bursting, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Horse chestnut bud bursting, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Last week’s cold weather was deadly for flowering trees but good for those still in bud.

A hard freeze on April 5 —  23 o F — wiped out the early-blooming trees in Schenley Park.  Most of the eastern redbuds had already flowered so Schenley’s redbud display this year is anemic.

On the other hand, buds that were closed 10 days ago are in good shape now.  On Wednesday I found a horse chestnut bud about to burst (above) and one with leaves and flower stack already emerged (below).

Horse chestnut leaves and flowers stack emerged from bud, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Horse chestnut leaves and flowers stack emerged from bud, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Even the hickories are getting into the act.

Mockernut hickory bud opening, Schenley Park, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Mockernut hickory bud opening, Schenley Park, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Check out your neighborhood for emerging leaves and flowers. Buds are opening fast in this weekend’s warm weather.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Apr 10 2016

Blue-Eyed Mary in Bloom

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Blue-eyed Mary blooming at Cedar Creek Park, 6 April 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Blue-eyed Mary blooming at Cedar Creek Park, 6 April 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

It’s cold this morning — and snowy for some of you — but when the weather improves you’ll find …

Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna) usually blooms in southwestern Pennsylvania from mid April to early May but we found it at Cedar Creek Park on Wednesday April 6.

This annual drops its seeds in summer, germinates seedlings in the fall, and overwinters to bloom in the spring.  It spreads by reseeding so you usually find it in patches — that look more green than blue from a distance.

Blue-eyed Mary patch at Cedar Creek Park, 6 April 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Blue-eyed Mary patch at Cedar Creek Park, 6 April 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Collinsia verna grows in woodlands with light to dappled shade and moist to mesic rich loamy soil.  Though the plant can be locally abundant, its habitat can be hard to find.  Blue-eyed Mary is endangered in New York and Tennessee.

Here are three places in southwestern Pennsylvania to see Blue-eyed Mary this month:

 

(photos by Donna Foyle)

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Apr 05 2016

What’s Outdoors in Early April?

Published by under Phenology

Yellow-throated warbler (photo by Chuck Tague)

Yellow-throated warbler (photo by Chuck Tague)

 

Spring started early but this week’s cold snap has put everything on “Pause.”  From 22 degrees above normal on March 31 to 7 degrees below normal on April 3, we’ve seen it all.

Despite that, this phenology of What to Look For in Early April should be a good one.

How much of the list did you see in March?

So much is yet to come!

 

p.s. Friends of mine saw yellow-throated warblers (pictured above) last weekend in Morrow-Pontefract Park, Edgeworth.

(photo of a yellow-throated warbler by Chuck Tague)

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Mar 30 2016

Too Early Spring

Published by under Phenology,Plants

Bloodroot gone to seed, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bloodroot gone to seed, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring is coming in fits and starts but mostly it’s coming too soon in southwestern Pennsylvania.

On Easter Day I took a walk at Cedar Creek Park in Westmoreland County and found native plants blooming two to three weeks ahead of schedule.  No wonder! It was 75 degrees F.

At top, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was already blooming. Some had gone to seed.

Spring beauties were everywhere. This Carolina spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) is identifiable by its wide leaves.

Spring beauty, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring beauty, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

The steep hillside known for snow trillium (Trillium nivale) …

Snow trillium, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Snow trillium, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

… was also hosting sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta), some of which were past their prime.

Sharp-lobed hepatica, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Sharp-lobed hepatica, Cedar Creek Park, 27 March 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Get outdoors as soon as you can!  Spring could pass you by.

 

p.s. The Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania is already alert to this early growing season.  They moved up their snow trillium outing from April 2 to March 20.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Mar 12 2016

Seen in Schenley Park This Week

Bud about to open. What shrub is this? (photo by Kate St. John)

Bud opening on 9 March 2016. What shrub is this? (photo by Kate St. John)

Flowers, birds, and too many deer, here are some sightings from Schenley Park in this week’s abnormally warm weather.

Red maples and American elms are blooming and bush honeysuckles are opening their leaves.

Above, these yellow flowers are beautiful on a large ornamental shrub but I can’t identify it.  Do you know what it is?

Below, our days are sometimes graced by a roosting eastern screech-owl.  I saw him on Thursday but he’s often not there.  Benjamin Haake was lucky to photograph him.

Eastern screech-owl, Schenley Park (photo by Benjamin Haake)

Eastern screech-owl, Schenley Park (photo by Benjamin Haake)

 

A decade ago deer were rare in Schenley Park but their population doubles every two to three years (yes, it doubles) and it’s taking its toll.  This week I walked by the golf course and noticed these arborvitae trees are naked from the ground to the height of a deer.  The browse line indicates there are now too many deer in Schenley Park — more than the land can support.

Arborvitae eaten to the browse line, Schnley Park Golf Course (photo by Kate St. John)

The browse line: Arborvitae eaten by too many deer at Schenley Park Golf Course (photo by Kate St. John)

 

And finally, this plant is blooming in Schenley but also in lawns and waste places.  From long experience I know it’s hard to identify (and photograph).  Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is a non-native that’s not in many field guides. Click here to learn more about it.

Hairy bittercress, 10 Mar 2016, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Hairy bittercress, 10 Mar 2016, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

 

(flower and tree photos by Kate St. John. Eastern screech-owl by Benjamin Haake)

p.s. Adam Haritan suggests that the yellow flower is Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). That’s what it looks like to me (Click the link to read more and see a similar photo.)

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