Category Archives: Schenley Park

Jack O’Lanterns

Two Jack O’ Lanterns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Halloween!   It’s the day for pumpkin Jack O’ Lanterns.  Did you know there’s a mushroom by the same name?

On my bird walk in late September we found these jack o’ lantern mushrooms near the Schenley Park golf course.

Jack O’Lantern mushroom, Schenley Park, 30 Sept 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Jack O’ Lanterns (Omphalotus illudens) are common mushrooms east of the Rocky Mountains and are often found in urban settings.  Typical of their species, these were sprouting from an old stump.  Though they resemble edible chanterelles, jack o’ lanterns are poisonous and cause vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.  

Reference guides say that jack o’ lantern’s gills glow in the dark but this must be hard to see.  The Mushroom Expert says he’s wasted three hours of his life trying to see them glow without any success.

We found these mushrooms on 30 September and took a lot of photos. There were so many mushrooms!

On 1 October I walked past the stump and the mushrooms were gone.  Someone must have thought they were chanterelles, got greedy, took them all … and got sick.

Now that’s scary!

p.s.  It’s illegal to remove mushrooms from City parks, even for personal use.  Check the Western PA Mushroom Club’s Mushroom Picking Rules & Regulations in PA for places where it’s allowed.

(pumpkin photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original. mushroom photo by Kate St. John)

The Same Invasive

Porcelain-berry, intricate leaves, October 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

There are many varieties of porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) in the Pittsburgh area.  Most have maple-shaped leaves (below), but I occasionally find the intricate leaves showcased above.

Porcelain-berry, maple-shaped leaves, October 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

No matter the variety, you can identify them in October by their porcelain-like berries.

Porcelain berry (photo by Jonathan Nadle)

Unfortunately, Ampelopsis is invasive. When you see Pittsburgh hillsides engulfed like this, it’s probably porcelain-berry.  This hill is along Pocusset in Schenley Park.

Porcelain-berry drapes a hillside in Schenley Park, September 2013 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photo of berries by Jonathan Nadle, all other photos by Kate St. John)

Stinky Fruit

Ginkgo tree with fruit, October in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

It’s time to tiptoe on the sidewalk at Flagstaff Hill.  The female ginkgo trees are dropping their smelly fruit on Schenley Drive. 

Ginkgo fruit on the sidewalk at Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Ginkgo fruit smells like stinky feet or vomit but the nuts inside are edible.

On Throw Back Thursday, learn about ginkgos in this 2011 article: Stinkbomb Tree.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Hanging Out in Schenley Park

Praying mantis in the meadow at Beacon Street (photo by Steve Tirone)

Last Sunday, October 7, it felt like summer when Steve Tirone and I went looking for Armillaria in Schenley Park.  We didn’t find any honey mushrooms but Steve found an amazing insect along the Beacon-Bartlett meadow trail.

This praying mantis (possibly Tenodera sinensis) was not alone. When we paused to take photographs, we saw another mantis perched nearby and a third one flew away from us.  Gigantic flying bug!

Fall is mating time for praying mantises. The adults will die but their egg masses will survive the winter.  Here’s what the egg sac looks like. Don’t take one home until you’ve read these Praying Mantis Egg Sac instructions. They will hatch in your house!

Praying Mantis egg mass (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Last weekend was a busy time for praying mantises, hanging out in Schenley Park.

(photo by Steve Tirone)

What Made This Tree Fall?

Three Duquesne Light trucks at fallen oak on Bartlett Street, Schenley Park, 30 Sept 2018, 6:40pm (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday morning this oak was intact as we searched it for warblers in Schenley Park.  Last evening three Duquesne Light trucks were parked below it, fixing the wires it hit when a big chunk fell on Bartlett Street.

Here’s what broke (photo below). Most of the tree still stands but I wouldn’t be surprised if DPW chops it down now that it “misbehaved.”

Oak branch broke and fell on Bartlett Street, Schenley Park, 30 Sept 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

This is not the only 100-year-old oak that’s fallen in the park in recent weeks.  This oak fell across the Falloon Trail in July …

Oak tree fallen across the Falloon Trail, 18 July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

… and this one fell last week at the edge of Overlook Drive.

Oak down on Overlook Drive, Schenley Park, 30 Sept 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

None of the crashes were caused by strong wind. The trees just broke and fell.  The Fallon and Overlook trees had root rot, caused by Armillaria fungus. (See below for more on the Bartlett tree.)

You can see it inside this fallen trunk: black sheets of old Armillaria and white sheets of mycelium, the new growth, in the center.

Root rot inside fallen oak, black Armillaria rot and white mycelium (photo by Kate St. John)

If this stump was damp on a warm, very dark night (impossible in Schenley Park) the fungus would glow in the dark — a phenomenon called foxfire.

We usually don’t know that a tree is infected but the fungus will give us a hint this month.  Armillaria produces fruit in autumn that we call honey mushrooms.  (Here’s a USDA photo of one species, Armillaria tabescens.)

Armillaria tabescens at the base of a young oak (Theodor D. Leininger, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

If you find honey mushrooms at the base of a tree, that tree is infected.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of Armillaria in Schenley Park.  I’ll look for mushrooms this month to find out who’s in trouble.

NEWS about the Bartlett tree: The branch that fell on Bartlett Street was hollow — probably not Armillaria but it was bad nonetheless.  Here’s a photo of the thickest part of the branch after it was chopped up.

Inside of hollow branch that fell on Bartlett Street, 30 Sept 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

p.s.  Yes there are mushrooms in the city parks but it’s illegal to harvest them, even for personal use.

(Schenley Park tree photos by Kate St. John. mushroom photo by Theodor D. Leininger, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

Today in Schenley Park, Sept 30

At the end of the hike, I forgot to tell everyone to smile (photo by Kate St. John)

Despite the Great Race road closures, eleven of us met at Bartlett Shelter this morning for a walk in Schenley Park.  The air was chilly but the birding was good because the north wind brought us new migrants.

I took the group photo, above, at the end of the walk because we were distracted from the start. There were warblers in the trees above us! Cape May, Black-throated Green, Magnolia and Blackpoll.  

Ultimately we saw 23 species + an unidentifiable flycatcher (listed as Empidonax sp).  We were surprised to find no thrushes or sparrows so we crossed the road beyond our cars to find two song sparrows at the end. Still no thrushes other than robins.

Best find for the day: Mushrooms!  My favorite was spectacularly orange but I’m saving it for late October.

And here’s another mushroom. Do you know what it is?  (I don’t remember.)

Thanks to all for coming out today.  My last scheduled walk for the year will be on October 28 at Duck Hollow.

p.s. Here’s today’s bird list on eBird https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48840859

(photos by Kate St. John)

Schenley Park Outing: September 30, 8:30a

Chipmunk (photo by Cris Hamilton)

At the end of September the weather’s fine and there’s plenty to see outdoors.  Goldenrod and asters are blooming but everything else has gone to seed, fruit, and nuts.  This is great news for chipmunks.

Join me for a bird and nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, September 30, 8:30a – 10:30a.

Meet at Bartlett Shelter on Bartlett Street near Panther Hollow Road. We’ll see birds, fall flowers, fruits, seeds, acorns and busy chipmunks.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.

Before you come, visit my Events page in case of changes or cancellations.

Hope to see you there!

(photo by Cris Hamilton)

Who’s Hiding Here?

Hiding on white snakeroot, dead or alive? (photo by Kate St. John)

A very large bug is hidden on this white snakeroot stem in Schenley Park.

These facts from Wikipedia describe my guess at the species:

  • It’s a predatory bug that eats mostly insects but has been known to eat hummingbirds as well.
  • It will eat its own species if one gets too close.
  • It’s native to China, Japan, Korea, Micronesia and Thailand.
  • It was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in 1896 by a nurseryman in Mt. Airy, PA near Philadelphia.  It’s now found throughout the Northeast.
  • This species is a popular pet for insect enthusiasts.
  • It normally looks like this.

I’ve never seen this particular insect perched in this position so I wondered if it was dead. I didn’t want to touch it to find out.

(photo by Kate St. John)

Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) praying mantis

Pale Beauty

Pale beauty moth touching my toe in Schenley Park, 29 Aug 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

My toe isn’t beautiful but the moth is.  His name is Pale Beauty (Campaea perlata).

When I tried to take his picture in Schenley Park on August 29, the moth landed on my sandal and touched my toe with his foot. Since butterflies and moths taste with their feet he (or she) must have been tasting my toe.  Oh!

Pale beauty moths are generalists whose larvae feed on a wide variety of trees including ash, (black)cherry, maple, beech and oak.

Schenley Park is full of these trees.  Pale beauty is right at home.