Category Archives: Phenology

Seen This Week

Biennial gaura, Hays Woods, 7 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

10 September 2022

Hays Woods showed off its flowers and insects during our visit to Nick Liadis’ birding banding project on Wednesday.

Biennial gaura (Gaura biennis) and honeysuckle vine were both blooming in pink. Interestingly, gaura flowers bloom white and fade to pink, while this non-native honeysuckle starts pink and fades to white and then yellow.

Don’t be fooled by the camera’s perspective. Gaura flowers are very small compared to honeysuckle.

Non-native honeysuckle vine, Hays Woods, 7 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

A Virginian tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica or yellow woolly bear) hung out on mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), a very common and invasive plant at Hays Woods.

Virginian tiger moth, Hays Woods, 7 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Another invasive, Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), blooms profusely at Hays Woods. Many insect pollinators love the flowers.

Japanese knotweed in bloom, 3 Sep 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

Late August Colors

Squash blooming at the maintenance heap in Frick Park, 27 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

3 September 2022

Late August colors came in orange, yellow, purple, gray and green in Frick Park and Moraine State Park.

Above, squash(*) blooms on a fence in Frick.

Yellow daisies without petals are actually tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), native to Eurasia.

Tansy blooming at Frick Park, 25 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

The deep purple of New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is never true to color in my cellphone photos. Instead it looks redder than expected because the Pixel 5 Photo app apparently overcompensates for the camera’s blue bias. All cameras have problems with purple, described in this vintage article: Not Truly Blue.

Ironweed blooming at Moraine State Park, 26 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

This velvety bright orange mushroom in Frick deserved a photo on 25 August. Jim Chapman re-found it the next day and identified it as northern cinnabar polypore (Trametes cinnabarina, a.k.a. Pycnoporus cinnabarinus). By then it was already darker orange than this.

Cinnabar polypore, Frick Park, 25 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Insects specialize on their own host plants. False sunflowers have red aphids. Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) has gray ones.

Wingstem with gray aphids, Frick Park, 25 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

And everywhere in late August there is green.

(*) Did you know that zucchini, pumpkin, summer squash and pattypan squash are all cultivars of Curcubita pepo? The plant pictured at top seems to be producing pattypan squash.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Flowers and Seeds

Wingstem from bud to seed, Schenley Park, 3 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

6 August 2022

By early August many flowers have already produced seeds. Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) above displays every step in the process: buds, new flowers, fading flowers and seed packets.

The three-flanged seed pods of American wild yamroot (Dioscorea villosa) are as distinctive as its pleated leaves.

American wild yamroot leaves and seeds, Jennings 29 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) now has both seed pods and flowers (seeds in shadow at left). This alien plant is easy to find in Schenley Park because it is toxic to deer.

Greater celandine with seeds in the background, Schenley Park, 3 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) is much harder to find because it is ravaged by the large deer herd.

Yellow jewelweed. no seed in the picture, Schenley Park, 30 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

If this flower evades the deer it will turn into a seed pod that bursts explosively when ripe.

Seed pod on yellow jewelweed, Schenley Park, August 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

Wrapping Up July

St. John’s wort on the South Side, 17 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

30 July 2022

Wrapping up July …

St. John’s wort’s yellow flowers always attract my attention because the plant shares my name. Find out what’s in the name in this vintage article from 2012.

This month I learned that chicory flowers (Cichorium sp) last only one day. On a foggy morning I found this one, barely open and doomed to wilt by afternoon. Learn more at #bioPGH Blog: Chicory, Dickory, Dock – The Flowers are on the Clock.

Chicory opening on a cloudy morning, Schenley Park, 22 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

We had several spectacular sunrises in July, especially this on the 17th.

Dawn on 17 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Soon we’ll say good morning to August.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Seen This Week and Last

Deptford pink, Butler County, 10 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

16 July 2022

Flowers are blooming, fruits are ripening and the sky has been spectacular. Here are just a few things seen outdoors this week and last.

  • Deptford pink’s (Dianthus armeria) small flower, at top, is worth a closer look. Native to Europe it does well in North America but is disappearing from the UK.
  • Enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea canadensis) was in bloom last week in Schenley Park, shown below.
Enchanter’s nightshade in bloom, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
  • Spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is blooming in Butler County. This plant goes by several names including “striped wintergreen.” Here’s why it is not pipsissewa.
Spotted wintergreen, Butler County, PA, 10 July 2022
  • Wineberry fruits (Rubus phoenicolasius) are ripening in Frick Park. This shrub was introduced from Asia as breeding stock for Rubus cultivars in 1890 but it grows so vigorously that it’s now invasive in Pennsylvania. Unlike native raspberries, wineberries are sticky to the touch. They taste well enough when you eat them in the woods but are boring on cereal. I tried.
Wineberry, Frick Park, 14 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
  • Bottlebrush buckeye flowers were at their peak last week in Schenley Park. This closeup shows the feathery stamens.
Bottlebrush buckeye, closeup of flower, 8 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
  • And finally, we’ve had some spectacular sunrises in the past two weeks. A deep blue sunrise on Wed 6 July (below) and a fiery orange one on the 8th. Click here to see the fiery sunrise.
Sunrise in Pittsburgh, July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

By The 4th Of July

Cornfield in early July in Ontario (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4 July 2022

Some Rules of Thumb for Nature are timed “by the 4th of July.” Here are three. Can you think of more?

Corn is knee high by the 4th of July. Or at least it should be. This year in Minnesota there was worry that it might not come true. KARE 11 in Minneapolis reports:

Native rhododendrons bloom by 4th of July in the Laurel Highlands. Cultivated rhododendrons bloom in May because they’ve been bred to do so.

Rhododendron blooming, Fern Cliff, Ohiopyle, 1 July 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Most songbirds stop singing around the 4th of July. Others will follow this month.

Baltimore oriole (photo by Steve Gosser)

Birds sing to attract mates and maintain their nesting territories. Those that migrate to Central and South America are on such a tight schedule that they finish nesting and stop singing by early to mid July. Song sparrows, robins, and cardinals are still singing because they have new nests this month.

When is the last time you heard a Baltimore oriole sing? For that matter, when did you last see one? He won’t leave until September but he is far more discreet than he was in May.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, Kate St. John and Steve Gosser)

Catnip, Fleabane, Mullein and More

Catnip in bloom, Duck Hollow, 28 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

2 July 2022

Seen this week at Duck Hollow, listed in photo order:

  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is in bloom (at top). No cats were present but plenty of dogs walked by. The Duck Hollow trail is popular with dog-walking services.
  • Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is 5-6 feet tall now with a spike of yellow flowers.
  • Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is a much more delicate plant than common mullein.
  • Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) cast petal-shadows on its disks as it opened in the morning sun.
  • Leaf miners are active now, making squiggles inside the leaves. (I don’t know the identity of the leaves pictured below.)
  • Teasel (Dipsacus sp.) hasn’t bloomed yet but it is getting close.
Common mullein in bloom, Duck Hollow, 28 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Moth mullein, Duck Hollow, 28 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Fleabane opening in morning sun, Duck Hollow, 28 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Teasel not quite blooming yet, Duck Hollow, 28 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

I heard ravens calling in the distance while I took these pictures. Woo hoo!

(photos by Kate St. John)

Seen This Week

Honewort at Conemaugh Trail, Indiana County, 20 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

25 June 2022

This week was pleasant, then hot, and always buggy in the woods. A few flowers were blooming and berries are ripening.

  • Honewort’s (Cryptotaenia canadensis) tiny flowers are blooming in both Washington and Indiana Counties. The plant at top was along the Conemaugh Trail, site of the lone and rare Swainson’s warbler which was heard but not seen. More mosquitoes than flowers.
  • Forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.)
  • A rock made of sand and swamp lines. Since this is a landscaping rock I doubt it originated in Schenley Park where I found it.
  • Indian hemp / dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) is blooming in Frick Park.
  • White mulberries (Morus alba) are ripe and ready to eat.
Forget-me-not, Conemaugh Trail, 20 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Click on the image below to see a photo of the entire rock.

A rock made of sand and swamp lines, Schenley Park, 24 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Indian hemp in bloom, Frick Park, 23 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Click on the fruit photo below to see the branch where this mulberry came from in Frick Park.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Revisiting Cow Parsnip

Kate stands next to cow parsnip at Mingo Creek County Park, 1 June 2013 and 18 June 2022 (photos by Dianne Machesney)

23 June 2022

Last Saturday the Wissahickon Nature Club celebrated its 80th Anniversary with a picnic at Mingo Creek County Park. We always come early and take a hike before lunch, the same hike every time.

As we walked the trail we encountered cow parsnip whose identity I had forgotten yet again. When Dianne Machesney reminded me of its name I remembered blogging about it after another Wissahickon picnic. When was that? 2013!

In the two photos above I am standing next to cow parsnip at Mingo Creek on 1 June 2013 (left) and 18 June 2022 (right).

I have aged in nine years but some things are the same. I’m still using the same binoculars and walking stick and I’m wearing the same pants and shirt, unseen under the jackets. (My hiking clothes are rugged.)

This year’s cow parsnip is shorter than the one we found nine years ago and it has gone to seed, perhaps because we came 2.5 weeks later or because climate change has advanced it.

Learn about cow parsnip, including a lively discussion about its downsides. And no, cow parsnip is not the same at giant hogweed!

See more photos and our list of sightings at Wissahickon Nature Club: Trip Report Mingo Creek County Park June 18, 2022

(both photos by Dianne Machesney)

A Few Flowers Last Week

Chicory with fly, Schenley Park, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

19 June 2022

Wildflowers bloom in two spurts in southwestern Pennsylvania: Woodland wildflowers in April before leaf out, “field” flowers in July-August after the solstice.

May and June are practically flowerless except for a few non-natives blooming in Schenley Park last week. Some are invasive. They thrive because deer don’t eat them.

Greater celandine already going to seed, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Canada thistle going to seed, Schenley Park, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)
Goutweed, Schenley Park, 15 June 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)