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.
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.
Yesterday I went birding with friends on Laurel Mountain near Spruce Flats Bog. The top of the mountain is always colder than Pittsburgh so the wildflowers bloom later or are specialists for the mountain’s climate zone. Here’s what was blooming on Memorial Day.
A patch of buttercups glowed in the sun while dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) bloomed in the shade, viewed from above and side.
Canada may-lily (Maianthemum canadense) is a native plant just 2-6″ tall that resembles lily-of-the-valley. A tiny spider draped this one in sticky filaments.
Lycopodium or tree groundpine is another “living fossil” that does not bloom as a flower. Instead it reproduces asexually via spores from the strobilis (cone) or sexually via underground gametes. The strobilis on this one is past its prime.
At top, bird bander David Yeany holds a recently banded female red-winged blackbird at Frick Park on Migratory Bird Day, 14 May 2022.
On 17 May we looked for warblers along Nine Mile Run’s boardwalk and found many black walnut flowers fallen on the railing.
I would have brushed this one away until I saw an insect hiding on it. Do you see the juicy caterpillar, below? This is warbler food!
In Schenley Park a carpenter ant examined fading pawpaw flowers that smell like rotten meat, if they smell at all. No rotting meat here. She left.
Mystery flower of the week was a non-native with thin basal leaves found blooming in the woods in Frick Park. How did star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum sp.), a native of southern Europe and southern Africa, get into the woods? Is it invading?
Trees with stacks of white flowers are drawing our attention this week in Pittsburgh. Perhaps you’re wondering “What tree is this? “
Horsechestnuts (Aesculushippocastanum) originated in Greece but have been planted around the world for their beautiful flowers. When fertilized the flowers become the familiar shiny buckeyes I played with as a child.
In Pittsburgh we call the tree a “buckeye” though it is just one of many buckeyes (Aesculus) in our area including natives of North America: yellow, Ohio, and bottlebrush.
A close look at horsechestnut flowers reveals that some have yellow centers, others red.
Bees see and are attracted to yellow, not red, so when a horsechestnut flower is fertilized it turns red. The flowers are …
Are there red flowers on the tree? Come back in early fall to collect the buckeyes.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
The first week of May was full of new flowers, leaves, birds and insects. Here are just a few of many sightings.
The ground in Schenley Park is dotted with abundant clusters of cream colored leafless flowers poking up like corn cobs beneath the oaks. Conopholis americana is a parasite on oak roots so we never see the plant itself, only the flowers. Fortunately it doesn’t harm the trees.
Formerly known as squaw root, Conopholis americana has many alternate common names. The accepted name now is “American cancer-root” but that sounds scary and can be misleading. I prefer “bear corn” because it looks like a corn cob and bears do eat it.
While the bear cone bloomed below them, the oaks flowered and leafed out above. This drew in migrating birds to eat the insects that hatch among the leaves.
May’s tiny green caterpillars are too small for me to photograph but here’s what they look like in June, munching on an oak leaf. This is warbler food!
At mid level in Schenley Park the pawpaws (Asimina triloba) opened their bell-like flowers.
Chickweed (Stellaria sp.) was a puzzle without my Newcomb’s Guide. Which one is this? To me the petals look too long for common chickweed, too short for great/star chickweed but the lower leaves have long stalks which says “common” to me.
Unfortunately yesterday’s gusty winds presaged today’s rain and colder temperatures for the week ahead. (Snow in the sky on Tuesday?!) The flowers at Raccoon may be delayed again.
Meanwhile weeds will not be phased by the change in weather. Look at the sidewalk’s edge to find bird’s-eye speedwell (Veronica persica), a native of Eurasia. I found this one near the feeders at Frick Park. Bird’s eye indeed!