Archive for April, 2011

BLOOMING PINXTERBLOOM AZALEA IN FULL BLOOM

Friday, April 29th, 2011

A NATIVE SHRUB IS BLOOMING.

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Rhododendron periclymenoides

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

This native shrub grows in the vicinity of the Overlook, the area where the Morris Park Road trail meets the upper trail, which connects Lotus road to Woodcrest Avenue.  The Overlook is a place of special importance, and it is no surprise that there is a fine display of  Rhododendron periclymenoides along the viewing area.  The high diversity of plant species growing in this special area is inspiring, considering the area also offers a view of center city Philadelphia in the wintertime.  This is a moist upland area, and for most of the year, all that can be seen and heard are trees rustling in the wind and a waterfall of the Indian Creek  80 feet below.  Breezes can be afforded in this spot even on hot summer days, that are stifling only a five minutes walk away into the adjacent urban neighborhoods.

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Nestled below a canopy of mature Beeches and Oaks, the shrub layer of Rhododendron periclymenoides can be seen going down the steep hillside, with blooming bushes visible down the hillside where it grows amidst Spicebush and Lowbush Blueberry, and American Chestnut, also a once grand tree that dominated the forest canopy now reduced to the height of a woodland shrub.

The Sanguine Root has been dragging the neighbors out to see the wild Azaleas, some of whom ask “Where are you taking me?” as we lead them further and further into the forest, which eventually opens out into the Overlook area. Any neighbor who shows any inclination of interest about the natural world of the park to the Sanguine Root is given a tour of interesting trees, shrubs and blooming flowers. Also the invasive plants are pointed out and discussed at length. The more the community can learn about the park, and feel that they know a few plants and trees themselves, the more pride they will feel, and the more connected they will be to the place. We are asked about the little umbrellas.  We answer that they are a native wildflower, they are Mayapples, which bloom in late April and early  May, and make a little “apple” that ripens and is edible after its ripe and is associated with the native Box Turtle.  (The turtle likes the ripened fruit, and it is a source of seed dispersal)

The large population of American Chestnut that grows in the area also has sparked the imaginations of many.  These small shrublike trees with exotic toothed leaves that grow to almost a foot in length grow abundantly in the moist upland areas along the Morris Park Road Path. Each specimen is most likely 10os of years old, the young shoots growing out of an ancient root system. 30 years ago, the vestiges of the original trunks could be excavated from the leaf litter, a circle of rotting wood around the spindly stem of the original tree, but even these remnants have since rotted away.  The roots are still alive, and are not affected from the chestnut blight, an introduced pathogen (Cryphonectria parasitica) carried into America from Asia, on an imported Chinese chestnut tree. The tree above is susceptible, and dies off every few years. the roots send up new shoots and the tree lives on in the form of a shrub.

The Chinese Chestnut tree is an exotic tree that has carried the Chestnut fungus, that has caused the blight that has all but destroyed the American Chestnut tree, and it is resistant to this fungus, and can grow just fine here in America. Here is an example of an imported, alien plant that is not invasive (at least yet). However, the damage it has cost to our forests is catostrophic and barely quantifiable, although attempts have been made at quantification.  When we talk about non-native introduced species to our neighbors, we often start with this one.

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

We are happy that the introduced azaleas into America have not brought a fungus that has blighted the beautiful native Azaleas so far.  This Pinxterbloom azalea is a source of nectar for the Monarch butterfly, for one.

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter-Bloom Azalea blooms in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Here is the view we have been talking about all this time. This picture, taken this morning, is from the Lookout.  At the very front, to the right, is the spindly specimen of the American Chestnut, Castenea dentata. To the immediate left is a rock, part of the Wissahickon Schist formation, a metamorphic rock, much in need of discussion.  To the left of the rock is a Rhododendron periclymenoides, the Pinxterbloom azalea, just growing on the rich upland hillside. On a balmy spring day, the Overlook is a happy place, with blooming Mayapples, and every tree and shrub leafing out.

Box turtle in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Box turtle in Morris Park, Philadelphia

On the way back from the visit with the Blooming Pinxterbloom azaleas in full bloom, this little muddy Box turtle was found. It had been somewhat hot in the past few days, and was due to rain in the afternoon.  Perhaps after keeping cool under the leaf litter, this one was ready for a shower. This one looks like it was under there for quite some time. Was it hibernating? Anyone want to chime in about this?

MAYAPPLES BLOOM IN MORRIS PARK

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

MAYAPPLES, PINXTER-BLOOM AZALEA, CORAL HONEYSUCKLE AND WILD GERANIUM ALL BLOOM WITH JUST A FEW DAYS APART. DOGWOOD STILL BLOOMING THROUGHOUT PARK

Mayapple in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Mayapple in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Look closely, underneath the double parasols can be found the waxy white flowers in full bloom.

Mayapple in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Mayapple in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Podophyllum peltatum

The Mayapple flowers have finally come to Morris Park.  These pictures were taken this afternoon after some April Showers. Once lowered down below the leaves, one can see the flowers, many as much as 2 inches across.  This is a time when many plants are blooming at once, so it is hard to keep up, or to remain focused on one flower like we have been doing with the Bloodroot.  The Mayapple flower can easily be overlooked because they bloom underneath the umbrella-like leaves.

Wild geranium in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Wild geranium in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Also this afternoon, this one Geranium maculatum was found blooming.  There will be more to come.

Coral Honeysuckle in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Coral Honeysuckle in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

The native honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is blooming. A huge effort has been undertaken to preserve this plant in Morris Park.  Some of the specimens were mistaken for the Lonicera japonica, the much more common and invasive exotic Japanese honeysuckle and were cut by a well-meaning person who was unaware of the native specimens and wanted to protect the young trees from the choking vines.   The two vines are very similar in appearance to the untrained eye. The Sanguine Root took immediate action after this unfortunate incident, and proceeded to carefully remove the Japanese honeysuckle from the entire area, much of  which was twining up the same tree as the native one!  This was a tedious process, but necessary to preserve the native Honeysuckle.  The above picture is our reward for all of the hard work.  While we generally avoid any kind of ribbons or tags in the park, there are some circumstances that require their use.  We have small pale -yellow ribbons identifying the plant, so that there will be no more mistaken identity in the future.

 

Pinxter bloom Azalea in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter bloom Azalea in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Rhododendron periclymenoides

Blooming Pinxter-bloom Azalea.  This is a great native shrub in the forest.  This specific specimen is the biggest we have ever seen. Hundreds of bright pink blooms!  There are a handful of these in the overlook area at the end of the Morris Park Road Trail.  We dote over them and make sure there are no invasives nearby.

Pinxter bloom Azalea in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Pinxter bloom Azalea in bloom, Morris Park, Philadelphia

Yeah, we also decided to go ahead and buy one for our yard, and they are available at native plant nurseries.

SWEETBRIAR VALE; WELCOME TO THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER VALLEY

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

IN WEST FAIRMOUNT PARK, JUST STEPS FROM MEMORIAL HALL, HOME OF THE PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM IN THE CENTENNIAL DISTRICT, IS A RICH RAVINE OF THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER. BLOOMING FLOWERS ABOUND IN THIS BEAUTIFUL HABITAT UNDER STRESS.

Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A rich ravine right here in Philadelphia.  Abundantly growing Mayapples are still holding on amidst the invasive exotic English Ivy (Hedera helix).

Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvani

Erythronium americanum, Trout lily, prepares to bloom in the Sweetbriar Vale.

Trout lilies,Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lilies, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Such a spectacular display of flowers.

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This one is being visited by a pollinating insect.  This moment is why the plant sent up a flower, so that insects would be attracted to it, and consume its nectar and ultimately the flower’s sticky pollen would be attached to the insect and brought to another flower, where it would be deposited and end up fertilizing the other flower.

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The vale is without any trails, so getting these shots required going along the tops of logs or stepping very carefully to avoid crushing any plants.

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

There is a small patch of the exotic invasive Japanese Knotweed growing here, pictured at the top left of this picture.  About 20 plants.  Some action was taken and the new canes were broken, which hopefully will slow them down enough until professional help can be secured to control this noxious pest.  The Japanese knotweed was growing next to the most lush patch of Mayapples and Trout lilies in the whole vale.

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It would be great if the English Ivy was removed, a job that must be done in the winter months or at least after the Spring Ephemerals go dormant.  The Sanguine Root does have a branch office in our locally and nationally designated historic Victorian house just a five minutes walk from the Sweetbriar  Vale in the Parkside neighborhood. Perhaps one day we could take on such a vital project of removing the English ivy. This is not a technically challenging restoration like many of the ones we are taking on in Morris Park.  The Ivy is just pulled up, bagged, and removed from the site.

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We are also happy that an introduced tree, the Chinese cedar or Chinese toon (Cedrela sinensis) is being removed from the vale thru an initiative of the Parks and Recreation Department of The City Of Philadelphia.  This tree was beginning to spread at an alarming rate. There are also some Norway maples that are being removed.

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Trout lily, Sweetbriar Vale, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With the Centennial District becoming a family destination, and with its close proximity to the Microsoft School Of The Future, this vale  could become a great way to display a Northeastern Deciduous Forest ecosystem to the general public and students. The potential of this vale to add to the Centennial District is great.   Currently it is used  by the general public as a bathroom for the recreation events that occur in the adjacent ballfields.

Parkside Neighborhood, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Parkside Neighborhood, West Fairmount Park-Centennial District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Historic Parkside neighborhood is the next door neighbor of Sweetbriar Vale.  This is where the Sanguine Root has a branch office. From where this picture was taken was the former site of the Main Exhibition Hall of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, an historic event that changed American culture and introduced many exotic species to the park, some of which have become problematic pests. The Centennial Exhibition introduced Japanese culture and art to the west, and Americans went wild, from the exotic patterns that found their way on wallpaper, to the exotic ornamental asian plants that found their way into the yards of the well-to do and eventually into the common nursery trade and ultimately into the remaining natural areas where they went wild and took over.    The wallpaper, however is truly exquisite, and can still be obtained from companies that have revived the original Japanesque patterns from old samples found on forgotten, covered-up corners in old houses.