SILVER MAPLE AT VALLEY FORGE

Today, the adventure was to find Lobelia cardinalis, the Red Lobelia or Cardinal Flower, just growing in its natural habitat, perhaps along the banks of the Schuylkill River, where it has yet to be found. We set out to Valley Forge Historical Park, a little bit upstream from Philadelphia, where there is a great 3 mile long river path on the north side of the river just off of Trooper Road.  There is a boat launch, plenty of parking, bathrooms, signs and trails.   No Lobelia was spotted. There were lots of invasives, such as Purple Loosestrife, Japanese stiltgrass, Wineberry and Oriental Bittersweet.  The trail offered great views of the Schuylkill, with lots of Birds, including the Great Blue Heron.

Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania
Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania

(Acer saccharinum)

The Silver Maples just growing alongside the river was the real show. What a magnificent assortment of specimens growing in their native and natural habitat.

Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania
Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania

During the Revolutionary War, this exact spot was a hustle and bustle of barrels and provisions.

Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania
Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania

Now it is a place where trees grow and die, often falling into the river. A place where Bluebells bloom in the spring and people walk and jog.

The Silver Maple is a fast growing tree, reaching 25 feet in 10 years.  It has an aggressive root system, a much needed trait alongside a river that fluctuates in depth, often eroding its banks. It will grow sideways if need be.  It dies in the water, along with Sycamore, River Birch and Box Elder.

Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania
Silver Maple, Valley Forge park, Pennsylvania

Above is the habitat of the Silver Maple, along the Schuylkill River at Valley Forge Park, Just north of Philadelphia.

A WORLD OF MAYAPPLES: SPRINGTIME IN THE WOODS OF ROXBOROUGH

In our travels through the city the past few weeks, Mayapples have dominated the herbaceous layer of the forest-scape, with their pretty leaves and stunning waxy blooms.  Today we are going to feature a few plants we found associated with the Mayapples, in two locations, within a mile apart in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia.

Trillium grandiflorum, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Trillium grandiflorum, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Schuylkill Center has a great woods, full of surprises.  They also had a  native plant sale, where we purchased a Hearts-A-Bustin’ Strawberry bush, the Euonymus  americana for our yard.  We then went for a walk on the grounds, and we went to Penns Acres, a section of woods enclosed in deer fencing to protect the plants from browsing. Thats where we saw this aging Trillium grandiflorum pictured above.  When the flower gets older, it turns pink.

Podophyllum peltatum, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Podophyllum peltatum, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This is the world of the Mayapple!

Dodecatheon meadia, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dodecatheon meadia, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dodecatheon meadia

Finding the Shooting Star blooming was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.  The only one we had ever seen was the two specimens in our yard which are also currently in bloom.

Dodecatheon meadia, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dodecatheon meadia, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The flower is like a chandelier or a fountain. Available in local native plant nurseries and plant sales.

Dodecatheon meadia, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dodecatheon meadia, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For the flower enthusiast, this place has everything, right here in the city as well.  The friendly staff gave us a trail map that helped us to find the trails that  led off the beaten paths, deep into the woods. We saw Dogwoods flowering all over, with Bluebells, patches of Mayapple and Trillium, Redbud trees, Jack-in-the Pulpit, and Black and Blue cohosh.

Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We had never seen this Sessile Trillium before in the City of Philadelphia. We much admired these specimens, but wondered about their origins. Could they have been introduced, or are they just growing naturally?

Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Now, off to the Wissahickon!

Tiarella cordifolia, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tiarella cordifolia, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We found the Foamflower near Bells Mill Road.

Aquilegia canadensis, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Aquilegia canadensis, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

And then a whole colony of Columbine!  We were so enchanted with the wildflowers, we got lost!  We were on some obscure trails we had never been on before and lost our way. In every direction were tall Tulip Poplars. We walked for over an hour in nothing but deep forest, full of Spicebush, Bloodroot, Mayapple, Sensitive and Christmas fern, and we even found a blooming Pinxter Azalea!

Aquilegia canadensis, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Aquilegia canadensis, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

At one point we were so lost we started to worry about how to get back, and we passed a charming ravine, and we spotted blue specks below us and they caught our eyes, and we decided to investigate.

Mertensia virginica, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mertensia virginica, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bluebells!

Aquilegia canadensis, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Aquilegia canadensis, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

More Columbine, with a dark maroon color, blooming alongside the  bluebells in a protected, obscure ravine.

Mertensia virginica, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mertensia virginica, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We did eventually find the trail that led us back out of the forest.  What a great bunch of flowers to find growing in the forests of Roxborough!

MAYAPPLES AND DOGWOOD BLOOM IN WEST FAIRMOUNT PARK

One of the most spectacular displays of Mayapples we have ever seen is in West Fairmount Park, in the woods just north of the Belmont Plateau.

Mayapple flowering, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Mayapple flowering, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia

We watched them emerge from the earth, and have waited for them to bloom in the past few weeks as they unfurled their leaves, and revealed their blooming capacities. The Mayapples with a single stem will not bloom and the ones with two stems that diverge in a v shape will bloom.  The  blooms are under the umbrella shaped leaves and can be missed. The best displays in West park are on hillsides that rise up on a side of the trails, so if you turn towards the hillside in the right light, you will see a beautiful and stunning array of waxy white flowers about two inches across glowing beneath the  fresh green umbrellas.

If Philadelphia were to have a city flower, the Mayapple would be solid nominee.

 

 

Isabelle with Dogwood bloom, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Isabelle with Dogwood bloom, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Dogwood flowering, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Dogwood flowering, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia