... to the inaugural post in the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust's natural history blog, Pennypack's Natural Landscapes. Most of the time, the Pennypack Trust's Executive Director, Dr. David Robertson, will be posting entries about the natural history of the Pennypack Preserve in Huntingdon Valley, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, but the blog may also feature the thoughts and observations of other Pennypack staff members. Add this blog to your reading list, and come on along for an occasional walk.
I'll start off with an account of the August edition of our monthly walk series, "One Trail Twelve Times," along the newest trail in the Pennypack Preserve, the Beech Springs Trail.
|A Monarch (Danaus plexippus) nectaring on Joe-pye-weed (Eupatorium dubium)|
|A Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) nectaring on New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)|
August is the purple month, at least here in the preserve's meadows. Deep purple New York ironweed, while just a bit past its prime, is still going strong, and soft magenta Joe-pye-weed is in its glory, much to the delight of butterflies and bumblebees.
I only had two walkers join me for August's exploration of the Beech Springs Trail last Sunday afternoon, August 19, but my companions were exactly the kind of folks I was hoping to draw for my monthly rambles because one was a wildflower devotee and the other was a dedicated photographer eager to learn the identities of the plants he was photographing. The afternoon was overcast and cool, and we enjoyed our 0.6-mile walk so much that we we out for over two hours.
The wet meadows are awash in New York ironweed...
|New York ironweed and Virgin's-bower vine (Clematis virginiana)|
|Danger lurks amid the beauty|
|Pink Wild Bean (Strophostyles umbellata)|
|Yellows are still common in the meadows, now dominated by several species of goldenrod (Solidago spp.)|
|Puzzling over the identity of a mint.|
|A leafhopper poorly camouflaged on wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)|
|Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa) on the dry upper slopes of the meadow|
|Red hips of multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)...|
|...and large, orange hips of pasture rose (Rosa carolina or R. virginiana)|
Halfway through out walk, we entered the mature oak and beech woodland sheltering the eponymous Beech Springs. Because of the high white-tailed deer density, the understory is dominated by spicebush (Lindera benzoin), which the deer are reluctant to eat. Nevertheless, the bushes provide lots of fatty fruit ready to fuel the southward songbird migration.
|Ripe spicebush drupes|
|One of the Beech Spring runs|
|Next year's skunk cabbage sprouts (and one of last year's decomposing fruiting bodies) in the spring run.|
|A hickory (Carya spp.) fruit partially stripped of its husk. Perhaps a squirrel was interrupted by one of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) that regularly patrols the woods.|
|Galls of two sorts on goldenrod|
|Wild Potato-vine (Ipomoea pandurata)|
The final leg of the trail winds through an allee of huge, mature white pines (Pinus strobus) planted in the 1920s. They've been there so long, they've laid down a thick duff of fine needles that supports all sorts of mushrooms. I expect we'll see more variety next month, typically the best month for hunting for fungi.
|Probably Yellow-ocher (or Firm) Russula (Russula ochroleuca)|