Sewickley Heights Park Hike

Fall is definitely taking hold now.  Most of the trees have lost their leaves or are losing them fast but others are still holding on; Beech trees still have some green leaves, the Aspens are only starting to yellow, and many of the Oaks have yet to lose their leaves at all.  So it won't be long before Winter is here and all the trees are bare.

Wolf's Milk Slime Mold (Lycogala epidendrum) - 
My nephew is actually the one who identified this Wolf's Milk Slime Mold, which was not easy since it looks very much like a type of puffball.  But it is in fact a Slime Mold and this is the first time I've come across it.

Purple Stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) - 
While most all of the wildflowers have finally died off, there are still a few Asters around such as the Purple Stemmed Aster.  I found this specimen, along with several others, down in the fields down by the beaver dam in the park.  Purple Stemmed Aster is similar to New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) since both have beautiful purple blossoms, but it stands only waist high and typically.

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) -
This especially large cluster of Chicken of the Woods was just past its prime when we happened upon it so it won't be long before it is reduced to a spongy mass of yellowish fungus that will slowly degrade over the next few months.  This seems to be a good year for Chicken of the Woods, most likely due to the especially wet summer we had.

Zig Zag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) -
If you suffer from allergies, you're probably well acquainted with Goldenrod which produces a lot of the pollen around this time of year.  Even though they're an irritant to a lot of people, they do actually contain beautiful yellow flowers clustered at the top of their stems that are easily spotted in fields and meadows.  I recently learned that Goldenrods are a part of the Aster family, which isn't surprising since Asters dominate the fall wildflower season. 

Pennsylvania Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum) growing in a Turkeytail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)
Turkeytails are one of my favorite mushrooms because they can display an amazingly wide variety of colors and because they can be at their most colorful during the winter season when there is very little color in the woods.  Pennsyvlania Smartweed is a pretty little flower that is common among the grasses that line the trails in our area.  So when I noticed this Pennsylvania Smartweed growing through this Turkeytail cluster, I thought that the greens, pinks, and blue-ish silver all made for a cool photograph.

Hickory Nut Husks - 
I'm not sure what type of Hickory tree this pile of nut husks are from, but whatever creature was eating them certainly liked eating them in this spot.  As a matter of fact, the pile continued out of the picture frame and makes me wonder if there were creatures and not just one feasting on the fall bounty of mast.

Butterfly Weed Seed Pods (Asclepias tuberosa) - 
These seed pods are similar to the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seed pods I am accustomed to seeing, but it wasn't until I did some research online that I found out that they're from one of my favorite late Summer wild flowers - Butterfly Weed.  As you can see they are longer and much more slender than Common Milkweed seed pods and were quite plentiful in the wildflower meadow along Spruce Run trail in the park.

Quaking Aspen Grove (Populus tremuloides) -
Quaking Aspen are a fast growing tree that is one of several species that are the first to colonize areas stripped of vegetation.  I've read that these types of trees are considered, "Nursery trees" in that they help to replenish the soil nutrients and make way for other, more valued hardwoods to take hold.  Quaking Aspen are also interesting because many times a grove of trees is actually one single tree that propagates many vertical trunks from  a single rhizome.

Gem Studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) -
We're still seeing Gem Studded Puffballs regularly so this must have been a good year for them.  You can see on this one in particular where something was nibbling on the top of it, and the flesh inside is still white and healthy looking.  Eventually the inside of puffballs turns an olive green color and then disintegrates into a powder, which releases its spores in a cloud when disturbed.

Beech Leaf losing Chlorophyll (Fagus grandifolia) -
The outer margins of leaves are the first to lose their chlorophyll so I thought it was interesting that this leaf showed that its veins are still holding the last remnants of their green color even though the rest of the leaf is turning yellow.

Small Flower Forget Me Not (Myosotis Laxa) -
I would have never expected to see Small Flower Forget Me Not this late in the season, but I guess "never say never" holds true in nature as in life.  This specimen was by the beaver dam in a open meadow along the stream.  We literally were standing on top of it when we noticed it at our feet.

Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus) - 
I was also really surprised we found this Common Chicory plant still flowering but as I've written many times before, this has been a weird year and many late summer wildflowers were still holding blossoms well into September and early October.

More Pictures:

TurkeyTail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

Lady's Thumb (Persicaria maculosa)

Black Cherry Tree Sap (Prunus serotina)

Gem Studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)

Purple Stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum)

White Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides)