Hickory Tussock, a Turtlehead, and a Lady's Thumb

We hiked a different part of the park this weekend over near Allegheny Country Club.  We started off by the creek but then followed a small tributary up the hill and deep into the woods.  The area is always full of wildflowers and mushrooms, plus I've seen some of the biggest bucks in Sewickley Heights in this area, so I like to think of it as an "off the beaten path" part of the park.

White Snakeroot  (Ageratina altissima) - 
There's a of White Snakeroot in our woods right now and it's everywhere from the edges of fields and roads to the shadowy banks of the creek.  So if you see a plant about the height of your waist with clusters of very small flowers, it's most likely White Snakeroot (or perhaps Queen Anne's Lace... haha).

Turkeytail (Trametes versicolor) - 
I saw more Turkeytail mushrooms on Sunday so I'm really hoping this means it will be a good year for them.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, they do "winter-over" so hopefully I'll be photographing them for months to come; I've found some of the most colorful specimens in the coldest months of the year.

Pale Touch Me Not (Impatiens pallida) - 
I still see a lot of Touch Me Nots but I think they are starting to decline.  In the areas where I find them, there have been a lot of flower blossoms laying on the ground, so their season is probably winding down.  But they were great while they lasted, this was the best year I've witnessed for Touch Me Nots, both the Spotted (Impatiens capensis) and Pale (Impatiens pallida).

Bone Pile - 
We were walking up a small tributary off of Backbone road when we came to a large pile of deer bones.  It seemed like the majority of the bones were from one deer, but then we found a couple of other skulls nearby and since we were just below the road, I'm guessing the borough must toss road kill deer over the hill there.

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) - 
I don't typically find a lot of Great Blue Lobelia but I did find two plants on different areas of my hike.  Although, as with many other wildflowers, I feel their season is starting to come to a close.


Lady's Thumb (Persicaria vulgaris) - 
Lady's Thumb is very similar to Pennsylvania Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum).  Both are flowering grasses that have tiny little blossoms aranged in clusters but Lady's Thumb typically includes or is dominated by white flowers whereas Pennsylvania Smartweed flowers are normally pink.

White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) - 
White Turtlehead is not very common in our area, but I do seem to find at least one or two specimens each year.  The plant is named for its flowers which resemble the shell of a turtle with its head peeking out.  This is one plant where I actually do see the resemblance and the pink and white flowers are very beautiful.

Hickory Tussock Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae) -
Hickory Tussock Caterpillar are a "stinging" caterpillar.  Stinging caterpillars don't sting like a wasp or a bee with an actual "stinger," but they sting when you come into contact with one of the long black or white hairs, or setae, along the caterpillar's body.  These hair-like structures are hollow and contain toxins from poison glands they are connected to.  Primarily a defense mechanism against predators, I've been stung by caterpillars before and it is very unpleasant.   This guy was trapped on a rock in the stream, so we made a bridge with a small twig to get him back to dry land.

Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) -
I'm still not 100% sure that these are Golden Chanterelles, but from everything I've read, there's no other species that matches.  One mushroom species that comes close are Jack O'Lanterns, but from my research I don't think these are Jack O'Lanterns.  Golden Chanterelles are a "choice edible," but I'm not nearly confident enough in my identification to try them.  Disclaimer:  And as always, never, ever eat anything from the woods that you're not 100% certain about.

More Pictures:

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)

Turkeytail (Trametes versicolor)

Heal All (Prunella vulgaris)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Gem Studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)

Hickory Tussock Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae)

Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)