Spring has arrived in Pittsburgh!
As the weather begins to warm up, we have begun to see all sorts of colorful sights returning to the Pittsburgh parks. Birds are returning, bees are buzzing, and trees and flowers are beginning to bloom. With so many different plants to observe, it can be helpful to learn a little bit about what kinds of things you will be seeing in the parks. Once you are able to identify certain species, it can make it easier to understand the impacts the organism has on the environment, and what impacts the environment has on its survival as well. We will be looking at some common things you may come across that are blooming this spring in the Pittsburgh parks!
The Saucer Magnolia is usually a short, early blooming tree with beautiful pink flowers. These trees are fast-growing and often like deep, acidic soil. Their multi-trunk foundation keeps them on the shorter side but gives them a unique shape. The flowers are very fragrant during the time of bloom making them a very pleasant find if you can spot them throughout the park.
Hepatica is another sign that spring has arrived! This flower is typically found blooming in colors of purple, blue, or pink. They are an evergreen herb with a fresh and pleasant scent. They will mostly open up on sunny days, which could be a little hard to come by during springtime in Pittsburgh! They are usually a single 1/2-1 inch flower with a single leafless stem. There are also a few variations of this flower, for example, round-lobed or sharp-lobed may be found.
These spring flowers are likely to be surrounded by bees and butterflies as they begin to bloom. They are mostly found in woodlands but can also thrive out in the sun as well. You will be able to see these flowers blooming in late spring for around a month. These flowers have a unique method of seed spreading. Seeds are inside of a pod that is attached to a slightly bent structure. This structure will dry up, and actually launch the seeds away from the parent plant to be spread.
Dogwood trees are somewhat particular about where they are able to grow. These trees may not take well to differences in water and soil nutrients, so they are likely to be found in areas with slightly acidic loam soil types that are moist but not too wet. With shallow roots, plenty of water is needed to sustain them. They can most often be identified in the spring by their typically strong and unique smell. Years ago, dogwoods were also used for medical purposes. The bark has tannins, which were used to treat pain, fevers, weakness, and more.
Hopefully, you've learned some new information about some of the spring flowers and trees here in Pittsburgh. With so many different species in our parks, there is still a lot more great information that can be found and used during your next trip outside.
"Ask Dr. Phipps: Early Spring Blooms" https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/blog/detail/ask-dr.-phipps-early-spring-blooms
"The Colors of Spring" https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/blog/detail/thecolors-of-spring
"First Pennsylvania wildflowers you're about to see" https://www.pennlive.com/wildaboutpa/2018/03/first_penn sylvania_wildflowers.htm
Kylie Schultz - Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Intern