When my brothers and I were kids, the first person to reach the morning news would claw their way to the cartoons section, grab a bowl of cereal, and post up on the corner of the couch. Tough luck to the next one of us that tried to pry them away from their comics; might as well grab another bowl of sugary cereal and wait for your turn in line. (Which could take quite a while; there are seven of us.)
Starting last month, there's another section of the newspaper that kids can squabble over (or share, if they're a little more civil than my family). Every other Tuesday, we have a special section for our younger park pals: Let's Talk About Parks. In it are tips to identify park life, explore trails, play and learn in the natural world. (Don't tell the young ones, but adults can also read this section, too.) Here's a bit of what we've shared so far:
- Spring peepers. You can hear for their raucous nocturnal singing after spring and summer storms.
- American bullfrogs. Spot these big hoppers during the day, Chances are, they'll see you before you see them and dive into any nearby water.
- American toads. Found in damp, cool areas of the woodland floor where their coloring -- brown to gray accented by spots and warts -- provides excellent camouflage. Find these amphibians deeper in the parks.
Salmanders are always looking for the best rock or downed tree to hide under. Students in our Young Naturalists program this year studied salamander habitat by laying out wooden boards in the woods, turning them over once a week to see what had started living there.
While we've had to bid a fond farewell to summer wildflowers, fall has its own impressive display of flowery color and texture. Here are some that you can spot on just a short walk through Schenley Park:
- Goldenrod. Growing extra tall in the meadow at the Bartlett Street Playground, this hardy yellow flower is often confused with ragweed, a common cause of pollen allergies.
- White wood asters and purple New England asters. Sprinkled among the meadow grasses, these plants produce clouds of delicately fringed flowers atop thin dark stems. Asters provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators, as well as seeds for songbirds after their bloom is completed.
- Obedient plant. This spikey plant is distinguished by clusters of pink tube-shaped flowers and named because its individual flowers can be bent in any direction and will stay in that position “obediently.”
- Snakeroot. Found in the shade of the woodland on the Panther Hollow Trail, Snakeroot's dark green leaves are contrasted by puffy white flowers that are fuzzy to the touch.
- Pokeweed. This plant can reach heights of 10 feet and is adorned with clusters of reddish-purple berries.
- White Baneberry or Doll’s Eyes. Identify this plant by its white berries with a black center.
Learn more about exploring and discovering your parks through the bi-weekly "Let's Talk About Parks" segment in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The next feature, set to print September 23rd, features biking in Frick Park!
Lauryn Stalter for the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy