Western Pennsylvania, Late Spring 2005
Edward Frank
May 25, 2005


It is late spring in western Pennsylvania. Many of the subtle colors of spring are fading to the verdant green of summer. It has been a dry and cool spring. The past few days it has rained. The change in the leaf color is amazing. Still there is a faint hint of the reds and oranges of newly opened maple and oak leaves. Some trees are fully trimmed with foliage, a handful are still at the early stage of leaf out. It is hard to catch the colors you see with your eyes in a photograph.

valley.jpg (34687 bytes) Clarion River Valley as seen from the outlook rock at Beartown Rocks, PA
Red maple leaves just opened with a touch of orange color still remaining, Cook Forest State Park, PA maple01.jpg (24046 bytes)
oak01.jpg (40609 bytes) Newly opened chestnut oak leaves, Cook Forest State Park, PA

Along the road lilacs are in full bloom or just past the peak of color. Here and there scattered throughout the woods and doting peoples yards are bright pink honeysuckle flowers. (I know it is an invasive.)

honeysuckle.jpg (37703 bytes) Honeysuckle blooming in the woods near Beartown Rocks, PA

I ventured to Cook Forest for a walk around a familiar place. In the parking lot of the fire tower was a large dogwood, fully in bloom. The dogwood is probably 40 feet tall with a spectacular branch of white blooms. Lower down you can see the detail in the four-petal, flat, flowers. The lower blooms are a little past peak but still fascinating.

dogwood0.jpg (50829 bytes) Flowering Dogwood, Fire Tower parking lot, Cook Forest State Park, PA.  Ed Frank for scale.  Measured by Dale Luthringer May 28, 2005 - 1.8ft CBH x 38.7ft
Flowering Dogwood branch. dogwood1.jpg (68902 bytes)
dogwood2.jpg (27754 bytes) Flowering dogwood flower and leaves.

The laurel bushes and rhododendron are still several weeks away. New sprouts are growing in light green on the tips of the laurel bush. Here and there are the beginning of flower buds. The mountain laurel and rhododendron are intermixed. The contrast between the small leaves and giant leaves of the rhododendron is quite dramatic. There was a family visiting the tower. I gave them a brief tour of the natural history of fire tower area. 

laurel_rhod.jpg (42865 bytes) Juxtaposition of mountain laurel and great rhododendron.
Fresh laurel leaf sprouts. laurel01.jpg (46956 bytes)
laurel02.jpg (25215 bytes) Laurel flower buds.

The blueberry bushes were growing profusely on top of many of the large bedrock blocks in the area. I am sure I noticed before, but never thought much about it. Elsewhere in the forest the blueberries are scattered. Here where there is just an inch or so of soil atop the bare bedrock, they dominate the niche. They are in the very earliest stages of producing berries. Reddish flowers occasionally give way to white berries.

blueberry2.jpg (54546 bytes) Blueberry bushes growing profusely atop nearly bare rocks.
Pink blueberry flowers. blueberry1.jpg (29079 bytes)
blueberry3.jpg (30805 bytes) Pink blueberry flowers and white berry nubs.

Along side of the short trail to the fire tower is the tallest American Chestnut measured in Cook Forest - just about 15 feet - measured by Dale and I on April 12, 2005. I am not sure he was convinced at the time it really was American Chestnut.

amchestnut2.jpg (53769 bytes) The tallest American Chestnut measured at Cook Forest State Park at about 15 feet.  The root sprouts from the chestnuts that all but died out 80 or 90 years ago from chestnut blight  are common in many areas in western Pennsylvania.  Only a handful are found at Cook Forest.
Newly opened Chestnut leaves.   amchestnut1.jpg (29229 bytes)

Small things catch your eye. Here are some birch fronds. A small violet struggles up through the leaves. 

birch.jpg (23873 bytes)
violet01.jpg (47595 bytes)

A small patch of blue flowers grows along the dirt road under a pine tree, and there are woodpecker holes in an oak tree. I enjoy the small things I find as much as I like the enormous trees at the park.

flowers01.jpg (52989 bytes) Small blue flowers along the fire tower road growing under a pine tree.
Blue flowers flower02.jpg (45908 bytes)
woodpecker1.jpg (58741 bytes) Woodpecker Holes

(Death and Rebirth in the Forest - Continued)