July 13, 2020

Rock Harlequin: Letting Nature Take the Lead

Instead of featuring a Wildflower that’s currently blooming, let’s talk about one that used to bloom here in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Rock Harlequin, or Capnoides sempervirens (or Corydalis sempervirens). The more I learn about this intriguing wildflower, the more I hope to see it in person one day.

Photo Credits: Perennial Resource, Jeffrey Pippen, Karen, courtesy of The National Gardening Association’s Plant Database, and WiseAcre, courtesy of WiseAcre Gardens.

This pink and yellow bloom is unmistakable, and those leaves look awfully familiar! Do they remind you of Dutchman’s breeches? Squirrel corn? Perhaps faintly of Greater celandine? Well, good eye! These four plants belong to the Poppy family, Papaveraceae.

Rock Harlequin is a pioneer species, so it’ll swoop into disturbed areas, but doesn’t persist very long as the habitat grows back. Furthermore, it’s defined as a pioneer species for secondary succession. Secondary succession occurs when a pre-existing habitat experiences a disturbance that greatly affects the plant population but doesn’t destroy everything (this is opposed to primary succession, which occurs on bare rock where plant life was not occurring before). Additionally, Rock Harlequin prefers to pioneer areas disturbed by fire.

Though this bloom can be picky, Rock Harlequin doesn’t always have its way. In the absence of recent fires, we might simply find this bloom on rocky, well-drained slopes in areas of partial to full sunlight. In comes a CVNP favorite: The Virginia Kendall Ledges. We’ve got some nice rocky, well-drained slopes there, yea?

Photo credit: NPS

Well, sorry to get your hopes up, but Rock Harlequin not as common as it used to be at our Lovely Ledges. Our Ledges have been bouncing back from prior years of use for hunting recreation, farming, and even as living places by Native Americans. So, The Ledges is no stranger to pioneer species. However, as a beloved attraction of CVNP, The Ledges are taking on a new force of impact: the footsteps of excited park visitors like you and me.

What does this mean for the Rock Harlequin? As The Ledges began to bounce back from former use, pioneer species survived comfortably. However, as a perennial that, for part of its life, exists as a low-lying herbaceous plant, the Rock Harlequin has not withstood the forces that accompany the love and appreciation of park visitors. In short, the Rock Harlequin is now a rare find amongst The Ledges.

And let me be clear: I am not discouraging anybody from visiting The Ledges and nobody should feel bad for wanting to visit either! This land is here for all of us to enjoy! However, if we want to continue enjoying it for generations to come, we have a duty to enjoy it responsibly. We can do this together by being mindful of the current traffic to the resource, staying on the trail, and being mindful of our impact on trail conditions after rain events.

However, there is still hope for the lovely Rock Harlequin! Rock Harlequin produces VERY hardy seeds that can survive in the seed bank for decades and even centuries. So, although we do not see Rock Harlequin today at The Ledges, we could see it there in the future. Nature is more than capable of paving its own course, and we simply must support that. Perhaps if our current circumstances change and The Ledges catch a break, we’ll see this beautiful bloom resurface and thrive. What do you think?

Here are some helpful resources if you would like to learn more about Rock Harlequin:

Posted on July 13, 2020 18:42 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 06, 2020

Milkweed Week. . . Can Milkweed plants exhibit Albinism?

Hello friends! We hope you all had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!

This week, we are featuring Milkweeds! We treasure our Milkweeds in the park because they are essential for Monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies can only lay their eggs on milkweed plants because that is the only thing Monarch caterpillars will eat. Picky eaters are the worst, am I right? Monarch caterpillars and my childhood-self have something in common, haha!

In all seriousness, Milkweed is closely tied to the Monarch’s survival. Milkweeds get their name from the toxic, milky latex in their leaves. The Monarch caterpillar eats milkweed leaves and absorbs the toxins from the latex. It stores these toxins in its body and becomes poisonous and inedible for predators. The caterpillar maintains its toxicity even once it metamorphoses into a butterfly! Predators that eat Monarchs will not die, but they will become very sick indeed!

Photo credits: Sonia Altizer, courtesy of Science magazine and Monarch photo courtesy of MonarchButterlyGarden.net

CVNP is home to five different species of milkweed. If you go looking for milkweed this week, you will most likely find Common milkweed, or Asclepias syriaca. Common milkweed can bloom between June and August. It has broad, light green leaves with a purplish-pink bloom. Common milkweed can be found in meadows, but it prefers disturbed areas, such as roadsides and cropland:

Photo credits: Alan Cressler, John Hixson, and W.D. Bransford & Dolphia, all courtesy of Lady Bird Johnson Center

Here are the other four species of milkweed you might see in CVNP this week:

Poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata):

Poke milkweed can bloom between mid-May and mid-July. It has dark green leaves with a purplish-white and green flower. Poke milkweed is often found in gaps of deciduous forests.

Photo credits: Alan Cressler and R.W. Smith, courtesy of the Lady Bird Johnson Center

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata):

You’ll see Swamp milkweed’s white, pink, or pinkish-purple bloom anywhere between July and August. As the name suggests, Swamp milkweed does well in swamps and wet meadows.

Photo credits: Stephanie Brundage, courtesy of the Lady Bird Johnson Center and Jennifer Anderson

Fourleaf milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia):

Fourleaf milkweed tends to bloom between May and July. It has a pale pink bloom and is often much shorter than other milkweed species. Fourleaf milkweed prefers dry, open woodland habitat.

Photo credits: Jim Stasz, and W.L. Wagner

Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata):

Whorled milkweed dons its white bloom between June and September. Whorled milkweed can be found in sunny grasslands and disturbed areas. It has needle-like leaves and is one of the most toxic milkweeds. In fact, this milkweed is considered a noxious weed for farmers because it has been known to kill livestock.

Photo credits: R.W. Smith and Carolyn Fannon, courtesy of the Lady Bird Johnson Center

BONUS FACT: Did you know that Milkweeds can exhibit ALBINISM?

Animals exhibit albinism by lacking melanin, a common hair, skin, and eye pigment. Plants can exhibit albinism by lacking chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows them to photosynthesize. Some milkweeds, like Common milkweed, sprout new plants via their root systems. Albino milkweed, then, survives by absorbing nutrients through its root systems with the parent plant. This can be classified as a form of parasitism.

One of our iNaturalist project members, Christine Krol, discovered TWO albino Common milkweeds in CVNP! She has documented photo observations of the plants throughout the growth season; their progress is very exciting:

Photo Credits: Christine Krol

I know that was a long feature, but milkweed plants sure are cool! Have a great week, everyone!

Posted on July 06, 2020 14:47 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 05, 2020

Wildflower Flag Mosaic

Well, well, well. Happy Sunday everyone! I hope everyone had an amazing Holiday weekend. Whether you’re relaxing and preparing for the work week or cleaning up from all the festivities, we hope you are all doing well and remembering to stay safe and diligent about your health!

Here at CVNP, we've been so inspired by everyone's amazing contributions to this project. So, we decided to make a Wildflower Flag Mosaic for Independence Day. On Saturday, we posted the photo to our Facebook page:

Here is a link to the post so you can go check it out:

In the post, you will find a link that directs you to an NPS Photo Gallery that showcases all the lovely photos that helped make the mosaic. Well. . .not all of them actually!

This Flag Mosaic was a lovely amalgamation of archived photos from our volunteers and photos from you, our iNatters! Here are all of the iNaturalist observation photos that helped make this flag mosaic possible:

Photo credits:

Dale Knox: Dame’s Rocket
Fred Losi: Cardinal flower, Indian paintbrush, Mock strawberry, and Red trillium
Christine Krol: Aliske Clover and Red Columbine
Keith Schilstra: Dropping trillium (x3)
Jeffb987: Sweet William
Mallory Klein: Orange hawkweed

Thanks everyone! We appreciate all the hard work you are all doing to contribute to this project. Keep those observations coming!

Posted on July 05, 2020 21:56 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 29, 2020

Fire it up this week with Firewheel, Fire Pink, and Scarlet Bee Balm!

It’s prime time bonfire season out there! What’s your favorite part about a good bonfire? Is it the ‘mallows and the s’mores? Or the good times with friends and family? Feel free to share in the comments below!

This week in CVNP, find your own bonfire in the daytime by checking out some of our fiery red blooms! Bright red flowers aren’t very common in Northeast Ohio, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t find any. However, here are some blushed blooms you might spot in CVNP this time of year:

1) Firewheel (Gaillarda pulchella, also known as Indian Blanket)
This flower is a member of the sunflower family. Firewheel flowers are a red-orange color with a yellow outer ring. Each petal has yellow tips and usually has 3 teeth, giving it a sun or flame-like appearance. Firewheel is not native to Ohio. But don’t worry, it’s not an invasive plant either. We call it “naturalized” in Ohio, which means that it can survive here outside of its natural range without help from humans.

image credits: Randy Heisch and Joyful Butterfly: https://www.joyfulbutterfly.com/product/indian-blanket-seeds/

2) Fire Pink (Silene virginica)
Fire Pink, or Royal Catchfly, is a member of the carnation family. Its flower has a tubular base with five red petals, each with two teeth at the ends. This red bloom is native to Ohio and is pollinated by a crowd favorite, the ruby-throated hummingbird.

image credits: Stephanie Brundage and Betty Truax

3) Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Scarlet Bee Balm is a member of the mint or deadnettle plant family. Its bloom looks like a bright red case of bed head, if you ask me! However, what look like individual flower petals are actually single tubular flowers. Many tubular flowers are clustered onto one flower head, creating this charming messy mop. Scarlet Bee Balm is rare in Ohio. If you find some in CVNP, you should protect the plant by obscuring its coordinates and adding it to the Ohio Watch List project on iNaturalist (link: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/ohio-watch-list ).

image credits: Alan Cressler and Stephanie Brundage

Stay safe out there this week, iNatters. Good luck finding your own bonfire in the day time in CVNP!

Posted on June 29, 2020 18:26 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 22, 2020

Blue Belly Flower Week

What does being a Naturalist mean to you? Does it mean you can identify everything in your natural environment? Or, does it mean that you notice things that other people don’t?

A good Naturalist is a keen observer. They have trained their senses to notice specific hints and clues about the world around them. You don’t become a Naturalist overnight either! Becoming a good observer takes time and practice. In fact, a good Naturalist is always learning. They are constantly curious about what’s out there.

The best way to stay curious is by keeping a fresh perspective on things. That’s why this week, we’re highlighting Blue Belly Flowers! Belly Flowers is a term used to describe low-growing wildflowers. These are the wildflowers that are so tiny, you have to get on your belly to see them! Here are some Blue Belly Flowers to hunt for next time you come to the park:

Speedwells: CVNP is home to six species of Speedwells. Here are a couple to get you started:

From left to right: Thymeleaf Speedwell, Slender Speedwell, and Birds-eye Speedwell.
Image credits: Nelson DesBarros (x2), Mallory Klein, respectively.

Blueeyed Grasses: CVNP has only one confirmed species of blueeyed grasses:

Narrow-leaved Blue-eyed Grass.
Image credit: Mallory Klein.

Have a great week out there! Remember to be observant, stay curious, and most importantly, have fun!

Posted on June 22, 2020 20:00 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 3 comments | Leave a comment

June 15, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Feature: Positive Vibes with Daisies and Fleabanes

Hey there friends and family! We hope you all had a great weekend. What’s one thing you did this weekend that made you or others around you happy? Leave a comment about it below!

Let’s keep spreading those positive vibes this week by sharing pictures of Daisies and Fleabanes in CVNP. The Daisy’s symbolic history is focused on spreading positivity. Daisies are symbols of healing, happiness, persistence, patience, and most importantly, new beginnings.

With everything we’re going through right now, positive vibes are something we all need. When you see a Daisy or Fleabane in your National Park, let it share its positive vibes with you and remember to share those good vibes with others too!

Some of the Daisies and Fleabanes in CVNP look very similar and identifying them can get tricky! Remember that the iNaturalist community is here to help you out! To get you started, here are CVNP’s five most common species of Daisies and Fleabanes!

Oxeye Daisy:

Photo credit: D.J. Reiser

Horseweed Fleabane:

Photo credit: John Gerrath

Annual fleabane:

Photo credit: Mark Turner

Philadelphia fleabane:

Photo credit: Jonathan Foise

Daisy fleabane:

Photo credit: JJ Prekop Jr.

"When times get tough, we don't give up. We get up." -Barack Obama

P.S. Please don't pick your park's daisies for your loved ones! Let other people find them so they can feel those positive vibes too. If you really want to give someone a bouquet of daisies, try purchasing blooms from your local floral business instead!

Posted on June 15, 2020 20:04 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 08, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Feature for the week of June 8, 2020

Hey all, happy Monday! This week, we’re going to talk about the Mustard family, Brassicaceae.

Quite a few of our nation’s food crops are members of the Brassicaceae family; broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard (obviously), and more! Still, many members of the mustard family are not cultivated and thrive in natural habitats.

CVNP is home to 22 members of the Brassicaceae family. About half of our mustard species live here naturally (a.k.a. native), while half of them were brought here by humans (a.k.a. non-native)! Regardless of their unique origin stories, the flowers of Mustard plants share certain characteristics. Here are 3 characteristics to check for if you think you’ve found a Mustard bloom!

1) The flower has 4 petals and 4 sepals

Left: Dame's Rocket petals (credit: Arthur Haines). Right: Dame's Rocket sepals (credit: Katy Chayka)

2) The flower has 6 stamens: 4 tall and 2 short

Left: Black Mustard 4 tall stamens in the middle, 2 short stamens on the right and left (credit: Jouko Lehmmuskallio). Right: Spring Cress 4 tall stamens in the middle, 2 short stamens on the right and left (credit:SRTurner)

3) The seed pods that attach to the plant stalk in a “spiral staircase” formation

Left: Shepherd's Purse triangular seed pods (credit: Glen Mittelhauser). Right: Spring Cress thin, oblong seed pods (credit: SRTurner).

These are just a few examples of Brassicaceae family flower characteristics. Here is a great resource that explains these characteristics in more detail: https://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Brassicaceae.htm

Feel free to respond to this post with any questions you have. Happy iNatting!

Posted on June 08, 2020 15:49 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 01, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Feature for the week of June 1, 2020

Hey there iNatters! June is here and that means warm weather and sunshine is upon us!

Let's celebrate that sunshine by looking for Buttercups in CVNP! We’ve got nine species of Buttercups in our park. The most common ones include the small-flowered, meadow, creeping, and swamp buttercups. Here are some pictures of those, respectively:

Oh, and just a friendly reminder, please don’t pick those golden blooms. Let other people find a little sunshine in their day too!

Happy iNatting! 😊

Image Credits: Frank Mayfield, G.D. Bebeau, David G. Smith, and Charles Pierce (respectively)

Posted on June 01, 2020 14:43 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 26, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Feature for the week of May 25, 2020

Hello friends! We hope you all had a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend. How did you and your family safely celebrate?

This week, we’d like to continue honoring our country’s fallen heroes with a Red, White, and Blue Wildflower Feature. Keep an eye out for these three flowers:

Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis): If you spot this flower on the trails, it will capture your attention instantly. You can’t miss its stunning red flowers that decorate the plant like miniature crowns!

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia): At first glance, this plant might look like a funky stalk of white foam in the distance. When you get closer, you’ll find that these flowers just have extra-long stamens. If you’re lucky, you might even find the pink variety of this flower!

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricate): This pinwheel-shaped flower has quite the color range: from deep blues and purples to faded lilacs and azures and even white! Which colors can you find?

Posted on May 26, 2020 22:08 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 2 comments | Leave a comment


Hello friends and welcome to Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Wildflower project! We hope this project helps you learn cool, new things about CVNP’s wildflowers!

Each week, we will post a Weekly Wildflower Feature where we highlight a group of wildflowers that are blooming in our park. We hope you'll keep an extra eye out for these flowers and add them to the project. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find the blooms in our Weekly Wildflower Feature; CVNP’s flowers are rapidly changing, so there’s always hope for next week!

Stay tuned for this week’s Wildflower Feature. Happy iNatting!

Posted on May 26, 2020 21:59 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 2 comments | Leave a comment