Come See the Flowers Race the Trees

Red trillium, nicknamed wake robin up in New England, is one of the rarest wildflowers at the Schuylkill Center, and grows along the Ravine Loop.  Photo courtesy of Will Terry.

Red trillium, nicknamed wake robin up in New England, is one of the rarest wildflowers at the Schuylkill Center, and grows along the Ravine Loop.
Photo courtesy of Will Terry.

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

Like all forests around us, the Schuylkill Center is in full bloom right now. You really have to see it to believe it. In fact, you can, if you simply walk down our Ravine Loop.

Like the red trillium in the accompanying photograph, an elusive and rare plant that New Englanders dubbed “wake robin,” as it bloomed there about when robins return north from their migrations (robins are year-round residents here in Roxborough). 

Or the Virginia bluebells in the other photo– one of everyone’s favorites, as it is taller than many of the spring ephemerals and one of the bluest of them all. You can find it on our Ravine Loop and elsewhere across the property, and is happily one of our harder-to-miss wildflowers. I love its pink buds that open to blue flowers– two colors for the price of one.

In our Wildflower Loop near our small Pollywog Pond, Virginia bluebells grow profusely.  Photo courtesy of Anna Lehr Mueser

In our Wildflower Loop near our small Pollywog Pond, Virginia bluebells grow profusely.
Photo courtesy of Anna Lehr Mueser

But that’s just the beginning of the parade. There are bright yellow trout lilies, named for the spotting on their mottled leaves that resembles a trout’s back. And shooting stars, white flowers blazing across the forest floor. Jacob’s ladder, a complicated lilac-colored flower with ladder-ish leaves. Jack-in-the-pulpit, poking through the forest floor, Jack dutifully staying inside what looks like his mottled purple lectern. Solomon’s seal, named for the Biblical king, its delicate bell-like flowers dangling from zig-zags of leaves. Spring beauties, each petal a tiny white surfboard with a pink racing stripe down its middle. 

And that’s just a start.

What’s amazing about these plants is the narrow window of time through which they slide. A forest in spring features trees without yet any leaves, so sunlight shines through and caresses the forest floor. Warmed by the sun, long-dormant roots and rhizomes suddenly come alive and send sprigs of growth up above the ground. These leaves photosynthesize– remember that from high school biology?– using sunlight to make sugars and send starches down into the rootstocks so they grow larger. When those rootstocks are large enough and have the resources, the plants send flowers into the world, often brightly colored to dazzle pollinating bees and butterflies.

And they coincidentally dazzle us too. 

But the flowers are in a race against time– and the trees. As trees leaf out, those leaves block sunlight, form a sun-proof umbrella across the forest, and block those flowers from growing. So there is a small window of opportunity for the flowers to warm up, grow, make leaves, make flowers, get pollinated, drop seeds– and disappear for another year– before the trees leaf out.

We’ve already missed the earliest bloomers like bloodroot and skunk cabbage. But every day or every week you visit, new and different flowers will appear.

While our Visitor Center is closed, our forest is still open– park in the Hagy’s Mill parking lot if there is room (if not, park at the ballfields and walk in). Hike past our Visitor Center and head downhill through the butterfly meadow, following Ravine Loop until it curves at Smith Run; the best wildflowers are on the section of trail that parallels the stream.

When we reopen (please, God, soon!), we’ll be selling these plants for you to place in your own yard. My yard, I am happy to report, is beginning to fill with both bluebells and Solomon’s seal, and a healthy stand of May apple– it looks like a little bright green umbrella– is spreading happily. These flowers require little water or chemicals, come back stronger every year, and provide vital pollen, nectar, and food for the small critters that hold up the world, especially those pollinators you read so much about.

Spring wildflowers are racing the trees right now– come walk down our Ravine Loop, while of course practicing the required physical distancing, and see them for yourself.

 

Nature Play Saturdays_option2

Nature Play Saturdays

Want to get outside but don’t know where to start? Bring your family for a hike and unstructured nature play with representatives from our NaturePHL program. We’ll climb, explore, and learn more about the many health benefits of outdoor activity. Meet us at the Tall Trees Playscape behind the Visitor Center and we’ll head out from there.

All ages welcome. No registration required. This event recurs every first Saturday of the month.


This program is part of NaturePHL, a collaborative program with CHOP that helps Philadelphia children and families achieve better health through activity in local parks, trails, and green spaces.

Nature Play Saturdays_option2

Nature Play Saturdays

Want to get outside but don’t know where to start? Bring your family for a hike and unstructured nature play with representatives from our NaturePHL program. We’ll climb, explore, and learn more about the many health benefits of outdoor activity. Meet us at the Tall Trees Playscape behind the Visitor Center and we’ll head out from there.

All ages welcome. No registration required. This event recurs every first Saturday of the month.


This program is part of NaturePHL, a collaborative program with CHOP that helps Philadelphia children and families achieve better health through activity in local parks, trails, and green spaces.

landlab dance exchange

Remembering Water’s Way, with Dance Exchange

Culminating a year of research and artmaking at the Schuylkill Center, Dance Exchange will lead a series of animated hikes on our trails that connect participants to local ecology and reflect on the ways that water shapes our lives.  These hour-long experiences will weave together performance, installation, science engagements, and other opportunities, surfacing concerns and questions about the Schuylkill River and local waterways, and contributing to our understandings about the impacts of climate change on the region.

Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange Cassie Meador is collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of artists and scientists (Elizabeth Johnson, Jame McCray, and Zeke Leonard, along with Schuylkill Center staff) and a cohort of local artists to create this unique interdisciplinary event.

The guided walk will descend some elevation; good walking shoes are recommended.

 

Performances will take place at the following times:

October 13 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

October 13 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

October 14 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

October 14 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

 

Dance Exchange is a Takoma Park, MD-based non-profit arts organization committed to dancemaking and creative practices that engage individuals and communities of all ages to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and their world, and to open up the questions at the heart of their lives. Founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman and under the artistic direction of Cassie Meador since 2011, Dance Exchange creates dances by asking four questions: Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is it about?  Why does it matter? For the past decade, much of Dance Exchange’s work has focused on the intersection of the arts and sciences and has resulted in collaborations between scientists in the fields of biology, physics, ecology, genetics and more.

This program is presented as part of the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab residencyLandLab integrates artistic creation, ecological restoration and education. A joint project of the Schuylkill Center and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), LandLab offers resources and space on our 340-acre wooded property for artists to engage audiences in the processes of ecological stewardship through scientific investigation and artistic creation. LandLab residents create art-based installations that prevent or remediate environmental damage while raising public awareness about our local ecology.

landlab dance exchange

Remembering Water’s Way, with Dance Exchange

Culminating a year of research and artmaking at the Schuylkill Center, Dance Exchange will lead a series of animated hikes on our trails that connect participants to local ecology and reflect on the ways that water shapes our lives.  These hour-long experiences will weave together performance, installation, science engagements, and other opportunities, surfacing concerns and questions about the Schuylkill River and local waterways, and contributing to our understandings about the impacts of climate change on the region.

Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange Cassie Meador is collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of artists and scientists (Elizabeth Johnson, Jame McCray, and Zeke Leonard, along with Schuylkill Center staff) and a cohort of local artists to create this unique interdisciplinary event.

The guided walk will descend some elevation; good walking shoes are recommended.

 

Performances will take place at the following times:

October 13 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

October 13 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

October 14 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

October 14 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

 

Dance Exchange is a Takoma Park, MD-based non-profit arts organization committed to dancemaking and creative practices that engage individuals and communities of all ages to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and their world, and to open up the questions at the heart of their lives. Founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman and under the artistic direction of Cassie Meador since 2011, Dance Exchange creates dances by asking four questions: Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is it about?  Why does it matter? For the past decade, much of Dance Exchange’s work has focused on the intersection of the arts and sciences and has resulted in collaborations between scientists in the fields of biology, physics, ecology, genetics and more.

This program is presented as part of the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab residencyLandLab integrates artistic creation, ecological restoration and education. A joint project of the Schuylkill Center and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), LandLab offers resources and space on our 340-acre wooded property for artists to engage audiences in the processes of ecological stewardship through scientific investigation and artistic creation. LandLab residents create art-based installations that prevent or remediate environmental damage while raising public awareness about our local ecology.

landlab dance exchange

Remembering Water’s Way, with Dance Exchange

Culminating a year of research and artmaking at the Schuylkill Center, Dance Exchange will lead a series of animated hikes on our trails that connect participants to local ecology and reflect on the ways that water shapes our lives.  These hour-long experiences will weave together performance, installation, science engagements, and other opportunities, surfacing concerns and questions about the Schuylkill River and local waterways, and contributing to our understandings about the impacts of climate change on the region.

Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange Cassie Meador is collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of artists and scientists (Elizabeth Johnson, Jame McCray, and Zeke Leonard, along with Schuylkill Center staff) and a cohort of local artists to create this unique interdisciplinary event.

The guided walk will descend some elevation; good walking shoes are recommended.

 

Performances will take place at the following times:

October 13 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

October 13 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

October 14 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

October 14 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

 

Dance Exchange is a Takoma Park, MD-based non-profit arts organization committed to dancemaking and creative practices that engage individuals and communities of all ages to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and their world, and to open up the questions at the heart of their lives. Founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman and under the artistic direction of Cassie Meador since 2011, Dance Exchange creates dances by asking four questions: Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is it about?  Why does it matter? For the past decade, much of Dance Exchange’s work has focused on the intersection of the arts and sciences and has resulted in collaborations between scientists in the fields of biology, physics, ecology, genetics and more.

This program is presented as part of the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab residency. LandLab integrates artistic creation, ecological restoration and education. A joint project of the Schuylkill Center and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), LandLab offers resources and space on our 340-acre wooded property for artists to engage audiences in the processes of ecological stewardship through scientific investigation and artistic creation. LandLab residents create art-based installations that prevent or remediate environmental damage while raising public awareness about our local ecology.

Canoeing

Day-off Camps: Aquatic Adventure

When schools are closed, we’re open! Bring your kids to the Schuylkill Center for a day of fun and exploration. We’ll take a deep dive into aquatic habitats as we search for tadpoles in wetlands, hike along the stream, and canoe on Wind Dance Pond. Wear a bathing suit and water-friendly clothing. Extended day until 6:00 pm is available for an additional $15/day.

For ages 5–12 | 8:00 am–3:00 pm | Members: $52 | Non-members: $62. Programs with a field trip may include an additional fee. Registration is required.

Please note, day-off camps will be cancelled ONE WEEK PRIOR if the minimum number of participants is not reached by then. Please register soon; space is limited.

This event has reached capacity. Thank you all for your interest in this event!

 

Family Camping

While spending time in nature helps us to unplug and rejuvenate, finding the time to do so while surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city can often be a challenge. If you’re looking to get away, there are great spots around Philadelphia to relax and refresh with the family. In addition to checking out these great spots, make sure to join us June 23–24 for the 14th annual Great American Backyard Campout, which is held in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation. Spend the night under the stars, hike through the forest, and tell stories around the campfire… all while within city limits. Call 215-482-7300 x 137 to register. Check out these amazing spots within a short drive of city limits.

French Creek State Park (1 hour 10 minutes)
Located in Berks and Chester counties, French Creek State Park is the largest block of continuous forest located between New York City and Washington, D.C. Its options for sleeping arrangementseverything from cabins to cottages to yurts to traditional tentsmake it a great spot for both experienced and beginning campers alike.

Ricketts Glen State Park (2 hours 30 minutes)

Ricketts Glen is home to the Glens Natural Areaa National Natural Landmark. The park has 26 miles of trails. The most popular is the Falls Trail (a 7.2 mile loop), where visitors can view 21 waterfalls. There are shorter trail options with waterfall vistas as well.

Cape Henlopen State Park (2 hours 15 minutes)

Cape Henlopen offers a variety of recreational options. Climb to the top of the World War II observation tower, take the Seaside or Pinelands nature trails to explore coastal habitats, enjoy a game of disc golf, or spend the day relaxing on the beach.

Wharton State Forest (45 minutes)
Nestled within the Pine Barrens, the Atsion Recreation Area is at the heart of the forest. Named after the Atsion Mansion, the recreation area is situated on a 100-acre lake perfect for kayaking and canoeing.