Chester Creek Trail

Rail Trail in Delaware County, Pennsylvania

Plants of Chester Creek

The Chester Creek Trail is home to hundreds of species of wildflowers, vines, shrubs, trees, and grasses with a blooming season that extends from March through October. 

Learn more about the biodiversity and seasons of Chester Creek in the attachments below. 

**A big thank you to John “Mac” MacFarland for putting this together and sharing your vast ecological knowledge!

Common Autumn Plants

Pasture Thistle

(Cisium pumilum)

This is a biennial plant that grows up to forty inches in height on a typically hairy stem.   It blooms only once before dying.  Its leaf blades are slender with stout very long spines and are up to twelve inches in length.  The flower heads are sweetly scented and are pink, purple, or even white in color with no ray florets.  It has the largest flowers of all the local thistle species.

Spotted Touch-Me-Not 

(Impatiens capensis)

This orange flower is covered with red spots.  It is also called Orange Jewelweed.  It may be found growing alongside its common relative, Yellow Jewelweed.  They both take their name from the characteristic that, when held under water, the leaves look like silver.  Its other name comes from its seeds exploding from their capsules when touched.  Juice from its stem can be an antidote for bee stings and poison ivy.

Purple-Stemmed Aster

(Symphyotrichum puniceum)

A hairy purple stem is a characteristic of this aster.  Its flowers consist of yellow to cream-colored disc florets surrounded by dark blue to purple ray florets.  Its disc florets become pink or purple with maturity.  It seldom forms dense colonies but is rather found as small clusters or scattered individuals.  Various Native American tribes have found medicinal uses for this plant to include curing colds and fevers.

White Snakeroot

(Argeratina altissima)

This plant contains the toxin tremetol.  When consumed by cattle, the meat and milk become contaminated with the toxin.  When humans consume the meat or milk, it may lead to death.  This plant was responsible for the thousands of deaths of the babies of western migrating pioneers., who unwittingly grazed their cows on it.  It was complicit in the death of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of the future president.

Tall Goldenrod

(Solidago altissima)

This perennial member of the Goldenrod family grows to a height of six feet and can be found growing in open fields, meadows, roadsides, along railroads, and the edges of woodlands.  Its flowers are arranged in branching clusters of numerous small, stalked yellow flower heads.  Its leaves are all alternate with a rough upper surface and a densely hairy underside.  Its stems also exhibit this hairy characteristic.

Spotted Joe-Pye-Weed

(Eupatorium maculatum)

This perennial plant grows as high as six and one-half feet in height.  Stems are sometime completely purple and sometimes green with purple spots.  Each plant produces numerous rose-purple flower heads with eight to twenty-two disc flowers but no ray flowers.  Maculatum means spotted.  It is named after Joe Pye, who was a Native American herbalist that used local plants to cure a variety of illnesses.

Plume Poppy

(Macleaya cordata)

This five-seeded poppy is used ornamentally.  It is native to China and Japan.  It is a large perennial that grows up to eight feet in height.  It has olive green heart-shaped leaves and buff white flowers on airy panicles during summer.  It self-seeds readily and easily becomes invasive.  It was originally bred at Kew Gardens in England.  It is named for Alexander McLeay (1767 to 1848), a British entomologist.

Pokeweed

(Phytolacca americana)

This is a poisonous perennial plant that grows up to ten feet in height.  It has simple leaves on green, red, or purplish stems.  The flowers are green to white, followed by berries that ripen to purple or almost black and are a food source for many species of songbirds.  Native Americans used its berries for a purple dye.  In early Spring, shoots and leaves are edible with proper cooking, but later become poisonous.

Porcelain Berry

(Ampelopsis glandulosa)

This is an ornamental plant that is native to temperate areas of Asia.  Due to its leaves, it is early confused with species of grapes.  It is a deciduous, woody, perennial climbing vine with flowers and tendrils opposite the palmate three to five lobed leaves that are white beneath.  It climbs by means of tendrils.  Its small green-white flowers become green, blue, purple, pink, yellow, or black berries.

Persian Silk Tree

(Albizia julibrissin)

This tree is native to southwestern and eastern Asia.  It is named after an Italian nobleman, Filippo degli Albizzi, who introduced it to Europe in the mid-18th century.  It is a deciduous tree that grows up to fifty feet in height and whose canopy is shaped like a canopy.  The leaves are fern-like and feathery in appearance.  The dark pink flowers are showy and wispy.  Its six-inch seed pods are flat and linear.

Chinese Silver Grass

(Miscanthus sinensis)

This grass is native to eastern Asia.  It made an entrance into occidental gardens about a century ago due to its spectacular feathery plums that tower above their graceful arching foliage.  It grows in distinctive clumps and can be up to twelve feet in height.  It has been bred to produce various erect, airy, plumed seed heads from pale silver to purplish-red in color depending on the variety.

Christmas Fern

(Polystichum acrostichoides)

This is a perennial, evergreen fern native to Eastern North America.  Its common name derives from the evergreen fronds, which are often still green at Christmas.  Also each pinnae on a frond when held correctly looks like Santa Claus in his sled.  It grows in a clump with its fronds arising from a central point.  It produces fertile fronds that bear light brown spores on the edges of the upper pinnae.

Arrow-Leaved Tear Thumb

(Persicaria sagittata)

This is an annual herb with prickles along the stem.  It can be up to six feet in length and often climbs over adjacent vegetation.   Leaves can be heart-shaped or arrowhead-shaped.  Flowers vary from white to pink and are found in clusters that are spherical or elongated in shape.  They are replaced by varied colored fruit in similar clusters.

Mugwort

(Artemisia ulgaris)

This is a tall perennial plant growing up to two and one-half feet in height.  It spreads through dispersal of root rhizome fragments rather than seed dispersal.  The leaves are dark green, pinnate and sessile, with dense, white hairs on the underside.  The erect stems are grooved and have a red-purplish tinge.  It has rather small florets with yellow or dark red petals.

Bur Cucumber

(Sicyos angulatus)

This annual herb is a climbing vine that can be up to twenty-five feet in length.   The alternate leaves can be up to eight inches in length with three to five palmate lobes.  The stems are furrowed and quite hairy.  The plant is monoecious and produces both staminate (male) and pistillate (female) five-petal flowers on the same plant.  They climb from one location to another using numerous tendrils.

Late Flowering Thoroughwort

(Eupatorium serotinum)

This plant is also known as Late Boneset due to its fall blooming season.  Like other members of Eupatorium it grows up to nearly seven feet in height, but its leaves are stalked on purple stems.  It has dense inflorescences containing a large number of tiny white flower heads with nine to fifteen disc florets but no ray florets.  It is insect pollinated unlike other species of Eupatorium that are pollinated by the wind.

Pennsylvania Smartweed

(Polygonum pennsylvanicum)

This plant is in the buckwheat family.  It may grow up to six and one-half feet in height.  Its lance-shaped leaves reach three-quarters of an inch in length.  Its inflorescences grow at the top of the stem and from the leaf axils.  The flowers are pinkish in color.  This plant is an important part of the habitat for birds that feed on its seeds.  Several Native American tribes have various medicinal uses for it.

Horseweed

(Erigeron canadensis)

This annual plant grows up to five feet in height on sparsely hairy stems.  Its leaves are unstalked, slender, up to four inches in length, with a coarsely toothed margin.  They grow in an alternate spiral up the stem.  The flowers are produced in dense inflorescences with each individual flower having a ring of white or pale purple ray florets and a center of yellow disc florets.  The seeds are tipped with a white down. 

Small White Aster

(Aster vimineus)

This is one of the many species within the Aster family.  Aster is derived from the Greek and Latin words for “star” just as in asteroid.  This name comes naturally from their many ray flowers around a central cluster.  Small white daisy-like flowers that are crowded closely together along purple stems characterize this species.  It may grow as high as five feet in fields and meadows with partial shade.