Battelle Darby Creek Metropark
For our first field trip, we made our way to Battelle Darby Creek Metropark. The park is located Southwest of Columbus and contains a diverse landscape including forests, wetlands, and prairies. Specifically, I focused on plants with fruiting bodies.
American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
The American sweetgum tree belongs to the family Altingiaceae.
You’ll need a quarter for this one. This is the fruit of a sweetgum tree, formally called a gumball which contains multiple capsules that hold seeds. The fruit is referred to as multiple fruits because it is derived from several to many individual flowers into a single inflorescence.
An interesting fact about sweet gum trees is that the gum that they are named for contains a resin which can be used medically to for its anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. The gum has been used to treat bedsores, topical herpes, and angina (https://homeguides.sfgate.com/uses-sweet-gum-tree-44350.html).
These pretty weeds(?) are a member of the Asteraceae family.
Make a wish! Despite what you thought as a kid, this is not a dead dandelion. This image contains multiple little fruits. The wind (or you) will blow these seeds in order to disperse them (or make a wish). This fruiting body is called an achene which is a weed attached to the surrounding pericarp only at the base. A fun fact about dandelion is that their name is French! Dandelion is taken from the French word “dent de lion” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves (http://mydandelionisaflower.org/did-you-know/).
Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis)
The Redbud tree belongs to the Fabaceae family aka the pea family.
This is the fruit of the Redbud, which is a legume, or pod containing seeds. A legume is a unicarpellate, that splits along two sides.
A fun fact about the Redbud tree is that it is the state tree of Oklahoma!
Deep Woods Farm, the Appliachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany
For our next field experience, we went South to a private property in Hocking county called Deep Woods Farm. Here we saw a variety of rare species, wildflowers, smelly plants, and what I will focus on, galls!
Before I get to the galls, let’s talk about rocks. Ohio geology differs across the state which affects what types of plants grow there. Ohio consists of three different sedimentary rock layers, the bottom is limestone, then shale, and finally sandstone at the surface. After millions of years, some of the layers have eroded resulting in different plants thriving in different areas. This erosion resulted in an arch formation about 200 million years ago. The low-lying toe of the arch was located was in the east and the higher end was in the west. The arch formation left the western side of Ohio as a limestone-rich area and the other half consisting of shale and sandstone layers. This same event created the Appalachian mountain range.
As time continued, the second layer of shale began to erode forming valleys and hills with sandstone caps. Hocking country has many caves as a result. These damp, dark, and sandstone environments are perfect for the Appalachian gametophyte which we were able to find in Deep Woods. Also due to the properties of sandstone, it erodes slower than the layer of shale beneath it
Approximately 1 million years ago there was an Ice Age in Ohio creating glacier formations around the state. The ice caused the river system to stop. A glacial boundary quickly spread across the western sandstone portion of Ohio. This event is the reason why there are unglaciated areas in eastern Ohio. The “glacial till” is composed of clay and lime and it differs from east to west in that is it much more distinct in the western till.
Galls at Deep Woods Farm
Now let’s talk about the galls I found at Deep Woods Farm! Galls are abnormal plant growth caused by insects, mites, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and viruses (https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/insect-and-mite-galls).
A gall on a ground ivy leaf…
The gall featured here is on a ground ivy leaf (Glechoma hedera) which is a member of the mint family Laminacea. These galls are caused by a species of cynipid gall wasp. There are many different cynipid gall wasps that create a variety of different galls.
Although this plant has been used in salads, it is not recommended for cattle and horses because of it contains terpenoids which can be bad for the digestive tract and the kidneys.
A gall on a dead stem…
This discovered gall proved impossible to identify since the plant was dead and I was unable to get closer. However, galls can often be found on dried up stems such as on the plant Goldenrod (family Asteraceae). I do not believe this imparticular plant was Goldenrod since we did not see any in Deep Woods but it is a great example.
Galls on Goldenrod are often very spherical and are caused by a fruit fly, Eurosta solidaginis (Tephritidae) (https://bugtracks.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/goldenrod-ball-galls/).
Wooly Oak Galls
During our field experience, we encountered multiple wooly oak galls. Oak trees are highly susceptible to galls due to their high concentration of tannin.
This gall imparticular was likely caused by the Cynipid wasp, Callirhytis lanata. The gall was likely made in the Spring. The adult will emerge after several seasons.
Callirhytis lanata (https://bugguide.net/node/view/1068702/bgimage)
Most insect galls will not harm the overall health of a mature tree, however, many galls can cause leaf and stem deformities which can result in leaves falling early. This can lead to the death of the tree (https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2010/8-25/oakgalls.html).
The Appalachian Gametophyte (Vittaria appalachiana)
Well enough about galls, let’s talk about tiny ferns!
The Appalachian Gametophyte is a very small fern found in shaded damp areas of sandstone and quartzite rock. If you look carefully, you can find this little fern in Deep Woods.
It looks like it could be a liverwort but don’t be fooled!
Read the article “Unraveling the origin of the Appalachian gametophyte …for more information about the Appalachian gametophyte.
Back to the Rocks!
Deeps Woods was the ideal place to think about Ohio geobotony. In other words, how do the rock and substrate impact the species found in the area?
Since the substrate changes through Ohio, plant life is affected. Eastern Ohio has a higher level of acidity and lower level nutrients. Western Ohio, on the other hand, posses much more nutrients but has a lower acidity level. Also, eastern Ohio is had better drainage then western Ohio and is highly aerated compared to western Ohio.
Examples of plant species in which their distribution is generally limited to limestone or limey substrates, such as Ohio’s Lake Erie islands, are the redbud, red cedar, fragrant sumac, hackberry, and blue ash.
Examples of plant species that have distribution generally in the high-lime and clay-rich substrates of western Ohio are chinquapin oak, hop hornbeam and also redbud, blue ash, and red cedar.
Examples of plant species in which their distribution is generally limited to the sandstone hill of eastern Ohio are chestnut oaks, sourwood, scrub pine, pitch pine, and hemlock.
Sweet Buckeye and Hemlock tend to thrive in similar areas. Sweet buckeye can only be found in the glaciated portion of western Ohio whereas Hemlock which typically is found in the unglaciated portion can occasionally be found in outside the area. However, moist and cool conditions are required for hemlocks growth. In contrast, the species Rhododendron is only found around the old Teays River.
Deep Woods vs Battelle Darby
Deep Woods is within Hocking County which is in the sandstone portion of Ohio. Battelle Darby Metropark is within the limestone region. This difference in substrate allowed us to compare the species present. In Deep Woods, we were able to find chestnut oak (Quercus montana) and pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule). In Battelle Darby, we identified eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii).
Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)
Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule)
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
Read the article “Linking Geology and Botany: a new approach” by Jane Forsyth for more information about plants and geology!
Cedar Bog (which isn’t actually a bog) is located in Western, Ohio. Cedar Bog should actually be called Cedar Fen because of the way water enters and exits the area. A true bog doesn’t have drainage but rather rain enters and the water leaves via evaporation. A fen, on the other hand, has springs that allow water to enter and many little streams that water flows out from. In addition, fens typically occur in limestone areas (such as Cedar Bog).
Here is Cedar Bog! The preservation has many boardwalks through the wet and muddy area.
For this field experience, I specifically looked at calcareous plants. These are species that grow in calcium-rich ecosystems which are caused by the rich limestone substrate.
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
If you don’t smell it first, this cabbage can be found growing on the ground in wetland areas. It can be identified by its broad leaves with parallel veins. It is a member of the Araceae family.
When in bloom, it can be identified by its perineal flowers that are actually petaless. The flower is a fleshy spike that opens up for pollination (https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/skunk-cabbage).
Skunk cabbage received its name because of its skunky smell. However smelly, this plant used to be used for medical purposes. It was used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, nervous disorders, rheumatism, and dropsy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symplocarpus_foetidus).
Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta)
Corn salad is a member of the Caprifoliaceae family along with honeysuckle.
This flower can be identified by its opposite slightly toothed leaves and its very small flowers that have five regular parts. This plant can be found growing wild in the western United States and in Europe, Asia, and Northern African. It can also be found in cultivated areas such as fields and waste places.
The common name corn salad refers to the fact that it often grows as a weed in wheat fields (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerianella_locusta).
Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata)
The blue ash can only really be found in western Ohio in places like Cedar Bog that isn’t a bog. It is a member of the Oleaceae family.
Blue Ash has leaves that are opposite, pinnately compound, and have 7 to 11 leaflets which are often narrow. Also, the leaflets may have margins that are smooth, finely serrated, or noticeably toothed. This blue ash has serrated leaves (http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/blueash).
Blue Ash received its colorful name from the ink that can be made from its inner bark. Colonist used the dye to color things such as yarn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinus_quadrangulata).