Part 1: Battelle Darby Metro Park (wetland, prairie, and lime-loving plants)

If you are not interested in learning a lot about the geology of Ohio (like me), simple know that Ohio’s geoogy is divisible into two parts, as follows: the western part, being made up of mostly crumbly limestone, has broken down to be fairly flat. The eastern part of Ohio is made up of sandstone, under which is shale. The sandstone has not eroded due to natural cement and the “sieve” of rock under it, which results in eastern Ohio having more deep valleys and steep hills made of sandstone. Thanks, Jane Forsyth.

These differences come from an original layering of sandstone atop shale atop limestone, which formed a low arch before erosion began. The crest of the arch exposed the oldest rocks in western Ohio, and the toes of the arch in the limestone region of Cleveland. The Teays River eroded the limestone in western Ohio and the sandstone and shale in eastern Ohio. The river flowed for 200 million years, until the glaciers of the ice age stopped its flow.

The “steep-sided sandstone hills” on the eastern part of Ohio stopped glacial movement, and the glacial boundary stops around Canton to the south of its range (Fun fact: Canton has the nearest Steak ‘n Shake to my hometown. Good stuff).

Glacial “till” is a “mixture of sand, silt, clay, and boulders.” In contrast with the till of eastern Ohio, western Ohio till is rich in lime and clay. That means the substrate of western Ohio is mostly an impermeable soil with bad drainage and aeration. This means that water does not soak into the surface of the ground well, creating low-oxygen pools of water in rainy seasons and droughts during dry seasons. However, it is high in nutrients and lime and is better for growing plants in comparison with eastern Ohio.

Eastern Ohio substrate, in contrast, is dry, low-nutrient sandstone bedrock that creates acidic environments but allows cool spring water to pass through. Shale is similar to sandstone in that it creates acidic, low-nutrient environments, and it is also impermeable. This means that rainwater tends to run off shale rather than absorb into it, which makes dry seasons even drier. When layers of shale are present in sandstone water cannot penetrate beneath them. When sandstone till is mixed with more clay and lime, the substrate is less acidic and more nutrient rich, like that of western Ohio.

Examples of species that prefer limey environments are as follows: Common winterberry, Redbud, Blue Ash, Hawthorn, Fragrant Sumac, Hackberry, and Hop hornbeam. Below are some very special pictures of some of these from me.

Common Winterberry

Ilex verticillata

Common winterberry is so-named because it holds onto its lovely red berries until the wintertime. This seems like a good fitness strategy, to continue to produce fruit when other plants have finished and foragers are still hungry. Winterberry is a medium-sized shrub and can grow in dry or wet conditions.

Blue Ash

Fraxinus quadrangulata

Blue Ash is a plant that loves to grow in limestone environments. The fruit of the blue ash is a winged achene (samara). Unfortunately, in recent years the blue ash has been especially damaged by the emerald ash borer.

Spiny Hackberry

Celtis ehrenbergiana

Home Gardens claims that the hackberry tree is resistant to drought, is host to two Lepidopteran species, and produces red drupes as fruit. I believe them.

All hackberries are edible and nutritious. Here’s a recipe to a hackberry pie. Let me know how it tastes!

American Hophornbeam

Ostrya virginiana

According to the University of Kentucky, the American Hophornbeam “thrives on neglect.” This tree grows well in rocky soil but has a low salinity tolerance. Good thing I left my salt shakers at home. Their flowers are in catkins that resemble “hops,” and therefore, “hophornbeam.”

Fragrant Sumac

Rhus aromatica

Fragrant sumac gives off a lemony scent when the leaves are broken. Most individuals of this species are dioecious, but some have perfect flowers.

Trees generally present in the clay, limey substrates of western Ohio are as follows: sugar maple, beech, red oak, shagbark hickory, and white oak. Trees generally present in the sandstone hills of eastern Ohio. Chestnut oak, sourwood, scrub pine, pitch pine, hemlock.

Interestingly (if you’re interested in geobotany), the distribution of sweet buckeye does not occur within the glacial boundary, which may be due to the limey nature of the substrate. In contrast, the hemlock is present in eastern Ohio northern of the glacial boundary, likely because of the cooler valleys and rivers in the sandstone valleys of eastern Ohio, as well as low-acidity environment. Rhododendron is a species that occurs in the glaciated and unglaciated area, as well as an excellent song by Valley Maker. This (not the song) is due to pre-glacial migration through the Teays river, which was disrupted by glacial advance.

Part 2: Cedar Bog That Isn’t a Bog

Cedar Bog is a fen in Champagne County, Ohio. The volunteers at the fen taught us that “bogs clog, fens flush.” The limestone substrate beneath the bog is permeable to water and allows the plants in the fen access to cold water (about 55 Fahrenheit) during all seasons. The fen has flowing water that is alkaline, thanks to the limestone, that flows through gravel left by glaciers from underground water that remains from the Teays river which was halted by glacial movement.

Heather asked me to find members of the Rosaceae family, which are identifiable by five sepals, five petals, and many spirally-arranged stamen. The bases of these structures are fused into the floral cup, the hypanthium. Three Cedar Bog That Isn’t a Bog members of Rosaceae are below:

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Potentilla fruticosa

This plant is a model example of Roseaceae, as you can clearly see the five leaves and spirally arranged sepals. Shrubby cinquefoil has palmately compound leaves, and grown well in swamps and fens. According to Minnesota Wildflowers, this flower is common in the great lakes region, and is also frequently planted as an ornamental.

Common Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius

The elephant in the room: that’s not my hand, I don’t own a watch. Now that that’s out of the way, ninebark is a Ohio native member of Roseceae named for its peeling layers of bark during maturation. Ninebark is popular among pollinators.

Multiflora Rose

Rosa multiflora

“Boo, hiss, arh” – Dr. Robert Klips

Multflora rose is invasive to Ohio which was cultivated as an ornamental and as erosion control. According to the USDA, one single mature plant can produce up to 500,000 achenes in a single year. This plant can form dense thickets of Rosa m. monocultures and cause local species extinction or substantial economic loss from lower agricultural production. Multiflora rose is resilient to winter temperatures.

“In West Virginia, projected costs to farmers for controlling multiflora rose from 1981 to 1982 exceeded $40 million (Williams and Hacker, 1982)”

Here’s a few other cool plants from the fen that I was excited to learn to identify:

Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus

Poison Sumac

Toxicodendron vernix

Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata

Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum

“I’m dying with a hammer in my hand” – Dr. Klips, on digital field guides and identification