What is the Adena Brook/Overbrook Ravine?

The Adena Brook ravine, or Overbrook ravine, is a series of ravine located in the Clintonville community of Columbus. It is currently surrounded by residential homes, however they sit right off of the ravine, either on the upslopes or at the top. It used to be home to the Adena American Indians, as excavations discovered many burial grounds (complete with bones of skeletons), and other indicators such as a plethora of arrow heads. It is thought that many of the people lived down at the bottom of ravines and traded at the top of the ravine slopes where houses now reside. The ravine today does have streets going through portions of it, but the ravine beds of natural shale are further off the path. It is home today to many native plants, wildlife, and fish (mainly minnows). As seen in this overview, the ravine has a dominant oak-maple overstory and much more variety in its understory, which is mostly shaded.

Satellite view of ravine running along many of the modern streets

Here are some neat things I found here!

Now on to plants ! The first one up is American Elm (Ulmus americana), a native tree that is great for much of the local wildlife, and it is normally found in well drained, wet soils. The two major elm trees found in Ohio are both easily identifiable by the touch, since their bark is very spongy! It can become a little difficult to differentiate the American from the slippery elm, but the key is to peel or cut a piece of the bark off. If it is an American elm, there should be a layering of the bark that is brown and white, almost looking like the chocolate and vanilla in neapolitan ice cream (can be seen in the middle of the tree, to the right of the moss). Its leaf arrangement is simple and alternate, its leaves are doubly serrated, and feel super bristly and rough on the top but not on the bottom. A fun fact about this tree is that lmost every part of it has various uses to humans! The American elm is a softer hardwood, but its wood is still used for many things such as furniture, baskets, and even hockey sticks. The stems of leaves has historically been used for paper, but the bark has an outrageous amount of uses throughout history. If prepared in a decoction or infusion, the bark has been used to treat bleeding of the lungs, coughs, influenza, dysentery, diarrhea, cramps, appendicitis, eye infections and even more!

Ulmus americana bark
can faintly make out American elm leaves, but really just a picture for an idea of the canopy cover throughout the ravine!

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is a peculiar, but a common tree found around Ohio and in the Adena brook ravine. Its bark, shown below, is a more reddish brown color and is very blocky (but quite pleasing to look at!). Its leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, with anywhere from 9-21 leaflets, but no terminal leaf (at the very end). One extremely fun fact about the black walnut is that the leaves, roots, and other portions of the tree actually give off a poisonous compound that kills off other plants around it! While this does not hurt animals, it can give humans contact dermatitis sometimes. The wood of the black walnut is very valuable, and the walnuts themselves are valuable for wildlife and humans.

a large black walnut!

One fun woody vine I found that isn’t super common everywhere (and has one of the better latin names) is the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). It its known to just keep growing up anything, from trees to fences to anything vertical, and can reach heights of up to 100 feet! It is best identifiable by its 5(some times 3) leaflets that look like a hand (palmate), and its long petioles that allow the leaves to face towards the sky! Virginia creeper are great for wildlife in many ways, including producing a dark purple fruit that many birds love, and a great habitat and nesting spot for small mammals and birds. A great fact including that it can grow to ridiculous heights, is that if grown into buildings, it does such a good job covering walls that it can actually keep the building cool, and reduce air conditioning use!

the palmate leaves of the Virginia creeper

English ivy (Hedera helix) is a very common vine that not only grows in the wild, but is very common to see on buildings. It is best identifiable by its chordate, lobed leaves as shown below. It is great for purifying air in an indoor setting, and even has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the leaves!

the chordate leaves of English ivy (NEXT TO A POISON IVY VINE!)

While I could not find a good example of the leaves, riverbank grape is found all over Ohio, typically near, surprise, water. It has big chordate leaves that are serrated, and produce grapes that are somewhat tasty to humans, but hard to find when ripe since many animals eat them very quickly. It is best known for its absolutely ridiculous vines, that can grow in funky ways for hundreds and hundreds of feet! The picture below is a great example of a singular vine wrapped around a tree and going various ways.

Riverbank grape that has grown throughout different trees

This plant was (literally) a flower among thorns with the gross amount of garlic mustard all throughout the ravine, but none the less was quite prevalent. This is the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens), and it is part of the Orchis family. It has individual flowers in a clump of two growing vertically in a dense, cylindrical spike, which means it does not grow on just one side or in a spiral fashion. The basal leaves area regular tear drop shaped, with white veins.

Another wild flower that was very infrequently present, but in dense clumps, was the Racemed Milkwort (Polygala polygama). Its flowers are a rose-purple (and extremely rarely white), and they are about 1/4″ long in a raceme 1-4″ long. the leaves are lace shaped and are about 1″ long themselves. Milkworts themselves have been used across history for medicinal purposes, one ancient Greek writing described them as a useful aid in lactation for new mothers.