Botanical Survey CC Values and FQAI

The coefficient of conservatism (CC) values range from 0 to 10 and estimate the probability that a plant species is found on a particular site. Environmental conditions and disturbances play a large role in the estimation of this value and it can be useful in better understanding a site. The Floral Quality Assessment Index (FQAI) was developed to estimate overall site quality and can be calculated using the CC values of a survey and species richness.

Species List:

  1. swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) CC value= 7
  2. Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) CC value= 3
  3. wand goldenrod (Solidago stricta) CC value= 6
  4. night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) CC value= 5
  5. American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) CC value= 1
  6. pawpaw (Asimina triloba) CC value= 6
  7. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) CC value= 1
  8. catalpa (Catalpa spp.) CC value= 3
  9. downy birch (Betula pubescens) CC value= 4
  10. yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia) CC value= 5
  11. blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) CC value= 5
  12. black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) CC value= 2
  13. wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) CC value= N/A
  14.  late boneset (Eupatorium serotinum) CC value= 3
  15. red mulberry (Morus rubra) CC value= 7
  16. hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) CC value= N/A
  17. honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) CC value= 6
  18. riverbank grape (Vitis riparia) CC value= 3
  19. field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) CC value= N/A

 20. white vervain (Verbena urticifolia) CC value= 3

I calculated the FQAI for my site, but only used these 20 species that are listed above. As a result, I got a value of 15.65. The range for a low quality site is any value from 1-19, which is where my site falls. It’s possible this value is on the low end due to the presence of a couple invasive species, which aren’t given a CC value. When done for my entire botanical site, I predict this value to be higher.

High CC Values : Red mulberry (Morus rubra) has one of the higher CC values that I was able to find on my site. This tree can be identified due to its distinct leaf shape and margin. A little similar to sassafras leaves, the red mulberry leaves can be lobed or unlobed and have serrated leaf margins. Due to the durability of red mulberry wood, it is often used to make fence posts and barrels. Red mulberry was also used by Native Americans to treat dysentery.

This red mulberry has many different lobed leaves!

Another plant found on my site with a high CC value of 7 was swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). This tree can be identified through several distinct characteristics such as broad, dark green leaves with several pairs of lobes. The wood of swamp white oak is very heavy and strong, and as a result has been used to make cabinets and various interior finishing. Also, the acorns of this tree are a big part of duck, turkey, and various songbird diets. The swamp white oak has a relatively high CC value due to the fact that it has a narrow range of ecological tolerances. For example, this species of tree is found in low lying bottomland areas that can be subjected to flooding and poor drainage. Along with this, the swamp white oak does not grow well in high pH soils, which also works to limit its range.

Look at the dark green color of these lobed leaves!

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is another woody plant on my site that has one of the higher CC values (6) associated with it. Pawpaw typically doesn’t grow very tall and has distinct broad leaves that look almost tropical. It has been discovered that deer do not enjoy the taste of pawpaw and don’t browse on it. This has resulted in the habitat expansion of this plant and its current abundance has the potential to influence future forest types and canopies.

Pawpaw is known to have some pretty massive leaves!

Lastly, I was able to find some honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) on my site, which has a CC value of 6! The leaves of this plant are alternate and pinnately compound and have sharp thorns protruding from branches to help deter pests and predators. The fleshy pulp found within the bean pod fruits of this tree tastes sweet like honey and is edible. This tree was also utilized by Native Americans for a variety of purposes from medicine to food to wood products such as bows and tools.

Honey locust has distinct pinnately compound leaves and spines along the branch.

Low CC Values:  American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) had one of the lowest CC values coming in at a solid 1. This extremely poisonous plant can easily be identified due to its thick, bright red stems. It also grows a collection of small fruits that are round and darkly colored. This plant is native to wet and sandy areas throughout North America. Although they shouldn’t be consumed, the berries can be used to dye cloth and paper products. American pokeweed has a low CC value because it can grow in and tolerate a variety of environmental conditions from shaded well-drained soils to periods of drought. This plant also self-seeds and can grow very rapidly causing an even wider distribution. 

The thick red stems of American pokeweed makes this an easily recognizable plant.

Another plant species I identified with a low CC value of 1 is poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). It’s important to be able to identify this plant due to its possession of toxins and oils that can cause irritation if touched. These plants are trifoliate, meaning they have leaves in pairs of three and should be left alone and not touched. Urushiol, the compound in poison ivy that causes irritation, was used as a dye by Native Americans for various cloth products. Also, early European settlers actually planted poison ivy along banks to help with support of the soil and limit erosion.

It’s best not to touch this plant if you ever come across it!

Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) has a CC value of 3, which is relatively low. This tree species has distinct triangle shaped leaves that are broad at the bottom and come to a point. The bark of this tree can also be described as being thick and blocky, which can help in identifying it. Eastern cottonwood has bark that is pretty weak, meaning there aren’t very many commercial uses for it. Instead, pulp is used in  order to make lower quality paper products. However, eastern cottonwood plays a large ecological role as it is the preferred nesting site for bald eaglesHigher up in the branches of Eastern cottonwood trees makes a great nesting site for bald eagles!

Lastly, white vervain (Verbena urticifolia) was another plant that I documented in my survey that has a low CC value of 3. The leaves of this plant are coarsely toothed and arranged oppositely. The stems are also square and typically hairy. The flowers, when in bloom are white in color and arranged along the axil of the stem. There are several medicinal uses for this plant. It has antimicrobial properties that can be useful in treating infections and can help relieve pain associated with headaches.

Look at the cool axial arrangement of these flowers!

Invasive species: Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is one of the invasive species that I found on my survey site. This plant is a perennial vine that has arrowhead shaped leaves and can grow up to ten feet in length. The flowers are usually white in color and have fused petals. This plant can be harmful because it will climb over surrounding vegetation and has the potential to block sunlight from other native plants and even strangle them. Also, it thrives in disturbed areas and abandoned fields, blocking out native plants. This plant also has an extensive network of rhizomes, making it even more difficult to control and eradicate.

Don’t let the pretty flower fool you; these vines can cause problems for native vegetation.

Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is another invasive species that is found throughout Ohio and my survey site. This is one of the most common and invasive honeysuckles found in the mid-Atlantic region. This plant has opposite leaves that come to a point and produce bright red fruits. It is usually multi-stemmed and considered a shrub, but can grow up to 20 feet tall. Amur honeysuckle was imported into New York in 1898 with the initial intent for it to be used for wildlife habitat/cover and to help with soil erosion. However, it has since reproduced on its own and expanded, outcompeting native vegetation.

This shrubby plant has also outcompeted several different native species.

Another invasive species that I discovered was field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). This is another vine that has an extensive rhizome system that makes it difficult to control and remove from areas. The leaves are alternate and usually arrow-shaped. The flowers are typically pale pink and have fused petals. Field bindweed was likely introduced in North America as a contaminant in seed crops where it has since expanded its range dramatically across the United States. One of the big issues with this invasive plant is that it interferes with the harvesting of crops and can clog up harvesting equipment.

This vine has unique arrowhead shaped leaves.

Another invasive species that I discovered on my site was porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata). Oftentimes this plant can be mistaken for native grape plants due to similar leaf arrangement, margin, and shape. However, a key distinguishing feature is that the underside of the leaves of porcelain berry are shiny instead of dull. This plant is extremely invasive due to its ability to grow in a variety of different conditions, it can expand quickly, has few pests, and will shade out trees, causing them to die. One interesting fact about this plant is that Japanese beetles are being used to try and control population sizes. It’s been found that these beetles are able to damage foliage and slow the spread of this plant.

This plant is known to be found in urban areas and various landscapes.

Substrate specific plants: In Jane Forsyth’s article relating to Geobotany, she mentions several different plant species that are associated with the different regions of Ohio. She provides different examples based on the landscapes they’re found in, and I was able to find a few at my survey site. 

To start off, I observed hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). This tree is typically easy to identify due to its warty bark that looks like it’s been hacked at by an ax. The leaves are also pretty characteristic. They have a serrated margin and have an ovate shape that comes to a point. In her article, Forsyth associates this tree with the lime substrate that is found in western Ohio.

The serrated leaves and warty bark of the hackberry are very evident here!

Another species that I was able to identify and observe at my site was bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa). This species of oak usually has leaves that are pretty big in size and are lobed. They are also pretty distinct because they cinch in the middle of the leaf. The acorns of bur oak also have a fringed cap. This species is also associated with the lime substrate found in western Ohio.

These leaves have a distinct cinch in the middle!

Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) was another tree mentioned in Forsyth’s article. This tree has alternate, simple leaves. They have a broad heart shape to them, helping to distinguish them from other tree species. Based on the geobotany article, this tree is also typically associated with the lime substrate of western Ohio.

These leaves have a beautiful heart shape to them!

I also was able to find some smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) at my site. This is another species mentioned by Forsyth that dominates in the limestone areas of western Ohio. Smooth sumac has pinnately compound leaves that are serrated and almost lance-like in shape. The central stem is smooth and doesn’t have any wings, but sometimes it can be red in color. This plant is typically found growing in thickets on the edges of habitats. Overall, I think that the species found at my site line up with Jane Forsyth’s article and the distinction between the different regions of Ohio. These species all were predicted to be in the glaciated area of Ohio where limestone dominates, which is accurate since my site is along the Olentangy River.

The serrated leaves and red stem help to identify smooth sumac!