Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)Eastern hemlock is everywhere at Hocking Hills. We looked for different pines but almost every conifer we saw was an eastern hemlock. We found this tree everywhere we looked and it surely seems to appreciate the sandstone soils in which it lives. It is the state tree of Pennsylvania and can live for a very long time with the oldest specimen known being 554 years old! It is found naturally in the northeast U.S. and southeast parts of Canada.
Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana)
Virginia pine, or scrub pine as described by Jane Forsythe is another plant that can be found in the sandstone regions of eastern Ohio. This tree sort of looks like a Christmas tree and you would be right to think this as it is often used on Christmas tree farms. This tree is found in the eastern U.S. and ranges from southern New York to western Tennessee and northern Alabama.
Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)
Mockernut hickory is another plant that will not be found in the western parts of Ohio where it is mostly limey soils. This is the most common tree of all hickories and is mostly abundant in the eastern part of the U.S. The name tomentosa means “covered with dense, short hairs” referring to the underside of the leaves. This species survives well on sandy soils such as those found in Hocking Hills and can also be found in oak-hickory and beech-maple forests.
Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
Sweet birch is another plant that survives well on the soils mostly found in eastern Ohio. The twigs have a strong scent of wintergreen when they are scraped, due to the presence of methyl salicylate produced in the bark. This species of tree spans from southeastern parts of Canada to northern Georgia and the Appalachian mountains.
The Hemlock wooly adelgid is one of the most well known parasites of trees in the U.S. the HWA are believed to be killing hemlocks at a rate faster than they can reproduce. They are alien insects, native to Asia and spend most of their life cycle feeding on hemlock trees. Their feeding disrupts the flow of nutrients throughout the tree. Current control efforts include biological control such as the introduction of predators, such as the Laricobiu nigrinus beetle in New York and chemical control such as insecticides in heavily affected areas.
Chestnut blight is something that has severely devastated American chestnut trees in the past century. This tree was originally very common in the U.S. Chestnut blight is caused by Cryphonectria parasitica, and ascomycete that grow in the inner bark and cambium slowly killing the tree throughout its life cycle. This disease is considered a canker disease in that it produces cankers which can be seen as a symptom. Chestnut blight obliterated chestnut trees in the 1900’s to 1960’s but is since less of a problem. Resistance is a method used to help chestnut trees survive. Chinese chestnut are more resistant to the disease and are thus breeding and backcrossing is used to allow the resistance to enter the gene pool of American chestnut trees.
Vittaria appalachiana, the Appalachian gametophyte, is a species of fern that comes from a temperate region in a mostly tropical lineage of ferns. It is found in the Appalachian mountains and and Plateaus of the eastern U.S. This species, unlike most ferns, is almost exclusively a vegetatively reproducing gametophyte, and in fact a mature sporophyte has never been observed. Sporophytes are often the dominant stage for ferns, so this is a very odd occurrence. V. appalachiana reproduces asexually via gemmae which may separate from the gametophyte and allow for better dispersal of individuals. Fern gemmae are much larger than spores and are not created for wind dispersal. They instead disperse over short distances by sometimes wind, but water and animals. Kimmerer and Young, 1995 described distribution of gemmaes by slugs. This species is mostly not present north of the last glacial maximum and does not occupy ranges outside of its current range despite studies showing that it can easily survive in these areas. These findings lead towards the conclusion that its current range was spread by a mature sporophyte a long time ago. The range of the species in New York shows that the gametophytes lost their ability to produce mature sporophytes that were able to reproduce sexually. V. appalachiana populations are not currently being sustained by long-distance dispersal from tropical sporophyte sources as allozyme studies and the truncated region of the species in New York tell us that the species has not been reproducing sexually for a very long period of time. The most likely explanation is that a sporophyte of this species persisted when conditions were much warmer and more tropical like, and these ancient sporophytes spread the species out to its current range. This hypothesis is supported by the geographical range of the species not extending north of the glacial maximum from the Pleistocene era.
Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
I have seen many oaks but usually do not encounter black oak! Black oak has a very wide range and is found from western Oklahoma to the northeastern parts of America as far as Maine. This tree was originally named yellow oak because of the yellow pigment in its inner bark.
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
One of the first ferns I have documented, the Christmas fern seems to also be present in June! This fern is native to the eastern part of the U.S. and as far as Nova Scotia to Florida. The name originates from the fact that the leaves are evergreen, even during Christmas time.
Swamp Agrimony (Agrimonia parviflora)
Swamp agrimony is another plant that I have probably seen before but have never noticed. This plant is a member of the Rosaceae family and is native to Canada and 32 of the 50 U.S. states. This plant was often used by Native Americans as the burs could be used as an antidiarrheal and to help reduce fevers. The root of this plant could also be used for increasing blood cell count, and certain skin issues like pox.
Snakeskin liverwort (Conocephalum conicum)
I remember Dr. Klips speaking highly of this plant and we often hear of liverworts but I have rarely seen them in the wild. It is easy to tell the origin of the name just from the appearance of the plant, as it appears to have snakeskin. This plant prefers low sunlight areas and medium shade, along with very moist and wet conditions. This was found on the side of the rock formations near Old Man’s Cave in a very wet, foggy place. Perfect for the little guy!