Marsh, Prairie, and Fen:

Field Trip: 9/22/19


Darby Creek Drive Marsh:

Along Darby Creek Drive we stopped to see a marsh in the process of being restored. A marsh is a wetland that consists of mainly herbaceous or non-woody plants. Along our journey, we saw three main trees that marshes are home to (listed below). Many marshes reside along side lakes or streams and make up the area between water and land. Marshes are known well for their biodiversity.

Source: National Geographic Society. “Marsh.” National Geographic Society, 9 Oct. 2012, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/marsh/.

Common plants to MARSH locations include:

  1. Plantanus occidentalis. Commonly known as: American Sycamore

  • The American Sycamore is known for the shade it produces from the widespread branches and leaves. Has fruits that remain through the first parts of winter. The tree does produce a small quantity of sap that is edible and can be boiled down for human consumption. The wood of the tree is used in many instances: Furniture, butchers blocks, flooring, fiberboard, and much more. Commonly found in moist woods and flood planes.

Source: “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ploc.

2. Salix Nigra. Commonly known as: Willow

  •  Important tree for its roll in the of making of aspirin, its lumber is used in shipping boxes, and the tree is especially important in the conservation of bees. The leaves are simple, alternate and have tapered bases. The tree has adapted to a variety of environments, including fire, in which it is able to quickly sprout after a fire to create new trees.

Source: https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_sani.pdf

3.  Populus deltoids. Commonly known as: Cottonwood 

  • Cottonwood trees have always been important to Native Americans, each part of the tree was used for its own reasons. The trunks were used to make canoes and for tree markers, the bark for horses and medicinal tea, and the inner bark for a food source. Cottonwood trees are the fastest growing trees in Northern America.

Source: “Planting Cottonwood Trees: Cottonwood Tree Uses In The Landscape.” Gardening Know How, 4 Apr. 2018, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/cottonwood/cottonwood-tree-in-landscapes.htm.

4.  Commonly known as: The Narrow Leaf Cattail

  • This species of cattail is a quickly growing invasive cattail that grows throughout early spring, while blooming later in the summer. Mature fruits burst under dry conditions releasing 117,000 to 268,000 tiny seeds. Seed are wind pollinated but do require wet conditions and oxygen in order to germinate.

Source: “Types of Cattails.” Cattails, http://www.cattails.info/Types_of_cattail.html.


Battelle Darby Metro Park Prairie:

Prairies are made up by a variety of grasses, sedges, and other flowering plants. These locations usually contain very few woody plants. As we talked about on the trip, prairie environments are very dependent on fire to “purify” the land, killing plants that have taken over the lands. Real prairie plants are able to survive and have adapted in ways that allow them to grow back to their original states relatively quickly.

Source: Ohio Plants, https://ohioplants.org/prairie/.

Common plants to this location include:

  1. Solidago juncea. Commonly known as: Early Goldenrod
    1. A member of the Aster Family, that grows 3-10 feet tall. A full yellow bloom occurs June through August throughout environments with dry soils across most of the United States. Attracts both birds and butterflies.

Source: “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=SOJU.

  1. Silphium terebinthinaceum. Commonly known as: Prairie Dock
    1. A member of the Aster Family, that is easily identified by its very wide, spade-shaped basal leaves and tall stalks. It is said that the leaf grows by orienting itself north to south, this allows the leaf to maximize the light intake for photosynthesis without wasting water during transpiration. The resin that the plant produces was once highly used as an incense for religious ceremonies. Prairie Dock is though to be the longest lived species in the prairie environments.

Source: “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=site AND “U.S. Forest Service.” Forest Service Shield, https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/silphium_terebinthinaceum.shtml.

  1.  Andropogon gerardi. Commonly known as: Big Bluestem
    1.  Big Bluestem is the signature grass of tall grass prairies.  It has the nick-name: “turkey foot” due to its close resemblance to the way that turkey toes are arranged.  Little Blue Stem is commonly found throughout Canada and the United States, can be found in every state except for Washington and Nevada.

Source: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_scsc.pdf, Ohio Plants AND https://ohioplants.org/prairie/.

  1. Elymus canadensis. Commonly known as: Tall Nodding Rye
    1. Consists of spike shaped seed-heads and bristle-like awns. This grass is commonly found in glasslands, ditches, open woodlands, and ravines. It is highly drought tolerant, often used ornamentally, and is consumed by livestock. Tall Nodding Grass also serves as a larval host for the Zabulon Skipper Moth.

Source: “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=elca4.


Cedar Bog:

Bogs vs. Fens: A bog does not drain, the water is stagnant. The comparison made on the trip was to the water in a bathtub, which sits in a position that is unable to drain or cycle in fresh water. A fen works differently such that the water is always moving and does not “clog up” like a bog does. As Mike introduced to us; “Bogs clog  and fens flush”.  So in the case of the Cedar Bog… it should actually be named Cedar Fen simply due to its motion of water.

Geology: From the article “Linking Geology and Botany: a new approach” by Jane Forsyth  we know that due to glacier activity many, many years ago, the western surface of Ohio tends to be flat due to the large ice mass that overlaid the land, which also caused the eastern portion of Ohio to become hilly. The melting of glacial ice had once created the Teay’s River which assisted in the digging out of the low land between two end moraines. Water seen in the fen comes mainly from three sources: (1) Flows down from higher levels of ground to the lower elevation fen after rain/snow events (2) Flow upward from the aquifer created from the ancient river valley that remains from the Teay’s River (3) Recycled water that continuously flows throughout the fen. (better explained in the photo at the top of the page)

Source: Ohio Plants, https://ohioplants.org/field-experience-autumn-2019-2/.


Mini Assignment: Find Two Species of Fern:
  1. Dryopteris cristata. Commonly known as: The Crested Wood Fern 
    1. Features: This fern contains twice pinnate fronds, and is commonly noticed by its attachment of leaves which are rotated and parallel with the ground. Sterile leaves are evergreen (down to -33 degrees F) while the fertile leaves die off in the winter.
    2. Habitat: Native to the wet wood environments with rich, moist, acidic soils throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Source: “The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.” Crested Wood Fern, Dryopteris Cristata (L) A.Gray, https://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org/pages/plants/crestedwoodfern.html.

  1.  Thelypteris noveboracensis. Commonly known as: The New York Fern or Tapering Fern
    1. Features: The fern has a soft texture with leave no longer that 2 feat tall and 4 inches wide. Each frond had a taper, with the widest section in the middle.
    2. Habitat: Found in the eastern United States, in wet woodlands and swamp edges. Ferns usually grow in multiple, creating dense colonies on the ground. This fern is on the endangered list in Illinois.

Source: Plants Profile for Thelypteris Noveboracensis (New York Fern), https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=THNO.


Other Common plants to this location include:

  1. Symplocarpus foetidus. Commonly known as: Skunk Cabbage 
  • This is probably the coolest plant, I think that it is so interesting the way that it grows and a lifecycle that is so specific. The plant is a member of the Arum Family, and is specialized to wet, woodsy areas. Skunk Cabbage has the ability to perform a chemical reaction within itself in order to melt away snow in winter months and begin growing (remaining at 15 degrees C). Low sun requirements, high water requirements, and is unable to move position once roots are established. Young leaves and roots can be collected for human consumption.

Source: “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=syfo.

2. Fraxinus nigra. Commonly known as: Black Ash

  •  The tree is identified by its pinnately compound leaves, and serrated leaflets. Common throughout wet wood, stream banks, and lake sides. Black Ash can be distinguished from White Ash by its darker complexion of wood. Black Ash is one of the least expensive utility woods, similar to Oak with hardy wood used for a variety of wood projects (chairs, barrels, baskets, etc.). This species has made its way onto the IUCN’s Red List as a critically endangered species, due to its decline in populations caused by the Emerald Ash Borer.

Source: “Black Ash.” The Wood Database, https://www.wood-database.com/black-ash/.

3.  Tilia americana. Commonly known as: American Basswood

  • A deciduous tree that is a member of the Linden Family and native to Midwestern United States, including Ohio. The tree is highly favored by bees and leads to high quality honey production. Makes greta shade trees in area of moist rich soils. Leaves are often the food source for many insects, including Japanese Beetles, which can eat complete leaves away in very short periods of time. The fruits make the tree very easily identified as they grow in clusters of rounded fruits with light tan bracts attached at the base.

Source: Forestry, Ohio DNR Division of. “Ohio.gov / Search.” Ohio DNR Division of Forestry, http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/basswood.