Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Our first field trip for this course was to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, which is located about half an hour west of Columbus. The park sits along Big Darby Creek in Franklin County. This park is home to many varieties of plant communities and ecosystems. We visited the wet prairie and discussed wetland plants. Afterward, we ventured into the forested area and hiked the trails in search of many different plant species. I was tasked with finding three flowers that exhibit the different flower types; hypogynous, perigynous, and epigynous.

Great Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum)

The Great Waterleaf was one of the many flowers we discovered on our field trip. It is a biennial plant meaning it grows for two years before maturing and dying. It is native to the midwest and grows in dappled shade and moist soils.

Great Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum)

The Great Waterleaf is a great example of a hypogynous flower as the flower parts sit below the ovary, making the ovary superior in this plant.

Spring Avens (Geum vernum)

The Spring Avens is in the family Rosaceae and grows in areas of dappled sunlight and moist, rich soils.

Spring Avens (Geum vernum)

Spring Avens is a good example of a perigynous flower, which has a cup-like hypanthium, and the ovary sits within this cup and is a superior ovary.

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

The Autumn Olive is an invasive species native to eastern Asia and was brought to the United States as an ornamental plant in the 1800s. It is a very fast growing and adaptive plant, which allows it to spread quickly.

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

The Autumn Olive has flowers that are epigynous, where the flower parts are above the ovary, making the ovary inferior.

Conkle’s Hollow and Ohio Geobotany

Sadly, I was unable to attend the field trip to Deep Woods on Saturday, May 18th because I had to work (#adultingsucks). However, the next day I went to Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve in Hocking County which is in the same area as the Deep Woods.

View from the Rim Trail

Conkle’s Hollow offers amazing hiking and beautiful views (like the one above). However, this was not your typical walk in the park (or should I say hike in the nature preserve?). While I was hiking, I was on the lookout for certain plants. I was tasked in finding flowering plants in the preserve, as well as plants that are specifically adapted to living in the sandstone substrate this region has to offer (more on which later).

I found the plants I was looking for on both the Rim Trail and the lower trail that takes you back to the waterfalls. We will begin by looking at the flowering plants I encountered in the preserve.

Common White Striped Violet (Viola striata)

Let’s begin with this beauty, the Common White Striped Violet. I found this flower at the bottom of the gorge along the main trail. This Violet is not violent, but rather white and has violet-ish veining in the petals. This is the only white violet to have such veining. This flower is usually found in moist soils in lowland wooded areas (which explains why I found it at the bottom of a gorge). Fun fact! This flower can be found in every county in Ohio! (floraofohio.blogspot.com).

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Our next flowering plant which resides in Conkle’s Hollow is the Black Locust. I found this tree on the edge of the woods, just as you enter the trailhead for the gorge. The beautiful white flowers caught my eye very quickly. This tree is very pretty and is often an ornamental tree. However, the use of the Black Locust as an ornamental tree has allowed it to become an invasive species in some areas (although it is native to southern Ohio). It grows fast where it is plentiful sunlight, and its flowers are great attractants for pollinators. Other uses for the Black Locust are for soil erosion and nitrogen fixation (a trait that is found in the Fabacaea family). (bioweb.uwlax.edu).

Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum)

This plant could be a secret agent, for all the different aliases it has! It is known by deerberry, tall deerberry, squaw huckleberry, highbush huckleberry, Buckberry, and southern gooseberry (choose your favorite I suppose). This plant is a head-high bush found in forest understories. It also prefers dry, sandy ridges in forested uplands. I happened to find this one on the Rim Trail. They do produce a type of blueberry as a fruit, which is edible, though it is not the kind of blueberry you buy from the store.

Now that we’ve seen some flowering plants from Conkle’s Hollow, let’s get into what makes this region of Ohio unique, and the plants that are there because of the geology of this region. Ohio is interesting in that it can be divided into two main geological regions, the western part of the state being very alkaline and having mainly limestone substrates and the eastern part of the state which is acidic and contains sandstone substrates. Limestone is easily weathered down, which has resulted in a lot of erosion shaping western Ohio into flat land. Sandstone is a very resistant rock although it is permeable, this resulted in shaping eastern Ohio into a very hilly land with deep valleys, as erosion happened mainly along stream beds.

The reason for these separate regions of Ohio is the layers of rocks present originally in Ohio, which was a thick series of sandstone on top of shale on top of limestone. These layers of rocks formed an arch throughout Ohio, and the highest part of the arch in western Ohio exposed the oldest rocks, the limestone. The eastern part of Ohio was where the sandstone was exposed. Erosion had larger effects where limestone was exposed than where sandstone was exposed. The erosion of these stones was due mainly to an ancient river system, called the Teays River, which spanned much of Ohio. This river shaped the landscape until it was stopped by the glacial advance of the Ice Age. The glaciers were stopped in the eastern part of Ohio due to the strong sandstone hills, while the glaciers easily pushed through the soft limestone of western Ohio and continued into Kentucky. Glaciers left deposits of sediments in two ways. One way is in the form of glacial till which is the unsorted mixture of sand, silt, and clay accumulated directly from the melting ice. The other way of deposition is through sand and gravel materials being deposited by the flow of the meltwater. The glacial till of western Ohio is composed of limey clay, where eastern Ohio’s till is very low in lime and clay.

The results for the soils of the two regions of Ohio are very different. Due to the limey clay in western Ohio the soils there are very impermeable to water. Water often stays on the surface and results in low oxygen levels. This poor drainage and aeration are accompanied by relatively large availability of nutrients for plants. Eastern Ohio has very permeable soils which are acidic and well aerated which results in high oxygen availability. This comes with low nutrient availability, especially on dry hilltops.

The difference in soil types in these regions causes differences in plants that grow there. For instance, limey substrates support plants like the Redbud (Cercis canadensis), red-cedar (Juniper virginiana), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata), and Hawthorn (Crataegus mollis).

The sandstone, acidic substrates support particular species as well. Such as Chesnut Oak (Quercus montana), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and Greenbrier (Smilax glauca). Below are pictures of these plants that I found in Conkle’s Hollow.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

Sourwood leaves

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain Laurel flowers

Greenbrier (Smilax glauca)

Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

Hemlock branch

Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)

These plants are specially adapted to living in the sandstone, acidic conditions in eastern Ohio. These plants would not be found in our last field trip to Battelle Darby Metro Park, where instead you might find Redbud, Hackberry, and Hawthorn trees, as well as other plant species that are well adapted to the limey clay soils there.

Cedar Bog (not a bog)

On Friday, May 24th we ventured to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve near Urbana, Ohio. 

Cedar Bog is actually not a bog at all, as it is actually a fen. This may be confusing for those who have not visited the nature preserve or for those who do not understand hydrology and wetland classification, but an explanation is forthcoming. Bogs are wetlands that have water entering through precipitation but mainly exits through evaporation. Built-up organic matter on the bottom of the bog turns into peat, which stops the water from exiting through groundwater. Bogs can be thought of like a clogged bathtub, as water can readily come in, but leaves very slowly. Fens are wetlands that have flowing water throughout. Water enters by precipitation, streams, or groundwater, and can exit via streams, evaporation, or groundwater. Fens have limey gravel substrates which allow water to percolate (unlike bogs that clog). Cedar Bog has flowing water throughout the preserve and is not clogged by peat, making it a fen. Cool eh? Remember, bogs clog and fens flush!

While visiting the fen we observed many varieties of woody and herbaceous plants. I was specifically on the hunt for members of the Apiaceae family (parsley and carrot family). Let’s look at some amazing Apiaceae, shall we?

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

Wild Parsnip is a member of the Apiaceae family that is identifiable by its yellow flowers that come in umbels (umbels are a key identification factor for Apiaceae). It grows up to five feet tall and has toothed, compound leaves with 3-5 leaflets. Wild Parsnip is an invasive species that has become naturalized to North America from Europe and Asia and can cause skin irritation if a person comes in contact with the sap. Look but don’t touch! (or touch it if you like itching and pain). (https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/105364.html)

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Beware! Poison Hemlock can kill! (hence the name Poison Hemlock). Don’t worry though, it is easily identifiable and just don’t eat it. You can spot this undesirable umbel by its white flowers. The leaves are finely toothed and divided. The stalks have purple spots on them and a white coating that will rub off with if you touch it (refrain from licking your fingers afterward and wash your hands). All parts of this plant are poisonous and even the dead canes can be poisonous for up to 3 years! (https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/animals-and-plants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/poison-hemlock.aspx)

Great Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)

Great Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)

Great Angelica is quite great in regards to its size, and some might say it’s angelic. This plant can grow up to 8 feet tall! The stems are a purple color and the leaves are alternate and compound. Leaves are bipinnate with 3-5 leaflets. The umbels consist of greenish white or pale yellow flowers. This has edible stems, leaf stalks, and roots when it is young, and the Great Angelica can be used to treat colic, heartburn, nervous headaches, and more! It is also an additive to tobacco and can be smoked (although I do not condone this habit). Just don’t mix it up with Poison Hemlock or you might not enjoy the outcome of consuming it! (https://plighttofreedom.com/great-angelica/)

Cedar Bog that is actually a fen is a beautiful place to visit with plenty of wildlife and plants to observe. I enjoyed myself on this trip (even though we got rained on) and would highly recommend visiting it to anyone who has not yet done so. If you go, enjoy your day, don’t eat the Poison Hemlock and remember bogs clog and fens flush!