- Substrate-associated Plants. Re-read the eastern Ohio section of the article “Linking Geology and Botany: a new approach” by Jane Forsyth” available and present at least four examples of plants you photo-documented that Forsyth tells us are associated with acid sandstone places like the Hocking Hills, with additional natural history information about them such as human uses, animal interactions, peculiar anatomy/morphology, etc.
Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) is a sandstone loving plant that is mostly found on hilltops. Known for being a popular fruit in grocery stores, this plant is also loved by raccoons, dogs, bears, foxes, and coyotes.
Chestnut oak (Quercus montana) has quite the variety of uses among humans, these include: cabinetry, furniture, interior trim, flooring, boatbuilding, barrels and veneer. This tree is so usable to us, in fact, that it’s notably free from major pest and disease problems. Go chestnut oak!
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) has quite the portfolio the further you read this page. Although more pessimistic news is to come later, it should be noted the benefits it has on both humans and wildlife. Hemlock can be used for pulp, light framing, sheathing, roofing, subflooring, and boxes, but even provides habitats to animals, like birds.
Information found on https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/tsucan/all.html
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) is a tree that can be found in the southeastern United States and even from West Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico. Capable of reaching 90 feet in height, the sourwood is sure to put the sour in wood if its leaves are consumed. Sourwoods’ nectar is very sweet and can be used to produce an especially valuable honey. Native Americans used it as a tonic, decoction, and even gum. Medicinally, it can be used for treating urinary problems, prostate conditions, diarrhea, and dysentery.
Information found on https://caseytrees.org/2012/08/tree-month-sourwood/
Biotic Threats to Forest Health –
The butternut tree is a walnut tree that is victim to a fungal disease; giving the tree a growth (or lack thereof) called a butternut canker. First documented in 1967, this fungus is exclusive to North America and has killed up to 80% of butternut trees in some states. The fungus, Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum, infiltrates the tree by its spores that are transmitted through rain-splash, insects, and wind. There is currently no cure for butternut canker and the tree will most likely die from the disease, but if found early enough, the branches can be removed to eliminate the spread. As for management, the Northern Research Station identifies trees with possible resistance and preserves/tests them. They are attempting to investigate genetic markers that may be linked to resistance.
Eastern Hemlock suffers from hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) which is a small insect that was accidentally introduced into the US in the 1920s from Eastern Asia. Any species of hemlock is susceptible to HWA. The disease kills most old-growth hemlocks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and 95% of hemlocks in Shenandoah National Park (this makes me sad I grew up there, or at least a 15 minute drive from there). Besides pesticides and insecticides, treatment of HWA is difficult due to the nature of this pest. It’s practical on a tree by tree basis, but looses its value in a forest setting. The average person can help by cleaning equipment after being near an infestation or leaving the infested substance where it was found.
Information found on https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7250.html and https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/tsuga-canadensis/
Appalachian Gametophyte –
Appalachian Gametophyte (Vittaria appalachiana) is a remarkable specimen. Upon first glance, some may think it’s a moss or alga, in reality however, it is a fern who has bent the laws of biology. Being exclusive to Appalachian mountains and Plateau of the eastern US and strictly a gametophyte, its’ name doesn’t mislead. Although it was thought that the sporophyte’s whereabouts were unknown and the plant resulted from a interspecies hybridization, an article from the American Journal of Botany reports that it was maternally related to a species called Vittaria graminifolia. Thus, the gametophyte is most likely to have been a result of genome duplication or divergent speciation.
Fern gamma are large in comparison to spores, resulting in an inability to be dispersed long-distance. Rather than being dispersed long distance, gemmae is dispersed in short distances by wind, water, and animals. This is supported by a 1995 publication by Kimmerer and Young reporting that bryophyte dispersal was carried out in short distances by slugs and possibly ants.
V. appalachiana is also thought to have a limited dispersal capability, this can be explained by the geologic history and current distribution of its location. It’s not found north of the last glacial maximum where they were found to be able to survive and recently disturbed areas within the suitability of Appalachian gametophyte were uninhabited, regardless of being in close proximity to current colonies. This suggests that an independent, fully functioning sporophyte was likely to be involved for the gametophyte to be found where it is today. The range of V. appalachiana in southern New York implies that the gametophyte lost the ability to produce sporophytes prior, or even during, the last ice age.
The possibility of long-distance dispersal of V. appalachiana with tropical sporophytes, however, is unlikely. The wide range of this species is likely due to a functioning sporophyte existing in North America (pre-ice age) when conditions were more favorable than they are today – allowing dispersal of the plant prior to (or during) the Pleistocene glaciations.
Miscellaneous Other Observations –
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a perennial tree with simple, alternate leaves. Sassafras is known for its sweet scent upon leaf disturbance, but does have a poisonous bark. Its roots are infamously used in the production of root beer as flavoring. Early colonists thought that sassafras bark was a remedy for practically any disease, thus shipping it in large quantities to Europe.
Information found on: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=saal5
Christmas fern (Plystichium acrostichoides) rightfully earned its name due to the fact it stays green throughout winter and is even resistant to damage from deer. Due to its ability to maintain its appearance throughout the holiday season, it’s a popular choice for festive decoration. It has unique umbrella shaped sporangium.
American cancer-root (Conopholis americana) is a parasite plant that resembles a pinecone throughout maturity and aging. It’s more or less a soul sucker as it gets its nutrients from the root of oak trees. Historically, the plant was used by Native Americans as a reliever for menopause.
Snakeskin liverwort (Conocephalum salebrosum) is another species that has a unique smell. As discussed on our field trip, it either has a lemony-old scent. After researching, it is supposedly has more of a spicy-floral smell to it – which I suppose isn’t far off from our speculation. One source says it has antibiotic properties against pathogenic bacteria.
Information found on https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/mosses/plants/snk_liverwort.html