Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany
On Saturday September 14, the EEOB 2210 class took a trip to a beautiful portion of Hocking County called Deep Woods Preserve. While there, I was assigned to research two separate oak species from either sub genera–red versus white. Red oak species have bristle-tipped lobes. Additionally, red oak acorns mature in two years and are high in tannic acid which makes them taste bitter. Conversely, white oak species have bluntly lobbed leaves and their acorns are sweet and mature in one year.
The red oak species which I saw at Deep Woods Preserve was Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea). You can see the bristle-tipped lobes in the following photograph:
Scarlet oaks are abundant in the eastern portion of Ohio, though they are rare in other portions of the state (1). This species thrives in dry, acidic soils and also likes moist, well-drained soil as well (1). Scarlet oak has thin, relatively ridged and shallowly furrowed bark which is characteristic of species belonging to the red oak sub genera (1).
The white oak species which I found in abundance at Deep Woods Preserve was Chestnut Oak. It has wide leaves with blunt lobes and the species is named for its close resemblance to the leaves of American Chestnut (2). The following photographs are an up-close look at Chestnut Oak leaves and a few saplings found on the field trip:
Chestnut oaks are very indicative of the geobotany of the eastern portion of Ohio. The eastern portion of the state is underlaid by sandstone and has deep valleys. This sandstone slowed the movement of pleistocene glaciers which resulted in the soil having little lime or clay. In turn, the very permeable sandstone bedrock exposed a very acidic, low-nutrient substrate with high oxygen availability. This geobotany is the perfect environment for Chestnut Oak and as a result the species is limited to the eastern portion of Ohio.
The following four species which were seen on the trip are also indicative of the acid sandstone places like Deep Woods:
1. Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
2. Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)
3. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arborerum) – which indeed tastes sour!
4. Club moss (Lycopodium)
These species all thrive in acidic soils. As a result they were found in abundance at Deep Woods, and will most likely be absent at our next field site which is a calcarerous site.
The Appalachian Gametophyte grows on porous rock outcrops and exists only as a vegetatively reproducing gametophyte. While at Deep Woods, we were fortunate enough to view the Appalachian Gametophyte which was growing on the wall of a sandstone cave. This environment is very good for the Appalachian Gametophyte because it allows for abundant water. If I were hired to describe the Appalachian Gametophyte, I would stress the fact that it is no longer able to reproduce asexually. This would differ from the excerpt from “Flora of West Virginia” by P.D. Stausbaugh and Earl L. Core because it includes information about the sporophyte of the species.
Overall, Deep Woods is a beautiful and unique location to study plants! I definitely learned to appreciate mosses, lichens, and club mosses more because of this trip. I’m also looking forward to visiting Cedar Bog (which isn’t really a bog) to compare the two sites!
Battelle Darby Creek and Cedar Bog
The marsh located at Battelle Darby Creek was pretty awesome! There were a ton of interesting plants such as cat tails (Typha latifolia) and other grass-like herbaceous plants which thrive in moist wetland marshes.
There were a lot of seedlings in the area as well. Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), willow (Salix spp.), and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) were the most prevalent species. These are all wet-mesic to wet species, so I wasn’t t00 surprised to see them in the marsh!
The dominant species in the prairie was definitely a variety of different grasses! We saw the following species of grasses while at Darby Plains:
big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi)
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
We also saw nodding wild rye and switch grass (Panicum virgatum) while at the prairie.
We also saw some flowering herbaceous plants such as goldenrod and a variety of asters. There were a few scattered oak trees as well. Additionally, a number of invasive species were present such as Amur honeysuckle, Autumn-olive, and Callery pear.
Cedar Bog (which isn’t really a bog, but rather a fen!)
Bogs are mossy wetlands which receive most of their water from rain and snow, whereas fens get their water from groundwater and streams (3). Bogs are also acidic while fens are alkaline (3). Cedar bog has a lot of interpretation which compares bogs and fens to a toilet; bogs “clog” and fens “flush”! The geology of the areas plays a role in the unique ecology seen at Cedar Bog. When glaciers retreated at the end of the Ice Age, the land got flattened thus allowing water to intermittently flood the area creating the fen!
My assignment was to find two poisonous plants at Cedar Bog. The first species I located was poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Poison-ivy can be identified by its leaves which have three leaflets and are sometimes mitten-shaped or by its shaggy/hairy vines. One fact about poison-ivy is that scientists have contracted dermatitis from handling 100-year old dried specimens (1)!
The second poisonous plant I found was poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix). Poison sumac can be identified by small lenticels on the trunk and its leaves which are 6-14in long and odd-pinnate with 7-13 leaflets (2). The petioles are usually bright red and in the fall the leaflets also turn a bright orange to red color (2). The white drupes of the plant are actually an important food source for gamebirds in the winter when other food sources are scarce (2).