Acidophiles

Deep Woods is in the acidic sandstone and shale area of eastern Ohio. We saw a few acid loving plants on our trip there!

One of the acidophiles we saw on our trip was American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana).

Dr. Klips holding down the branch of an American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) tree

One of the acidophiles we saw on our trip was Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). This conifer has short, flat green leaves with two white bands on the underside. This tree has a shallow root system and therefore isn’t tolerant of strong winds or drought. It is currently under attack by the woolly hemlock adelgid, a sap sucking insect that originated in Asia. There are ongoing efforts to protect these trees from the insect.

Branch of the Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) tree

Another acidophile we saw on our trip was sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum). This plant is unique because it is edible and has a good, sour taste. It has alternate and finely toothed leaves that turn reddish-purple in the fall.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) sapling

Biotic Threats to Forest Health

We saw three trees on our trip that have been and are being affected by parasitic insects and/or fungal diseases: butternut, American chestnut, and eastern hemlock.

American Chestnuts have been classified as an endangered species and are incredibly rare to find in the wild, especially in Ohio. They have been severely affected by the chestnut blight. The chestnut blight is a parasitic fungus, native to East/Southeast Asia that infects chestnut trees. It was introduced in North America in the early 1900s and quickly spread, causing the once dominant tree in the eastern U.S, to become endangered and nearing extinction. There is no cure for the blight, but there are organizations that are trying to cross breed American chestnuts with chestnuts that are blight-resistant to create a resistant American Chestnut. There are also organizations like the American Chestnut Foundation that are trying to restore and protect the trees.

History of the American Chestnut

The Butternut hickories are being affected by the butternut canker. The butternut canker disease is caused by a fungus not native to the U.S, but unknown in origin. The first documented case of this disease was in 1967, and has quickly swept through the butternut’s natural range wiping out up to 80% in some areas! There is no cure for this infection, but if caught early enough, removing affected limbs can save the tree.

Butternut Canker

Appalachian Gametopyhte

The Appalachian Gametophyte, or Vittaria appalachiana, is unique because instead of having the sporophyte as the dominant life stage like most ferns, the gametophyte is the dominant stage. In fact, the sporophyte hasn’t been observed and is believed to have gone extinct during the Pleistocene glaciations. The gemmae are too large for long0distance wind dispersal, and are dispersed only short distances by the wind and water and can also be dispersed by animals (like slugs). The current dispersal suggests that the loss of sexual reproduction via sporophytes occurred during the Pleistocene glaciation periods. It is supported by visible ranges of other ferns that only have the gametophyte life cycle which were able to sexually reproduce after the Pleistocene glaciations. I don’t think this population can be sustained by long-distance dispersal because the gemmae are too big. They couldn’t use a related tropical sporophyte source because there isn’t any intersection in their natural ranges.

Appalachian Gametophyte (Vittaria appalachiana) in nooks in the sandstone

Scavenger Hunt and Miscellaneous Observations!

Two plants of the glade was my scavenger hunt question. We saw reindeer moss (actually a lichen) (Cladonia rangeriferina), haircap moss (Polytrichum commune), and pineweed (Hypericum gentianoides).

Reindeer “moss” (actually a lichen) (Cladonia rangeriferina)

haircap moss (Polytrichum commune)

Pineweed (Hypericum gentianoides)

We were able to find a dogwood tree and do the dogwood leaf trick! We’d talked about it in class and field experience before but I haven’t been able to personally do it. I just think it’s really neat!