1. Substrate-associated Plants
Our deep woods field trip took place in the Hocking Hills area in eastern Ohio. Eastern Ohio is underlaid primarily by sandstone, a relatively resistant rock that prevented eastern Ohio from becoming glaciated. According to Linking Geology and Botany… a new approach Eastern Ohio has acidic soil and is low in nutrients as a result of being underlaid by sandstone, this has lead to certain plants predominating in eastern Ohio. Below you will find four examples of plants that prefer eastern Ohio’s acidic soil to the more alkaline soil of western Ohio.
This is Quercus montana, also known as Chestnut oak. Chestnut oak is an example of a plant that prefers acid sandstone soil. Chestnut oaks play an important ecological role because the acorns of Chestnut oaks are a major food source for deer, turkeys, squirrels, and chipmunks.
This is Tsuga canadensis, also called Eastern hemlock or simply hemlock. Eastern hemlock is one of Jane Forsyth’s examples of a plant that prefers eastern Ohio’s acidic soil. The bark of Eastern hemlock has had many uses over time including, as an astringent, as pulp for paper, as a poultice for bleeding wounds, and as a tea.
This is Oxydendrum arboreum, more commnly called Sourwood tree (please ignore the oak tree in the middle of the picture). Sourwood is yet another example of a plant that is found on the sandstone hills of eastern Ohio. Sourwood tree is unique in that it is the only species in its genus and it is only native to North America with no other closely related species found on any other continent. Bees that collect pollen and nectar from sourwood flowers produce a delicious honey.
This is Silene rotundifolia, also known as Roundleaf catchfly. Roundleaf catchfly is a sandstone loving plant found in eastern Ohio. Roundleaf catchfly belongs to the genus Silene, which are collectively referred to as catchflies because when the stems of these plants are damaged they release a sticky substance that traps or catches small insects.
2. Biotic Threats to Forest Health
This is Castanea dentata or American chestnut. American chestnut was decimated by chestnut blight, a fungal infection that was introduced from chestnut trees that came from Asia. Chestnut blight was extremely successful at wiping out vast numbers of American chestnuts, to the point where few mature trees exist in its historic range. One idea to alleviate the impact of chestnut blight is to breed American chestnut with other chestnut species that have resistance to chestnut blight such as Chinese chestnut.
This is Juglans cinerea, better known as Butternut or White walnut. Butternut trees are being afflicted by butternut canker, a type of fungus that is killing large numbers of Butternut trees, up to eighty percent in some states. Butternut canker is a non-native fungus that likely originated from Asia and was first detected in 1967. Some solutions to help reduce the spread of butternut canker include, breeding Butternut with Japanese walnut, which has some resistance to the fungus, and control methods such as removing small cankers before they spread to the rest of the tree.
3. Appalachian Gametophyte
The fern Vittaria appalachiana is more commonly known as Appalachian gametophyte and is quite a remarkable plant. Appalachian gametophyte exists exclusively as a vegetative reproducing gametophyte and is one of only three ferns in which a mature sporophyte has not been observed. Appalachian gametophyte instead reproduces asexually via gemmae, which are vegetative propagules consisting of a few cells that are produced along the margins of the gametophyte.
The gemmae that Appalachian gametophyte uses to reproduce are much larger than spores and are too large for long-distance wind dispersal. Instead, gemmae are likely to be dispersed shorter distances by wind, water, or animals. According to evidence from Kimmerer and Young, gemmae dispersal has been shown to be facilitated by slugs.
The fact that Appalachian gametophyte has limited dispersal capability is also supported by the fact that its range does not extend north beyond the last glacial maximum, even though they can grow there. Even more recently disturbed areas and other substrates where the plant could grow remain uncolonized. This information suggests that spore dispersal from a functioning sporophyte must be responsible for its current distribution. The shortened range of the species in southern New York suggests that the gametophytes lost the ability to produce mature sporophytes before or during the last ice age.
The current populations of Appalachian gametophyte are not being sustained by long-distance dispersal from a tropical sporophyte. This is because previous allozyme studies and the plants limited distribution in southern New York suggests that dispersal from the tropics occurred only one time. The likely explanation for the range of Appalachian gametophyte is that in the past it is likely that a functioning sporophyte existed when temperature were more favorable for tropical growth in the Appalachians.
4. Other Observations
This is Osmundastrum cinnamomeum commonly known as Cinnamon fern. Cinnamon fern is very distinctive due to the cinnamon colored spore bearing fronds and to its large size. Cinnamon fern is sometimes referred to as living fossil because this plant is present in the fossil record up to 180 million years ago. Cinnamon ferns that live in Asia and North America are considered to be a variety of the same species.
This plant is Onoclea sensibilis commonly called sensetive fern. The name sensetive fern comes from the observation that this plant is very sensitive to frost, the fronds will die quickly after being exposed to it. In addition to being sensitive to frost this plant is also relatively sensitive to drought, requiring consistent moisture to thrive.
This is Cladonia rangiferina better known as Reindeer lichen. Reindeer lichen is found most often in northern tundra and taiga ecosystems and is, as its name suggests, an important food source for reindeer. Reindeer lichen is very slow growing, under a half an inch per year, which means it can take years or decades to recover if it is damaged or destroyed.
This is Conopholis americana also called American cancer root. American cancer root is a parasitic plant that attaches to the roots of oak species and is dependent on the host species for survival. American cancer root primarily grows at locations that have rich, deep soil, and a thick forested canopy layer.