Marsh, Prairie, and Fen
The Marsh of Darby Creek
The marsh at Darby Creek had the appearance of a normal, mowed down area with various forms of vegetation growing throughout. It was a very large, flat area that was reconstructed from agricultural fields. Marshes, in general, are low-lying areas that contain soft, wet land and vegetation, usually filled with different types of herbaceous plants. Marshes flood quite often and can also be characterized by flooding, or waterlogged ground. I found many different types of plants in this restored marsh. Some of the woody plants found were Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), and Black Willows (Salix nigra). Grasses and sedges were quite dominant here, such as the sedge pictured below, in the Carex genus. One more prominent plant found was the Narrowleaf Cattail (Typha angustifolia).
The Prairie of Darby Creek
The prairie at Darby Creek was a very open, flat area with few, if any, trees which is a key characteristic of all prairies. Prairies seem to have low nutrient levels, including low soil nitrogen levels, making it hard for a diverse group of species to grow here. This area consisted of tall grasses and forbs that can survive in much drier lands, unlike the marsh we visited. Some of the grasses we saw present in this prairie were Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and Canada Wildrye (Elymus canadensis). The Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) was also seen in the prairie, as well as Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida), Canada Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis), and Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum).
Cedar Bog That Isn’t a Bog
Bogs are wetlands that receive water only from rainwater or snow water, or possibly surface run off from another area in the vicinity. The saying “Bogs clog and fens flush” rings true when describing bogs, as the ground of bogs is clogged by a layer of peat, which is a mixture of decayed vegetation and organic matter. This accumulates due to the water saturation and lack of oxygen, and results in no drainage throughout the ecosystem and slow decomposition of the plants. Fens, on the other hand, receive a large amount of water and nutrients from the ground water from underground sources such as springs. Fens are lined with limestone, which is prominent in western Ohio, and allows for a more alkaline environment. Fens can be drained by small streams, allowing for clearer water, a constant flow of water, and less peat than a bog. Looking at the various signs and diagrams present in the Cedar Bog building, Cedar Bog seems to be misnamed as most of it it’s ecosystem is fed by groundwater that may have flowed from end moraines, underground water from the ancient Teays River valley, or underground water from the aquifer. Cedar Bog also has streams that can drain this ecosystem, another ecological characteristic of Fens. The substrate that is present in Cedar Bog, which should be named a fen, is a result of the previous glaciation of the area and consists of a sandier and gravelly composition, allowing for a more alkaline environment, which furthermore allows for the growth of sedges.
Some of the plants found within the Cedar Bog, that should be called a fen, were Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), Virgin’s Bower vine (Clematis virginiana), American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Oaks, Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica).
For my assignment, I had to find 2 flowering plants in the sedge meadows. The two flowering plants that I found are the Swamp Aster (Symphyotrichum firmum) and Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa).
Swamp Aster (Symphyotrichum firmum)– This aster was found on the edge of the boardwalk in the sedge meadows. Being an aster, one determining feature is the presence of both disk and ray florets, which are both present. This flower prefers wetter soil; another reason this was found in the sedge meadows. One way to determine this aster is by looking at the leaves, which are glossier than other aster species (https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/sw_aster.htm). This exact species, Symphyotrichum firmum, often has white, or nearly white flowers, which distinguishes them from the similar species, Symphyotrichum puniceum (https://www.michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=483). One historical fact I found interesting is that in old times, the scent of the burning leaves of asters was said to “drive away evil serpents” (https://www.teleflora.com/meaning-of-flowers/aster).
Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa)- This goldenrod was found along the boardwalk as well. The leaves are smooth and the flowers are arranged in panicles that stay close to the central stem. The leaves start larger at the base of the stem, and continually shrink in size as you go up the central stem. This flower also prefers well-drained soils, which makes it another good candidate for the “Cedar Bog that is actually a fen”. One of the ecological characteristics that makes it different than other goldenrods is the sole fact that it thrives in wet ground, as other species of goldenrods do not. One interesting fact about goldenrods is that Thomas Edison made tires for his Ford using rubber from the Goldenrod plant that Henry Ford gave him (https://www.wnit.org/outdoorelements/pdf/goldenrodfacts.pdf).
Deep Woods Preserve
Living in Ohio gives rise to the opportunity of seeing an extremely diverse spread of vegetation, landscapes, wildlife, and even weather. However, one thing that can split the Eastern and Western parts of Ohio is not something that is plainly visible to the eye. While the botany differs in both of these regions, the reasoning behind it is a different field of study, the geology of the land. Putting these two fields together, we get the Geobotany of Ohio. The western part of Ohio is underlain by limestone, which is quite nonresistant to the humid climate. This nonresistance has caused the 200 million years of erosion to wear western Ohio down to comparatively flat land. This landscape has poor drainage and the soil consists of a more limey substrate. Eastern Ohio is underlain with sandstone, and in some parts, the sandstone is underlain with shale. Sandstone is a quite resistant rock, however shale is not. Eastern Ohio is worn down to low plains besides in areas where sandstone has capped the shale. The landscape of this consists of steep-sided sandstone hills and sandstone capped hills. The soil of Eastern Ohio is quite acidic and rather permeable. Taking this field trip to the Deep Woods preserve allowed us to explore the Eastern Ohio landscape and the many plant, trees, and shrubs that inhabit it.
The acidic sandstone plants that were seen on this field trip were things such as Sourwood, Chestnut Oak, Eastern Hemlock, and the lowbush blueberry plant.
Below is a picture of the Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinus).
My personal focus for this field trip was the family Ericaceae, a family of flowering plants that are also known as heaths. Ericaceae are made up mostly of trees and shrubs. These plants are distributed widely in acidic soils. These leaves are simple and either entire or serrated. Depending on the species, these plants produce berries, capsules, or drupes as their fruit. The size of these plants differ, from being a low ground cover plant to a small tree over 20 feet tall. Two Ericaceae plants that I witness on my trip to Deep Woods were Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) and the blueberry plant (Vaccinium angustifolium).
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)- Sourwood is a native, deciduous tree that grows to about 40-60 feet. The leaves are simple and alternately arranged, growing to about 4-7 inches long. These leaves turn scarlet and purple in the fall, and have white, upside down, urn shaped blossoms. Sourwood’s fruit is considered a capsule that contains many seeds and blooms from late June to August, the fruit ripening from September through October. Cherokee Indians used this to cook food for the flavor due to it’s acidic taste.
Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)- The lowbush blueberry is a deciduous shrub that prefers an acidic soil with partial to full sunlight. Due to the very popular fruit, it is grown both commercially and recreationally. These blueberries are sometimes referred to as Main, New Hampshire, or wild blueberry. The fruit, blue and round, has a 5 pointed crown on the underside of it, which is the calyx. The blueberry leaves are broad, green, and smooth with pointed tips. Flowers are also produced that are bell shaped and range from white to pink.
The Appalachian gametophyte does not have sporophytes. This unique species thrives in areas that are moist or where water may pool or collect. This specific picture was taken in the dark, moist, poorly lit rockhouse, on the sandstone rock walls. Due to the Appalachian gametophyte not having sporophytes, it is not able to reproduce on it’s own.