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.