At Battelle Darby Metro Park, we saw many different plants representing many plant families and flower classifications. I was tasked with finding three monocots from the park and sharing their distinctive features.
The above picture is of a flower from the genus Trillium. It is a member of the monocot distinction, which can be determined through several key features. First, the flower has three petals, and monocots have petals in multiples of three. Secondly, the leaves in the background have parallel veins, which are another distinguishing feature of monocots. Ants are attracted to the protein-rich elaiosome on trillium seeds. They often times carry the seeds back to their nest and consume the protein there, which helps to disperse said seeds.
The above picture is a plant that I wasn’t able to identify. However, it is clearly a monocot, which can be seen from the parallel veins present in the leaves. Monocots comprise about one fourth of all plant species, including lillies, agaves, palms, and grasses.
The above plant is an orchid, which belong to the Orchidaceae family. The leaves protruding from the bottom of the stem of the flower display parallel veins, which indicates that the plant is a monocot. When the orchid flowers, it has three petals, which is also an indication of being a monocot. An interesting fact is that orchid seeds do not contain an endosperm, which causes all orchids to live in symbiosis with fungi during germination. This is the only way they can obtain nutrients to grow.
DEEP WOODS, THE APPALACHIAN GAMETOPHYTE, AND OHIO GEOBOTANY
At Deep Woods in Hocking County, we saw many different plants representing many plant families and flower classifications. I was tasked with finding three plants that represent different ovary positions, which include hypogynous, perigynous, and epigynous.
The above picture is of an orchid flower called pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule). This flower has an epigynous ovary position, as most orchids do. This means that the ovary is inferior to the perianth and sits below both the sepals and petals. In the past, the roots of the pink lady’s slipper have been used as a remedy to nervousness, tooth aches, and muscle spasms.
The above is a picture of squaw huckleberry (Vaccinium stamineum). This flower has a hypogynous ovary position, which can be clearly seen from the image. This means that there is no hypanthium or “flower cup” present and the ovary sits on top of both the sepals and petals, making it superior. The fruit of the squaw huckleberry is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, iron, and a number of antioxidants.
The above plant is called ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and was very common during our trip. This flower displays a perigynous ovary position because the sepals and petals are fused and form a hypanthium, which the ovary sits within. Because the perianth is still below the ovary, it is not considered epigynous and the ovary is superior. This plant can be used to treat ailments like diarrhea, colds, coughs, and wounds.
At Deep Woods, we saw the famous Appalachian Gametophyte in a very peculiar environment. The interesting plant was located in a small, humid cave that was at the back of an even larger cave-like rock house. It was specifically located under a ridge within the small cave. A flashlight and hand-lens had to be utilized in order to observe the Appalachian Gametophyte.
In terms of geobotany, Ohio can be thought of as being divided into two main parts. The western portion of the state is underlain by limestone and the area is glaciated. The landscape is relatively flat through millions of years of erosion taking place on the limestone. The eastern portion is underlain by sandstone mainly and the area is considered unglaciated. In contrast to the west, the east is much more hilly and contains deep valleys.
The reason for these distinctive differences between the two areas is not difficult to understand. The original sequence of sedimentary rock strata in Ohio were sandstone, shale, and limestone (top to bottom). These layers were gently tilted into the form of a low arch before the main erosion sequences began in Ohio. The crest of the arch extends generally north-south through western Ohio. The low-lying toe of the arch can be found near the eastern border of the state. The arch likely formed as a result of the same pressures that formed the Appalachian Mountains to the east. Erosion, which clearly separated the two “halves” of the state, began once the Teays River began to flow through the state and chipped away at the limestone in the west and the shale/sandstone in the east. The river was present in Ohio for around 200 million years and eroded the land throughout this interval of time. This process was halted with the advance of the glaciers during the Ice Age less than a million years ago.
As the Pleistocene glaciers invaded Ohio, they were eventually slowed to a halt by the steep-sided sandstone hills of eastern Ohio. This is what created the glacial boundary that runs diagonal across Ohio from the northeast corner to near the middle of the border created by the Ohio River.
When the glaciers were moving across Ohio, they deposited a mixture of sand, silt, clay, and boulders called till. The composition of this till describes the underlying material layers of earth that the glaciers moved across. In western Ohio, the till is rich in lime and clay, which are products of the limestone bedrock being eroded. In contrast, the till in eastern Ohio contains very little lime and clay deposits.
The substrate in which plants grow in both western and eastern Ohio can be described in terms of drainage, aeration, pH, and nutrient availability. Western Ohio substrate is relatively impermeable, making it poorly drained and inadequately aerated. The amount of nutrients here is abundant and the pH is more alkaline. Conversely, Eastern Ohio substrate is very permeable, allowing it to be well drained and aerated. The nutrients here are more scarce and the pH is very acidic.
When it comes to what grows in the main two regions of Ohio, many differences are encountered. The following trees and shrubs are generally confined to limestone or limey substrates: redbud, hackberry, blue ash, chinquapin oak, and hop hornbeam. The following trees and shrubs are confined to high-lime and clay-rich substrates: sugar maple, beech, red oak, shagbark hickory, and white ash. In contrast to both of these locations in western Ohio, eastern Ohio produces the following trees and shrubs in sandstone substrates: chestnut oak, sourwood, mountain laurel, greenbrier, and scrub pine.
Sweet buckeye is an interesting species because it does not occur anywhere inside the glacial boundary of Ohio. Botanists believe that climate may be the determining factor of the unusual distribution of sweet buckeye. In contrast, hemlock’s distribution extends far north of the glacial boundary in northeast Ohio, as well as being present in the same area as sweet buckeye. This distribution is likely explained by environments that are continuously cool and moist, which are found in valleys throughout hemlock’s distribution.
Rhododendron is also an interesting species because it is only found south of the glacial boundary in a small area. The likely reason for this has to do with the valleys associated with the ancient Teays River system. When glaciers came through and blocked the river’s drainage, plants like rhododendron still remained and were relatively isolated.
On our trips to Deep Woods and Battelle Darby, we observed first hand some of the differences between the plants that grow in acid substrate compared to those that grow in calcareous substrate. Deep Woods is a location in eastern Ohio that showed a very acidic soil, while Battelle Darby is a location in western Ohio that showed a more calcareous and alkaline soil. Some plants present at Deep Woods include sourwood, hemlock, and blueberry. All three of these were listed in Jane Forsyth’s article describing plants present in eastern Ohio. In contrast to this, at Battelle Darby we saw plants like sugar maple and beech. These plants were also described by Forsyth’s article, which indicated that they mostly grow in high-lime, clay-rich substrates developed in thick till.
Cedar Bog located in Urbana, Ohio is in fact not a bog at all. Instead, it is considered a fen and swamp forest. The differences between a bog and a fen arise in the geology of the two environments. Bogs clog water flow by the presence of decaying plant matter that piles up on the bottom and sphagnum moss that creates a thick layer on top of the water. Fens flush water through a continually moving system, which is in contrast to a bog. Water enters the fen as rain and through springs. Small streams connected to the fen drain it and flush the system. Cedar Bog is in western Ohio, which is unglaciated.
While at Cedar Bog, I was tasked with finding three shrubs in the fen. The first shrub I found was the Northern prickly ash, which is shown below. This shrub is often used for medicinal purposes. People take northern prickly ash supplements for joint pain, cramps, and low blood pressure. The leaves are pinnately compound and alternatively arranged.
The next shrub I found was shrubby cinquefoil, which is a hardy deciduous plant in the Rosaceae family. It is pictured below and is distinguishable when flowering with its small yellow flowers. Shrubby cinquefoil is commonly planted for soil stabilization and erosion control because of its spreading roots.
The final shrub I found was bog birch, which is pictured below. Bog birch is a short-lived shrub often found in wet habitats. It is identifiable by its alternate leaves that have coarsely toothed margins. Bog birch attracts numerous birds in the late fall with its seeds.