The Study Site of The Olentangy River Bike Trail

The study site at hand is just one, underdeveloped, section of a larger, 22.5 mile, river-side trail that spans from Worthington, Columbus to downtown Columbus.  Located at 40°00’52.5″N 83°00’57.1″W, in Franklin county, one of the main ecological features is the river providing an advantage to the vegetation alongside of it.  This ravine type area running along-side the river is often disturbed by suburban developments and a large, developed college campus.  There are both canopy zones and ground cover zones, with other various small trees or shrubs occupying the space at all different heights.  Woody areas are prevalent on the sides of this trail, behind the presence of different herbaceous species that directly line this trail.

An ariel view of my survey site. Around where the trail loops is my area of interest.




Trees of The Olentangy River Bike Trail

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)- This tree has distinct bark in a sense that it breaks off in very jagged, uneven pieces that reveal whitish underbark.  The leaves are 3-5 lobed and have large teeth, and these leaves are whitish green and relatively hairy underneath.  This tree is sometimes coined as the most massive tree in the Eastern US, reaching its greatest size in both Ohio, and Mississippi river basins.  This wood is used for boxes, barrels, cabinets, and furniture due to it being strong and hard.  Previously, the Indians used these trunks for dugouts, a canoe made from a tree trunk.  Also, the Native Americans used sycamore for medicinal reasons such as to treat coughs and other respiratory issues ( ).


American Sycamore leaf




Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)- This tree has alternately arranged, course-toothed leaves with flattened leafstalks.  It has relatively weak wood which makes it susceptible to damage easier.  The fruit is a dangling cluster of capsules and the seeds are dispersed by the wind.  The buds are flat against the twigs.  This tree is usually found around floodplains, river banks, and near wetter areas, however what is interesting about this is that it can also survive in extremely dry soils as well, with some adaptation.  Eastern cottonwood as pests such as borers and caterpillars and also pathogens that are trunk cankers, all affecting its well-being.  The bark of this tree is used for lumber, veneer, pulpwood, and fuel.  In historical uses, the bark tincture of this tree was once used to treat gout, scurvy, and other infections of the chest, kidneys and stomach.  The Amerindians used this as a fold cancer remedy as well ( ).

Cottonwood leaf

Very apparent, naked terminal bud of Cottonwood













Shrubs of The Olentangy River Bike Trail

Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)- This shrub is perennial, has leaves that are alternate and divided pinnately, and usually contain 7 leaflets. This shrub grows best in wet to moist soils, which explains it being found next to a river.  The stems of this shrub are covered in prickles and vary in color.  The flowers, which have a sweet fragrance, are pink and bloom from early to late summer.  The fruits of these shrubs are quite unique looking and globoid, and are referred to as rose hips.  These rose hips are hairy on the surface, and have a fleshy inside filled with many bony seeds.  These flowers are cross pollinated usually by bumblebees or other long-tongued bees.  The fruit is eaten by some gamebirds, songbirds, small rodents such as mice, and some mammals such as the striped skunk or the black bear (  The Cherokee used an infusion tea made from the bark and roots to treat worms, diarrhea, and dysentery(


The rose hip, swamp rose fruit

The fruit of the swamp rose












Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)- This shrub has opposite leaves that are simple and toothed, with very prevalent veins.  These leaves are dark green and glossy and turn a dark, red wine color in the fall.  The flowers produced are a cream white and do not have a “nice” fragrance.  The twigs are hairy or velvety which distinguishes them from the Northern Arrowwood which has hairless twigs.  This is a host to the hummingbird moth at its caterpillar and larval stages, providing it with food, and also is a nectar source to red admiral butterflies (  It also provides cover and nesting sites for birds, who also eat their fruit.  The fruit, which is a drupe, is arranged in terminal clusters and is an ink blue color that ripens in the fall.  The Native Americans once used this shrub’s strong shoots for the shafts of their arrows (


The fruits of the Arrowwood




Flowering Plants of The Olentangy River Bike Trail:

Common Evening Primose (Oenothera biennis)- This flowering plant actually does not produce flowers until during the second year of growth.  This has lance shaped leaves without lobes and are alternately arranged.  The flower is yellow, with 4 oval-shaped petals.  The fruits are cylindrical pods that are considered capsules.  These flowers open at dusk and are usually pollinated by night flying insects.


Common Evening Primrose

Common Evening Primrose











Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus)- Part of the Asteraceae family, this flowering plant has blue ray flowers that are toothed at the tip.  The leaves are alternate, oblong, and have hairs on the surface.  The fruits of this plant are single-seeded and dark brown, considered an achene.  The flowers were once used to make a yellow dye (  This is an easier species to identify in the Asteraceae family due to its bright blue color, while most flowers in this family are yellow or white.


Common Chicory


Poison Ivy

Below is a picture of poison ivy that was found at the Cedar Bog (that isn’t a bog).  Some helpful phrases to identify poison ivy are “Leaves of three, let it be” and “Berries of white, best take flight”.  These leaves of 3 are pointy, are not deeply lobed or serrated, and may have either smooth or small toothed edges.  The middle leaf is the largest out of the three, and the leaves have a glossy look to them.  Poison ivy can be both a vine or a shrub.  The leaves are usually reddish in the spring or the fall, and green in the summer.  The vines go up trees and are quite hairy, with the leaves coming out of the vine.

The leaves in 3 and the hairy vine characterizing poison ivy

The hairy vine of poison ivy growing along a tree











Coefficients of Conservatism for Species Found

CC of ” * ” denotes a non-native species.

Name Common Name CC
Pinus strobus White Pine 5
Acer saccharinum Silver Maple 3
Viburnum dentatum Southern Arrowwood 2
Daucus carota Queen-Anne’s-Lace *
Asclepias syriaca Common Milkweed 1
Bidens frondosa Devil’s Beggar’s-Tick 2
Cichorium intybus Chicory *
Cirsium vulgare Bull Thistle *
Conzya canadensis Horseweed 0
Eupatorium coelestinum Mistflower 3
Eupatorium serotinum Late-Flowering Thoroughwort 2
Helenium autumnale Common Sneezeweed 4
Solidago canadensis Canada Goldenrod 1
Symphyotrichum drummondii Drummond’s Aster 6
Symphyotrichum ericoides White Heath Aster 2
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae New England Aster 2
Verbesina alternifolia Wingstem 5
Veronia noveboracensis New York Ironweed 3
Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Lobelia 5
Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia 3
Lonicera japonica Japanese Honeysuckle *
Dipsacus laciniatus Cut Leaf Teasel *
Coronilla varia Crown Vetch *
Quercus bicolor Swamp White Oak 7
Juglans nigra Black Walnut 5
Leskea gracilescens Necklace Chain Moss 3
Tilia americana American Basswood 6
Morus rubra Red Mulberry 7
Fraxinus pennsylvanica Green Ash 3
Oenothera biennis Common Evening Primrose 1
Phytolacca americana Pokeweed 1
Platanus occidentalis Sycamore 7
Polygonum persicaria Lady’s Thumb *
Rumex crispus Curled Dock *
Clematis virginiana Virgin’s Bower 3
Aronia melanocarpa Black Chokeberry 5
Rosa palustris Swamp Rose 5
Populus deltoides Common Cottonwood 3
Celtis occidentalis American Hackberry 4
Verbena urticifolia White Vervain 3
Vitis riparia Riverbank Grape 3

FQAI= 20.019

I= ∑(CCi)/√(Nnative)


The Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQAI) was found using the Equation 6 in Andreas et al.

Click here to find the equation used.


Noteworthy Species

(2 of the highest CC’s and 2 of the lowest CC’s)

Lowest Species

Conzya canadensis (Horseweed): CC=0

This species, part of the Asteraceae family, has whitish or greenish flowers in very small heads with extremely small rays that stand upright.  Their leaves are lance shaped and the lower leaves of the hairy stem are toothed.  This is a common weed in fields and wast places.  If there are no insects present, these flowers are able to be self-fertile, and their fruits are characterized as small achenes.  Native Americans, in the Plains States, used horseweed as an astringent while the early settlers used it as a diarrhea and dysentery treatment (1).

Horseweed found at the survey site

Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed): CC=1

This species, part of the Phytolaccaceae family, contains white or pink flowers in racemes and dark purple berries that contain 10 black seeds each.  The stems turn to a vibrant red-purple color that contains chemicals that may damage the red blood cells, making it undesirable to mammalian herbivores.  The young shoots are edible but the root is poisonous.  The flowers have 5 sepals that are round and petal like.  This is grown in moist soil.  Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a medicine of witchcraft.  Due to drastic diarrhea and vomiting after eating it, they believed that this would entirely purge the body by expelling all of the bad spirits present.  They also used the red dye to paint their horses and as dyes for their fabrics (2).

Pokeweed found at survey site.


Highest Species

Morus rubra (Red Mulberry): CC=7

This species, part of the Moraceae family, have leaves that have a somewhat sandpapery feeling on the upper surface, and a hairy feeling on the underneath surface.  Milky sap comes from both the twigs and the leaf stalks.  The fruits are red to black and berry like.  These fruits are eaten by squirrels, song and game birds, and even humans.  Many Native American tribes used red mulberry for a multitude of ailments.  The milky sap was used to treat ringworm, while the leaves, made into a tea, were used by the Cherokee to treat things such as dysentery or weakness (3).

Red Mulberry tree found on site


Quercus bicolor (Swamp White Oak): CC=7

This species, part of the Fagaceae family, has leaves with large rounded teeth with a white hairy appearance on the under surface.  The acorn cup is bowl shaped.  This is the only oak where the acorn stalks are much longer than the leaf stalks.  It is also referred to as “Swamp Oak”.  It is said that some Native Americans used swamp white oak to treat cholera, broken bones, and also as a source of food (4).

Swamp White Oak leaf pictured.








Fluffy Dust Lichen (Lepraria lobificans)

A patch of Fluffy Dust Lichen present on the trunk of a tree.


Common Stippleback (Dermatocarpon muhlenbergii)


Common Stippleback pictured