Not Quite Deep Woods, But Still Exciting!!
I was unable to make the trip to Deep Woods with the rest of th class, and because of scheduling with other classes and work I was sadly not able to make the trip to Deep Woods by myself either:(
Because of this I was tasked to follow along with the activities of the class at a location closer to home! After a discussion with Dr. Klips, we decided that even though the environment and information would be different, I would be able to further explore my Botanical Survey site as an alternative trip. I dragged my brother, a recent highs school graduate holed in his room, along with me to Highbanks Metro Park! We saw and learned a lot as I worked to identify trees and plants around us.
The goal of the Deep Woods trip was to learn about substrate specific or oriented plants. Well Highbanks and Deep Woods have differing soil types. The acid sandstone of Deepwoods and the limestone of Highbanks allows for different plants to successfully grow. As we learned in the Geobotany article we read by Jane Forsyth we learned that some of the plants that grow best in limestone or limey substrates, such as redcedars, redbuds, bur oaks, and much more.
Substrate Associated Plants
My brother and I were able to identify many of these! Right off the bat of our excursion we identified Eastern Redcedar. The scientific name of this tree is Juniperus virginiana and is commonly found in areas where soils are more alkaline – aka limestone! While this species thrives in alkaline soil, it can adapt to acidic soil. Eastern Redcedar is fire intolerant, but because of it’s ability to adapt to conditions it is a durable species that is resistant to decay. This makes it a prime material to make fence posts! It also happens to be an aromatic wood, which moths strongly dislike and try to avoid; this fact makes Eastern Redcedar a common material for clothes chests and closets that keeps moths away and clothes protected.
We also encountered Quercus macrocarpa aka Bur Oak. This massive tree can grow up to 160 ft in height, and the most massive trees have a trunk that measure up to 10 ft in diameter! Bur Oak is one of the slowest growing oaks, only growing a single foot in a year. Bur Oaks are commonly used for flooring, fence posts, cabinets, and barrels because it is a durable wood. Interestingly Bur Oak was used by Native Americans to treat wounds, sores, rashes, and in some cases even diarrhea.
Cercis Canadensis is also a tree that commonly grows in limestone substrate. If the scientific name doesn’t ring a bell, this tree’s common name is Eastern Redbud. This is a deciduous tree with startingly bright and showy flowers! When I read more about this tree, it had some strange uses. One of which is that the twigs have been known to be used as seasoning for wild game
meals such as opossum – I am not quite sure who is eating and seasoning opossum but if you ever need to throw some Eastern Redbud into the pot! The more common use of this tree is for its leaves. Native Americans used to eat them raw or boiled, but today they are commonly fried!
American Elm was another tree we encountered on our wondering adventure through the huge metro park! Its scientific name is Ulmus americana. This tree thrives most in mineral rich soils such as limestone that is mixed with glacial till; it can live in varying pH’s but the more alkaline the better. This tree has been devastated in all areas that it is found by Dutch Elm
Disease and makes finding fully mature American Elm trees extremely uncommon. If you do find a mature American Elm it is most likely because it had not been exposed to Dutch Elm Disease. This tree had a lot of varying uses during “pioneer days”. It was commonly used as a binding materials, and a cool fact is that it used to be used to make rope swings for children!
Biotic Threats to Forest Health
There are shockingly more forest threats that I would have ever thought, especially in Ohio. One of the ones that I found most interesting while researching is called Oak Wilt. This disease is caused by a fungus that grows its way through a host tree’s water conductive tissue. As it does this, the fungi fill the vessels of the host tree with its body and spores essentially plugging the tree so no water can get in. The host tree’s natural response to stop the fungi actually does more harm than good; this is because its response is to further plug it’s vessels to stall or stop the fungi’s advance. These two occurrences combined cause a stop in all water intake, and results in what is called a “wilting syndrome” of the leaves. This syndrome leads to the death of the tree infected. The only way to prevent this from occurring is essentially to keep a tree from being wounded.
All oaks are susceptible to this Oak Wilt disease. The initial infection is caused by what is called a Nitiduid Beetles as they search for fresh sap and fungal matts. When a beetle flies from a fungal matt to a wounded oak tree the fugus grows into the host and the infection begins. The only way to prevent infections is to prevent wounds from occurring on trees. If a wound does occur, you can paint or cover it with latex paint which might slow the healing process but also is able to prevent infection. Another form of prevention and protection that is more complicated is to sever preexisting connections and preventing potential connections between infected and healthy trees.
Another disease that I was able to find that is common in Ohio and among sprue or needled trees is Needle Casts. It occurs because of a fungus called pycnidia that causes needs to turn die and prematurely fall from their branches. While needles of any age can be infected it normally is seen in needles that are a year or older. The pycnidia pushes through the stoma of the needles causing the stomatal plug to dislodge from there at white and waxy cap forms on the needle. Commonly the infected needles drop from their branches about 12-15 months after infection and cause bald spots and patches on branches of trees. This not only causes the tree to look sick, but it affects the overall health as well. The branches of pines and spruces are unable to replace needles once they fall, with no needles whole branches can die and fall off. In extremely severe cases Needle Casts can be fatal to fully grown trees. One of the only ways to prevent Needle Casts is to apply or spray fungicides that contain chlorothalonil.
The Appalachian Gametophyte, a species that I sadly didn’t get to see in person but did learn a lot about! It loves to lay low to the ground where the light is not too bright, and tends to stick to cool and moist places like caves. It is nicknamed the shoestring fern for it’s creeping nature but the interesting parts of this fern is not for how it looks, but for how it grows. This fern exists only as it’s reproductive gametophyte – there are only two other ferns that have a life cycle like the Appalachian Gametophyte. From what we learned in class we would expect this fern to reproduce like any other through use of spores. However, from what we know about this strange fern it does not actually produce any mature sporophytes! Instead, it reproduces asexually through the use of gemmae. These gemmae are no bigger than 1 mm, and while this is insanely small to us it is insanely big for a gemmae. Due to its large size, it is unable to travel long distances by wind dispersal, and really the only way they are dispersed is by streams and insects – mostly ants and slugs. It’s size and dispersal form are the reasons why it is only found in areas that were once covered by glaciers. At one point in time and fern history Vittara appalachia was able to disperse over long distances. There are many ideas as to why, but the most likely theory is that a very long time ago there existed a fully functioning tropical sporophyte of this species due climate supported tropical growth. This means that this species lost it’s ability to grow or produce fully functioning sporophytes during or even before the last Ice Age when our climate in North American ceased to support the tropical growth. The “Flora of West Virginia” article suggests that the sporophyte of the Appalachian Gametophyte can be found in areas of Georgia, this however is not supported through recent findings. Evidence shows and supports that the sporophyte died off after the last Ice Age.
Four Other Observations
Shockingly we encountered a lot of invasive species on our trip through the trails of Highbanks! One of the prettiest invasives that we saw was the Oxeye Daisy! It was beautiful typical daisy, but it was by far one of my favorite sightings. Upon looking into the Oxeye Daisy I found that its full name is Leucanthemum vulgare and is actually native
to Europe. Did you know that you can eat these pretty white flowering plants? Well neither did I, but the buds can be marinated and used almost similar to capers! I saw the first flower that we learned about in class in the wild as well! Dame’s Rocket was EVERYWHERE we turned. I already had learned the real name for this pretty purple flower, called Hesperis matronalis and is commonly confused with our native Phlox species! An easy way to tell them apar that I now know thanks to this class, is that Dame’s Rocket has only four petals while Phlox has five! We also encountered Ground-ivy or Glechoma hederacea which is another tiny but pretty purple flowering plant. Ground-ivy
had made is way around the world because European settlers carried it with them on their journeys. It is commonly used as an addition to salads in many countries, but more interestingly it is used in European medicine for inflammation of eyes, and even for indigestion. We also saw another invasive species that also felt like it was everywhere we turned! Marrow’s Honeysuckle – Lonicera morrowii – is native to Japan, Korea, and
Northeast China. The berries are edible to many birds, but are actually considered poisonous to us, so don’t pick them!! This plant is a dominate plant in many areas where it grows, and once it is established where it is growing it leafs outward and prevents plants below it from receiving sun and growing!