Highbanks Metro Park is a place that I grew up going to; whether it be hiking with my friends or family or just finding a relaxing spot to clear my mind, Highbanks has been a go to site for me since I was little. It would have been wrong to choose anywhere else to conduct my botanical survey because there is no other site I would have enjoyed exploring and actively learning that a site that feels like my backyard.
Highbanks Metro Park has trails, and fields, and riverbanks that are startingly different. There is 11 miles of hiking trails that scale through the 100 foot bluffs and alongside the Olentangy River. The trail that I once again dragged my family up and down with me over the past few weeks of when it hasn’t been downpouring explored all three different ecosystems and communities. I walked from the entrance of the trial that was basically just straight into a heavily wooded area that lead us up and down through the hills where we could see the small streams that cut through the bluffs, but because of the fences along the trail we couldn’t get close enough to see the plants that crept alongside them. The wooded area was thickly covered by a dense canopy of massive and mature oak, maple, and American beech (Fagus grandifolia) trees – the most common being black maple (Acer nigram); white oak (Quercus albaz)! Below the mature trees laid a sparse shrub layer of saplings of the listed trees, and ground cover made up Virginia creeper ((Parthenocissus quinquefolia), thicket creeper (Parthenocissus inserta), and even some mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) – all of which I didn’t know of beforeI started this class!
As we made our way to an open are of just shrub layer the trees thinned and smaller, younger trees of white ash (Fraxinus americana), saplings of the oaks and maples, as well as bushes such as border privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium) which was actually full of tiny white flowers that I couldn’t stop taking pictures of! The open field was full on sun and made of mostly tall grasses, but there were some plants that I was not expecting to find such as sawtooth blackberry (Rubus argutus) and some remaining cones of wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum). From the open field our trail dipped drastically to meet run alongside the riverbank of the Olentangy River. The closer we got to the river bank the thicker the shrub and ground layers got – even with a dense canopy that let through very little sunlight. The only areas that were not covered in the two lower layers were little paths where people had frequently ventured from the trail to get right up to the riverbank. On the areas closest to the riverbank I found moss covered trunks (hypnum cupressiforme) and American plantain (Plantago rugelii). The most interesting plant that I was able to find on this section of the trial was wild garlic (Allium vineale) for the single reason of how strange the membranous cover around the umbel of flowers was. It looked like an alien. Interestingly in the shrub layer that ran alongside the riverbank there were tons of new and flowering yellow buckeye trees (Aesculus flava)! I never expected to be able to spot so many plants and trees that I hadn’t before on my trips through the trials of Highbanks. It was like I was actually seeing one of my favorite places for the first time! While I know the trails well, the past couple weeks have made up my favorite visits by far.
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) was found in plenty in my adventures to Highbanks. The picture above was the largest vine I was able to spot from far down the path. This species is identifiable from its palmate leaf arrangement of three almond shaped leaves. The leafs can have teeth along the edges but if there are any it’s few to none. We all grew up hearing the catchy line of “Leaves of three, let it be!” The warning comes from a place of good intentions because some are so allergic they develop large blisters in response to the urushiol found in the sap of this plant.
Lonicera maackii (Rupr.) Maxim. amur honeysuckle. Invasive. CC= 0 Native to the temperate western Asia, and is even listed as an endangered species in Japan. The species name “maackii” is from Richard Maack, who was a Russian naturalist. Because it is an invasive species is actually banned in states like Connecticut and prohibited in Massachusetts! It is recommended in many states, like our own to plant and cultivate alternative species to cut back on the hold this honeysuckle has in the United States. Some alternatives include Calycanthus floridus, Hydrangea species, and Vibrunum cassinoides.
Lingustrum obtusifolium Siebold & Zucc. border privet. Invasive. CC= 0. This species is native to Japan, Korea, and northeaster China. The areas, like North America, where this species is considered invasive catching onto new infestations and quickly removing and treating the area is imperative. There are options for chemical control such as foliar treatment during growing season, and is considered the only practical method to control larger infestations of this species. Lingustrum actually means binder.
Rosa muliflora Thunb. Multiflora rose. Introduced now invasive in eastern North America. CC= 0. Native to China, Japan, and Korea. It was brough into the United States in 1860 because many loved to plant it and found it a great addition to their gardens. The hips of these plants are edible. There have been targeted efforts to remove multiflora rose, but it often requires an aggressive technique to control this species because you must remove the plant and the entire root system. There is natural forms of control for this species such as the rose rosette disease and the rose seed chalid both of which can be fatal to the plant, and makes removal easier.
Allium vineale L. wild garlic. Invasive. CC = 0. Actually native to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This species does not prove to be harmful or dominate over our own native species. Because of this it is often treated as a weed, and either removed or left alone. It can and has caused damage to wheat production because it can contaminate the wheat plant. Wild garlic grows in a tight umbel that is surrounded by a membranous covering. The covering withers when the flowers begin to open. Technically can be used as a substitute for garlic that we are familiar with, but many say it has a horrible aftertastes.
Leucanthemum vulgare Lam. oxeye daisy. Invasive. CC = 0. Native to Europe and Asia. A mature plant can produce up to 26,000 seeds. The unopened buds can be eaten once marinated like capers. This species if one of them most widespread weeds in the Anthemideae, and become an introduced or invasive species by gardens because it was favored as an ornamental plant. In some habitats and ecosystems the oxeye daisy forms colonies that modify and in some cases displace the native species colonies. Fun fact is that even though most grazing animals will not eat it, when cows do consume oxeye daisy the milk they produce has what is labeled as an undesirable taste. It is banned or prohibited in many areas, and if it is found it must be removed before the plant is able to flower and spread seeds, as a single plant can produce up to 4,000 seeds annually.
Hesperis matronalis L. dame’s rocket. Invasive. CC= 0. These are spring blooming flowers, and is commonly confused with our native Phlox species. The way to tell these two species apart is that dame’s rocket has only 4 petals as it is part of the Brassicaceae family, while Phlox have five petals! The leaves are alternately arranged on the upwards facing stems. There are actually restrictions on dame’s rocket and it is illegal to grow it in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.
Dipsacus fullonum L. wild teasel. Invasive. CC=0 Native to Eurasia and North Africa, but is commonly found here in North American. The inflorescence is a cylindrical formation of bright lavender flowers that eventually try to just the cone shaped, spine tipped, and hard bracts that I was able to identify. The seed bracts that are left after the lavender flower dies off are important foods for birds during the winter. Teasel can actually be used to produce textiles.
Viola striata Aiton. cream violet. Native. CC= 5. Native to eastern North American, found mostly inland away from Costal Plains, and grows comfortably in mesic forests. The leaves of this blossom can be eaten, and can even be used to make jelly. There are five petals on each flower, two of which happen to be hairy at the base of the flower. The lowest petal has a single purple stripe, that I was actually able to photograph!
Zizia aureai L. W.D.J. Koch. golden alexander. Native. CC = 6. This flowering plant is named after Johann Baptist Ziz, another Germa botantist! Golden Alexander is a host plant for the caterpillars of black swallowtail and Ozark swallowtail butterflies. The leaves are alternately arranged, each one is labeled as compound in complexity! The flowers grow in an umbel at the top of the plant, with each flower made up of five petals and five sepals.
Caradmine pratensis L. cuckoo flower. Native. CC= 9. The name pratensis is actually Latin for meadow. In folklore it is said to have been sacred to fairies, which means it was unlucky to bring it indoors. The leaves are grown from a spike, with each flower have four petals.
Woody Plant Identificaiton
Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell. smooth solomon’s seal. The leaf arrangement of this plant was what made it stand out to me before I was even to see the fruit hidden beneath them! The stalks can grow to be several feet in length with simple and alternate leaves. When the small flowers of these plants drop form their stalks they eventually produce small blue berries.
Rubus argutus Link. sawtooth blackberry. Native. The fruits on this shrub are compound drupes that change colors from bright red to black at maturity – aka when they are ready to be eaten!! Blackberries are my favorite fruit, which made this easily identifiable for that reason, but I was actually able to share with my family I made tag along on my trips what type of fruit they are!
Aesculus glabra. Sol. Ohio buckeye. While this tree is commonly used in an ornamental fashion, it shockingly abundant along the riverbank, but close to the trail. This was probably the easiest plant I identified on my trips to Highbanks for two different reasons : 1. Its leaves really do look like the stickers we see on the OSU football helmets every game day and 2. I actually got to see the buckeye nut! They were young and not completely grown, but very identifiably buckeyes. The flowers grow in panicles in the spring. The fruit is a round capsule that contains a single seed similar to a seed.
Lonicera morrowii A. Gray. marrow’s honeysuckle. This honeysuckle starts to produce leaves early in the year, and is commonly the first deciduous shrub to grow and foliage during the month of March. The flowers are white and very pale yellow in color, while the berries are in stark contrast dark red. The berries the are commonly eaten by birds, but are poisonous to humans!
Staphylea trifolia L. American Bladdernut. The Fruits on this tree are “bladder shapped” nuts that contain 1-3 seeds that actually look like popcorn seeds! Some believe this fruit to be edible, but you won’t find me testing this! The fruits change from green to dark green to a dark brown color as they mature. The bladder shape of the nut is specific to these species, and is it’s main identifiable trait.
Mosses and Lichen
Hypnum cupressiforme Hedw. cypress-leaved plait moss. Native. This moss is actually found on all continents expect Antarctica, but it does prefer to grow in acidic environments.
Xylobolus frustrulatus (Pers.). ceramic parchment. Native. Commonly grows on only oaks and wood that are rotted through, and typically only on trunks and branches laying on the ground. This is one of only three lichen or fungi that is known to actually break down and eat through timbers in coal mines.
Lepraria finkii (B.de Lesd.) RC. Harris. dust lichen. Native. Reproduces through soredia.
Candelaria concolor (Dicks.). candleflame lichen. Native. The family of Candelariaceae holds 11 different species of lichen.
Flavoparmelia caperata (L.) Hale. common greensheild lichen. Normally grows on the barks of trees but occasionally it can be found on the surface of rocks! This lichen reproduces by soredia.