The hocking hills area of southeastern Ohio is different from the western areas of Ohio, such as cedar bog and Battelle Darby creek, in several ways. The primary substrate is acidic and sandstone rather than alkaline and limestone. It is also rather hilly whereas western Ohio is pretty flat. This is due to glaciation thousands of years ago which covered the western half of Ohio but did not extend to the Hocking Hills area. This makes the vegetation types in western and Eastern Ohio rather different. Jane Forsyth mentions several acid loving trees which we saw on our field trip to Deep Woods. We saw Chestnut oak (Quercus montana) and lots of Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), which I did not get pictures of. I did get a picture of sourwood (Oxydendron arboretum), which is a neat tree in the blueberry family.
I also have to talk about the parasitic plants we saw because they are just the neatest things ever. First we saw Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) a root parasite and member of the broomrape family Orobancaceae. The family Orobancaceae is full of root parasites which may be hemiparasites or holoparasites depending on whether they are able to live on their own or need to parasitize the roots of other plants to survive. “Epi” means “on” and “fagus” is the genus of beech trees. These plants have no leaves or chlorophyll so they cannot photosynthesize and rely entirely on their host plant for nutrients. If you dont think that is super cool I don’t wanna be your friend.
Look at this gem! Another parasite, Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa). I spotted this plant at the top of the rope right after almost everyone had climbed down, so I didn’t get to point it out. These are in the blueberry family (Ericaceae), a family which Forsythe noted are characteristic of acidic, sandstone habitats. Unlike beechdrops, these are parasites on mycorrhizal fungi, not other plants. For more information on a close relative of these guys and look at my page titled “Monotropa uniflora”
Speaking of plants that love acidic soil and mycorrhizae, here are the leaves of the Pink Lady Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium acaule). Orchids are weird and cool. Seeds, as we all know, consist of seed coats, endosperm, and embryo sporophytes. However orchid seeds lack endosperm and rely totally on mycorrhizal fungi to germinate. Most orchids, like this lady slipper, are only dependent on mycorrhizae for a short time but some such as coralroots (Corallorhiza) have continued this reliance into adulthood and become parasitic on fungi (mycoheterotrophic) like Pinesap.
Next, another orchid. This is a Ladies Tresses Orchid, probably Spiranthes ovalis. This orchid gets its latin name from its conspicuously spirally arranged spike inflorescence.
We saw a lot of cool ferns on our hike as well. Here is an interesting one called Cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) which can be distinguished from the closely related Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) which we also saw on this trip in a few ways. One way is the light brown hairs which subtend the leaflets of this plant which you can see in this photo. The other way is frond type. Cinnamon fern is dimorphic, having fronds that are sterile and separate fronds that are fertile. Interrupted fern is heteromorphic and has fronds which have separate fertile and sterile parts on one frond.
Another nice plant we saw that is seedless and nonvascular plant was this thallose liverwort. Snakeskin Liverwort (Conocephalum salebrosum) lives on moist sandstone rocks.
Another plant sometimes called liverwort is this nice member of the family Ranunculaceae, Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba). The name Hepatica comes from the greek word for liver because these three lobed leaves were thought to resemble livers. There is another species in the genus Hepatica which grows in Ohio, Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana). This species can be distinguished from H. aucutiloba by, shockingly, the rounded lobes of the leaf.
This pretty flower is Downy Lobelia (Lobelia puberula) and belongs to the bellflower family, Campanulaceae. We saw two other members of this family on our trip; Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and Tall Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum). Lobelia flowers are strongly zygomorphic, while the Tall Bellflowers are actinomorphic.
Lastly, we see the fascinating Doctorius klipii perched in his natural habitat, pointing out the Rocktop polypody (Polypodium virginianum).
Battelle Darby Creek and Cedar Bog
We went to the Marsh at Battelle Darby creek and saw a bunch of cool stuff! A marsh is a moist wetland without a lot of woody growth, usually dominated by graminoids. There were many graminoids such as grasses, cat tails (Typha latifolia), a few species of Juncus and this nice bulrush (Scirpus sp.).
There were a few small trees at this site. Trees that grow in marshy areas need to be able to tolerate the wet conditions present there. Willows (Salix sp.) and cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are two such trees, both in the family Salicaceae. Another tree that can deal with marshy wetlands is Sycamore (Platanus occidentalus) Most of these trees did not reach higher than the surrounding grasses.
The prairie we visited at Battelle Darby Creek was similar to the marsh in that is was on calcareous soil and dominated by graminoids, namely Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), but the prairie was less wet than the marsh. The prairie had a few Asteraceae species, such as Stiff goldenrod (Solidago ridgida), pictures below. We also saw False white indigo (Baptisia lactea). There was not much woody growth.
Cedar Bog (Fen)
Our last stop, Cedar bog, is incorrectly named and is actually a fen. Bogs differ from fens in that they are acidic and they do not get their water drained, it leaves be evaporation. Bogs are also often covered in sphagnum moss mats. This moss dies and accumulates at the bottom creating peat. A fen has alkaline soil and is occasionally flooded and water is drained or “flushed” through underground aquifers. Cedar bog lies in the ancient Taeys River Valley. The Western part of Ohio was once covered in Glacial Ice which flattened the land as it moved southward and created moraines on either side of Cedar Bog. These allow water from rain to runoff into Cedar bog and are another source of water which floods the fen periodically. Another feature of cedar bog is its unique plant communities. You can find Northern boreal, Prairie, and fen plant communities here.
Woody species we saw here include Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra), Chestnut oak (Quercus montana), and Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis). We also saw a shrubby member of the rose family; Shrubby Cinqfoil (Potentilla fruticosa). Herbaceous plants included a few carnivorous plants, Bladderwort (Utricularia sp.) and Roundleaf Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia.), as well as some pretty wetland loving plants like Kalm’s Lobelia (Lobelia kalmii), Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa), Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca), and Swamp lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata). Interestingly, Swamp lousewort is a hemiparasite on roots of grasses and asters, which we also saw nearby. Read more about Swamp Lousewort and its hosts here