Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany

Two seedless, non-vascular plants!

Pictured above is sword moss, Bryoxiphium norvegicum. These mosses are characterized by their simple, long leaves. The leaves are also oppositely arranged about the stem. Worldwide, these mosses are quite rare!

^ Pictured above is a liverwort, I think this particular specimen is Conocephalum coniccum. They can be found on moist sandstone surfaces, and have a very strong, fruity smell!

Deep Woods’ acid sandstone landscape presented the botany class with a unique aspect of geobotany. We observed species which thrive on, and are almost exclusively found on sandstone substrates (like those found in the eastern portion of Ohio). Some of these species included eastern hemlock, chestnut oak, and sourwood. We also saw Solomon’s seal, which is again characteristic plants which require sandstone and acid substrates to thrive.

At Deep Woods, we also saw the Appalachian Gametophyte: Vittaria appalachiana. There is a description of the Appalachian gametophyte in “The Flora of West Virginia”, which is being updated for a new edition. The previous description says that it is undoubtedly the “prothallial stage of Vittaria lineata” (P. D. Strausbaugh and Earl L. Core). I would rewrite this part of the description to include the research conducted by Pinson and Schuettpelz. In their article published by the American Journal of Botany, they discuss their research which leads them to believe that the Appalachian gametophyte is actually most closely related to Vittaria graminifolia (p. 674). The gameptophyte’s inability to reproduce means that its original dispersal sometime during the Pleistocene (where much of Ohio was covered by glaciers) is where it is restricted to in its present-day range. This can describe why it is not found beyond the glacial boundary of the state, but below it, where we found it at Deep Woods.

 

Marsh, Prairie, and Fen

For this portion of the field trip, I visited three distinct ecosystems that can be found in Ohio: a prairie and marsh at Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park, and a “bog” (actually a fen) at Cedar Bog Nature Preserve. The following are distinct differences I noted in the vegetation of these ecosystems.

Marsh

Pictured above: marshland at Battelle-Darby Creek

Marshes are found in lower topography location, where water doesn’t drain easily. This creates a nutrient-rich soil bed for plants to thrive in, if they can withstand the wet conditions. Some plants that I found (and have pictures of) in the marsh include: Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), narrowleaf cattail (Typha angustifolia), and wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus). They’re pictured in order, respectively, below:

 

Prairie

^Pictured above: prairie land at Battelle-Darby Creek

Prairies are characterized by a lack of trees, and thick coverage from grasses and forbs. Although most trees can’t survive in prairies, some, like the shingle oak below, can thrive in these landscapes. Below are some more of the plants I saw at the prairie:

Shingle oak – Quercus imbricaria

Amur honeysuckle – Lonicera maackii

Note: this isn’t a native species, but rather a highly invasive shrub that has made its way into much of the Ohio landscape. They fruit before any other shrubs in the area (they’re the red berries in the above picture), and readily escape cultivation to sprawl all over any landscape they make their way to – they were probably drooling at the prospect of all this prime prairie land to invade.

false white indigo – Bapista alba

prairie dock – Silphium terebinthinaceum

 

Fen

 

^ pictured above: Cedar Bog Nature Preserve

Moving on from the prairie and marsh of Battelle-Darby Creek, I then went to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio. Cedar Bog is inappropriately named, as it isn’t a bog, but rather a fen! “Bogs clog, fens flush” was on a sign along the boardwalk, which creates a great mnemonic to remember the differences between the two. Bogs are fed from runoff, and the low topography of the landscape prevents the water from draining, whereas fens are fed from groundwater springs, and can flow out of the system. Cedar Bog is fed from one such spring, meaning the water is always cool (~50 degrees, year-round), and this water can flow freely in the system, making the nature preserve actually a fen. The fen lies in a glaciated part of Ohio (western portion of the state) and the limestone and gravel left behind by the glacier improves water flow, which is what allows the fen to “flush” out the water it accumulates.

***Note: my mini-assignment was to find two ferns within cedar bog, they’re listed at the very bottom of this post ***

Some plants I saw at Cedar “Bog” include:

Poison sumac – Toxicodendron vernix

Chinkapin oak – Quercus muehlenbergii

white cedar – Thuja occidentalis

cinnamon fern – Osmundastrum cinnamomeum

New York fern – Thelypteris novaboracensis