Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gray Goldenrod - Solidago nemoralis

GRAY GOLDENROD - Solidago nemoralis

Photos taken on September 9, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deerberry – Vaccinium stamineum

DEERBERRY – Vaccinium stamineum

Photos taken May 29, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bristle-Tipped Sedge - Carex eburnea


Photos taken November 15, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Big Bluestem - Andropogon gerardii

BIG BLUESTEM – Andropogon gerardii

Photos taken July 25, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bundleflower - Desmanthus illinoensis

BUNDLEFLOWER – Desmanthus illinoensis

Photos taken July 11, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

American Aloe - Manfreda virginica

AMERICAN ALOE – Manfreda virginica

Photos taken July 6, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hooded Arrowhead

Hooded or Mississippi Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis ssp. calycina or Lophotocarpus calycinus) is a rare species in Ohio occurring in a couple dozen wetlands throughout the state. In late summer of 2003, I had my first encounter with this species. I found a few plants growing in a shallow pool at Little Cedar Point in Lucas County.

In seasons of high water, no plants may be seen but in years when water levels drop, exposing mudflats, you may see hundreds even thousands of plants.

Hooded arrowhead is distinguished from other Ohio arrowheads by sepals appressed in fruit and its thick, spongy, decumbent flower/fruit stalk. Leaves are variable but look similar to the common arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia).

In E. Lucy Braun's The Monocotyledoneae [of Ohio]: Cattails to Orchids, she reports it from 5 counties. It is now known from 17 counties. Habitats include mudflats of river oxbows, marshes, lakes, and ponds.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

James' Clammy-weed

James' clammy-weed (Polanisia jamesii, Capparaceae) is a rare introduction to the state of Ohio. First discovered in Ohio by Allison Cusick in 1967, he reported it growing in a railroad bed in Summit County. In 1999, I discovered another site in adjacent Portage County in similar habitat. This past summer, I returned to the site and was pleased to see it still there. James' clammy-weed has narrower leaves and fruits than its close relative, clammy-weed (Polanisia dodedandra). A species of the Great Plains, it likely came into Ohio via the railroad and now a rare "weed" in the buckeye state.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Striking Botanical Gold

An Ohio mega-rarity, Schoenoplectus smithii

Many of you know that I've spent the last seven years of my life as a botanist for the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.  I didn't start out that way.  Initially I thought I knew quite a bit about Ohio's flora, but I was quickly humbled by the knowledge of people like Jim McCormac, Greg Schneider, and Rick Gardner.  I really do remember one of the first days out in the field when Greg explained to me the basic differences between a grass and a sedge.  I've come a long way.

That brings us to last week, where I had perhaps my best discovery yet.  This summer I've been finishing out a grant as an employee of the Division of Wildlife since the demise of Natural Areas and Preserves as a stand-alone division this past June.  I decided to head up to Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve to see if I could find the elusive Potentilla paradoxa (state endangered) or perhaps Sagitarria cuneata, (state threatened).

I was skunked with those two species, but on the last mudflat I examined, I struck botanical gold.  My partners dropped me off at a small island near the mouth of the marsh.  I've visited the mudflat surrounding the island several times, but today, something caught my eye.  Like a bit gleaming precious metal, one grass-like plant stood out above the carpet of spikerushes and water purslane.

Mudflat at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve
Below me was a bulrush, but unlike the much more common and large species like Softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus taebernaemontani) or common threesquare (Schoenoplectus pungens), this plant was miniature.  Its green culms (stems) weren't much longer than a robust blunt spikerush (Eleocharis compressa) but instead of having a terminal inflorescence (flower head), the spikes were lateral, with long bracts above the spikes (a group of sedge flowers).

Immediately I knew this was something REALLY cool.  The first instinct of a professional botanist is to pick the plant to examine it in the hand.  It's a horrible habit.  I've tried to train my brain to stop and think before I pick something that I just found that I'm super excited about.  Fortunately, that gear kicked in and I began to look for more plants without any luck.  Only one clump!  Ugh....what to do?  Without a specimen, I wouldn't be able to identify it.  I carefully pried loose three culms from the mud, leaving eight intact.  I was super excited, not really knowing what I found, but also realizing that it was probably something really cool.  I have been studying the flora of the Lake Erie Coast for almost five years, but had never seen anything quite like what I had just collected.

Back at the office, I "Googled" the online edition of Volume 23 of the Flora of North America- the volume that treats the sedge family.  Fortunately for me, there are only a handful of Scheonoplectus species in Ohio, so I quickly narrowed down my specimen to one of two things- Pursh's bulrush (Schoenoplectus purshianus) and Smith's bulrush (Schoenoplectus smithii).  A look at a seed underneath the dissecting microscope, and the fact that the bract above the inflorescence made me believe this was indeed Smith's bulrush.  This state endangered species was last seen along the Lake Erie Coast in 1988 and is known from only one other modern location in Ohio.

I sent a few photos to Rick Gardner and Dan Boone, who had had last observed this plant in Ohio in 2006.  Dan called that afternoon and said "Tom, you've got Smithii".  But there was only one problem- I only found one plant at Sheldon Marsh.  Smith's bulrush is an annual that produces thousands of seeds. The seeds are incorporated into the soil, lying in wait for decades until the right conditions to return once again.  I had found only one plant, so my find could just be a meaningless waif.  I needed to find more.

So I decided to check out the last place where it had been observed- East Harbor State Park.  Dr. Ron Stuckey had documented two plants, yes, only two plants in 1988.  Perhaps it had returned to East Harbor this year as well?

After walking the mile and a half to the location where he collected  it along a rip-rap wall, I found what I was expecting- the habitat was gone-no mudflats, just the open water of a deep boating channel.  I wasn't ready to give up though. There was still one more place I needed to look- a deep water pond and mudlflats of an experimental wetland right near the parking lot.  I was expecting to see the state endangered Caribbean spikerush, (Eleocharis geniculata) growing there- I had observed it five years prior, but Smith's bulrush was not there then- would it be now?

After a few stops along the way where we found a few other state listed species, we finally set out to find the experimental wetland.  By this time, since I had found some other goodies- I was prepared to find the Caribbean spikerush, get into our nearby vehicle and drive off to our next spot.

When we arrived at the wetland, I saw great mudflats with tons of spikerushes.  My attention immediately turned to the rhizomatous red-footed spike-rush (Eleocharis erythropoda) and a really big weird thing that I hadn't seen before. Or at least I thought.  Carpeting the mudflats was the healthiest population of Caribbean spikerush I had seen.  I had known this species as micro plant with culms not much longer than an inch growing in dried out mud pools of abandoned limestone quarries.  But here on these mudflats, with optimal conditions, the clumps were downright huge, probably eight inches across.

It didn't take but a few more steps though, and the shiny botanical gold shined into my eyes once again.  A giant clump of Smith's bulrush was right at my feet! COOL!  It was such a satisfying moment- I had set out to find more of this plant, and right there at my feet was a robust clump.  I looked around with Chris Grimm, my botanical partner-in-crime this past August, and we just kept seeing more clumps- As we walked around the mudflat, no fewer than 75 Smith's bulrush were bursting from the mud.  How cool!

This past week has probably been my most satisfying week in seven years of botanizing around Ohio because of the Smith's bulrush find.  Only a handful of plants had ever been documented on Lake Erie's shore in the history of Ohio's botanical exploration, and I had found the mother-load.  In a week, years of searching for rare and unusual things in northern Ohio paid off right there in a mud puddle at East Harbor State Park.  I feel great about the work I've done- the hundreds of specimens that I have collected and processed, the thousands of miles I have driven across northern Ohio.  I certainly won't be retiring as a botanist, but this phase of my career will soon be ending.  I had the best job that I could ever ask for the past seven years.  But like all good things, it must come to an end, and I will look back with only fond memories- especially of a little bulrush named Smithii.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Zizania Aquatica, Wild Rice

This morning, I joined a group of esteemed Botanists- Dan Boone, Jim Decker, Brian Riley and Jim McCormac on an exciting expedition near Bellfountaine, Ohio.  Along the way, we stopped to see a Zizania aquatica population discovered by my botanical sensei, Rick Gardner, a few years ago.  This state threatened grass grows right in the clear water of the silt bottomed Little Darby Creek.  I've looked for this plant along the Lake Erie coast for quite some time, but I've never found it.  It was once common along the coast, but now it's mostly gone due to anthropogenic changes in the Lake Erie ecosystem.  I'm glad that I got to see and photograph it today near Plain City.

A quick note- Clicking on each picture will link you to a much SHARPER image!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Small, Flat, and Featureless- Notothylas orbicularis -An Unusual Hornwort

Please welcome Dr. Bob Klips to Ohio Flora.  Bob writes "Dirty Trees- Bob's Brain on Botany"- without a doubt one of the most interesting sites focusing on plants in the blogsposphere.  Bob has that unusual ability, through his photos and words, to make a tiny plant that he describes as "small, flat, and featureless" incredibly interesting.  

 An Unusual Hornwort
Notothylas orbicularis

by Dr. Bob Klips 

This promised to be great fun, and it was. A few weeks ago Erik Rothacker, a scientist who studies orchids, invited OSU graduate student Jeff Rose and me to accompany him to see “three birds” orchid at one of his study sites at Dawes Arboretum in Licking County. Seeing the orchid growing right alongside the trail was great, even if it is a mere orchid.

Afterwards we continued hiking through the woods, and saw that the path continued along the edge of the woods bordering a soybean field. Back story: The previous weekend, Jeff and I participated in a bio-blitz where, as usual, that young wippersnapper kept scooping me by spotting cool plants that I had just walked past or even stepped on. Eager to regain a little bot-cred (that’s like “street-cred,” but for bot), I was thrilled to see a wee little moss on the path just where it exited the woods.  Hands-and-knees scrutiny revealed the moss to be one of the exciting short-lived annual mosses generally called “fall ephemerals.” This one, Aphanorrhegma serratum (Funariaceae) turned out not to be a county record, but it is nonetheless fairly uncommon, or at least infrequently noticed. I was pumped! 

Yes, pumped was I, for about two entire minutes. Jeff’s “plant-dar” was set to “high.” He wandered off toward the soybeans and immediately came back holding a little green-topped dirt ball, innocently asking “Can this be this one of those non-Phaeoceros, non-Anthoceros hornworts that have a tiny sideways sporophyte instead of an upright horn-like one?” The answer, which was “yes,” raised another question: How does he do that? The answer to that latter question might involve comparing the visual acuity of someone born during, say, the Reagan Administration compared with someone born during the Truman one. Thank goodness for hand-lenses!

This is a picture of Jeff’s great find, a hornwort called Notothylas orbicularis. Hornworts comprise one of the three plant divisions that are collectively, but informally, referred to as “bryophytes.” The “bryophyte” designation is informal because it is now generally accepted that they do not have an common ancestor that is not also shared with another plant group. The other “bryophyte” divisions are the mosses (Division Bryophyta with just over 400 species in Ohio), and the liverworts (Division Marchantiophyta with approximately 125 species in Ohio.) Hornworts, Division Anthocerotophyta, are a relatively small group that is mainly tropical. Ohio is home to just three hornwort species.

In the photo below, labels have been added, using the font “Comic Sans” that everybody seems to find annoying. They denote the short spindle-shaped sporophytes, laying sideways in characteristic Notothylas fashion. Actually, what we see here are the cylindrical “involucres,” collar-like tubes on the gametophyte within which the sporophytes are developing, and from which they will soon project, but just a bit. See also two mosses: (1) a “fruiting” (sporophyte-producing) individual of the fall ephemeral Aphanorrhegma serratum (big whoop!) and (2) some species of Amblystegiumn

Hornworts are awesome. Like all “bryophytes,” (and unlike all other plants) the egg and sperm-producing “gametophyte” stage of the life cycle is the more conspicuous and long-lived of the two life cycle stages. The other stage, the spore-producing “sporophyte,” while genetically distinct from the maternal gametophyte, is permanently attached to the maternal gametophyte that produced it. Hornworts are small, flat, relatively featureless plants that, when lacking sporophytes, are readily mistaken for liverworts. Our hornworts, while infrequently observed, are sometimes abundant and may indeed not be especially rare, but just overlooked. Hornwort habitats are nothing special. Ours are all found on moist disturbed open soil, where they can be almost weedy. They engage in an interesting mutualism, harboring colonies of nitrogen-fixing bacteria within special cavities in their body. 

A hornwort more deserving of the name, and the species that is much more frequently encountered in our region, is Phaeoceros laevis. Here’s a picture of Phaeoceros taken in October a few years ago in Hocking County. Note the spike-like capsules that elongate from the base (a very unusual manner of growth for a plant, as plants usually lengthen only by adding cells at the tip) and split at the end, releasing yellow spores.

Sometimes Phaeoceros grows so densely that it looks like a patch of grass. This specimen was photographed last September in Meigs County.

Bob- Wow, I learned so much.  Thank you for introducing us to the hornworts!
Don't forget to visit "Dirty Trees: Bob's Brain on Botany" for more fantastic botany articles from Bob. 


Featured Comment by Dr. Klips-
Late summer and fall are great times to look for hornworts and other "bryophytes." Anyone interested in learning about these plants and meeting a bunch of enthusiastic friendly people eager to share their knowledge about them (and lichens, too!) should look into the Ohio Moss and Lichen Association (OMLA). Information about OMLA, including details of the upcoming Fall Foray to Muskingum County are at www.ohiomosslichen.org.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum  April 16, 2008, Franklin County

As you have certainly seen by now, Steve Willson of Blue Jay Barrens has joined me in this Ohio Flora venture, and so has Rick G., who many of you know and love.  If you would like to contribute photographs, articles or both to "Ohio Flora", please let us know!

I think many naturalists believe that white trout lily, a spring bloomer typically found along floodplains here in Columbus, is just simply a white morph of the yellow trout lily.  But nope, it's an entirely different species.  Unfortunately, this population along the Olentangy River at Kenney Park has been decimated only two years after I took these photographs.  Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)- a non-native invasive species with yellow flowers that can be seen in some of these photographs, has out-competed this population.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Large Yellow Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens

LARGE YELLOW LADY’S SLIPPER – Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens

Photo taken May 7, 2008 in Adams County, Ohio.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pasture Thistle, Cirsium pumilum

PASTURE THISTLE – Cirsium pumilum

Photo taken June 9, 2007 in Adams County, Ohio.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Obedient Plant, Physostegia virginiana

OBEDIENT PLANT – Physostegia virginiana

Photo taken September 12, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Angle-pod, Matelea obliqua

ANGLE-POD - Matelea obliqua

Photo taken June 2, 2007 in Adams County, Ohio.