Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany

Substrate-associated Plants: The Hocking Hills area in Logan Ohio (southeast Ohio) is covered primarily by acidic sandstone leading to a specific array of plants that are designed to survive in this soil type. This area would also be considered part of the mixed mesophytic forest region of Ohio. Some examples of these sandstone substrate plants, according to Jane Forsyth, would include: chestnut oak (Quercus montana), sourwood (Ocydendrum arboreum), scrub pine (Pinus virginiana), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and mountain maple (Acer spicatum).  Some other acidic sandstone plants could include:  Shown below are two examples of sandstone plants in Hocking Hills, photographed on September 26, 2021.

sourwood: This tree is beneficial to both humans and wildlife and is one of few trees only found in North America unless specifically planted elsewhere. Deers enjoy the foliage and bees enjoy the nectar produced by its flowers. Humans use the sourwood for many ailments from stomach bugs, to thirst quenching, and even for mouth pains. The best known part is the honey produced by the bees that use this tree.









hemlock: The eastern hemlock tree is also used by both humans wildlife. The trees provide habitat for many birds and cover for many ground species in the winter. It can also be used as source of food for some. For humans, the wood is commonly used for tanning leather through wood pulp while the needles are put to use in teas and perfumes. They may also be used for decoration.









Biotic Threats to Forest Health: Many plants fall victim to the affects of parasites, harmful fungi, and insects which can quickly lead to their defeat. Some examples of this are described and shown below.

chestnut blight: Chestnut blight is a lethal pathogen that affects the American chestnut tree. It is believed to have been brought to the U.S. by the Chinese chestnut tree which is immune to this pathogen, but can still be a host to it allowing it to pass along to other chestnut trees. This is extremely devastating now because virtually every American chestnut tree becomes affected in its lifetime. Work is being done in an attempt to breed a hybrid tree that will allow the American chestnut to become immune to this pathogen. This research is extremely important as the chestnut tree is a valuable tree for both humans and animals.











butternut canker: Butternut canker is a lethal fungal disease that affects the butternut or white walnut trees. It is likely that the disease was transported through human transport from outside the U.S. to inside bringing the fungi with and allowing the disease to spread.  There is no cure but quick removal of the cankers help prevent the spread of the fungus to the entire tree.












Appalachian Gametophyte (Vittaria appalachian)Here we take a look at a very interesting species which lost its ability to grow sporophytes.

The common name for Vittaria appalachiana is the Appalachian gametophyte and it is considered to be such a remarkable species because it exists only as a vegetatively reproductive gametophyte making it one of only three species that do so. This means that it reproduces asexually creating entirely genetically identical plants. 

Instead of spores, this plant uses gemmae to reproduce. Fern gemmae are quite large in comparison to spores and are even too large for adequate long distance wind dispersal. Instead, gemmae are transported only short distances by wind, water, and sometimes animals. Kimmerer and Young provide evidence of animal transport after having observed slugs transporting these gemmae for the gametophyte.

The limited dispersal capability in the gametophyte can also be supported by the fact that this species does not exist north of the last glacial boundary despite the ability of the plant to survive there. It is also discovered that this gametophyte can survive in many locations within its Appalachian boundary, yet only appears in large flourishes nearby itself. 

Currently it is not likely for the Appalachian gametophyte to be sustained by a long distant tropical sporophyte, but this is likely the reason for its widespread range. This sporophyte originally transported across long-distances but could not survive across the glacial boundary leaving restrained to the Appalachian area where it eventually lost its ability to produce spores and then could no longer travel across the boundary due to the limitations of the fern gemmae even though the glacier had melted leaving suitable habitat. 












Miscellaneous Other Observations: Here you can find four other cool plants found during a hike through Hocking Hills. Also featured in this section are two moss species with very unique features!

hazel alder tree (Alnus serrulata):












cancer root and beech drops:












Ferns!! (sensitive fern, cinnamon fern, and royal fern):

Royal fern









Some Fun Fungi:









———–>  *Interesting moss features!*

hair cap moss: The hair cap moss is an acrocarpous moss meaning the archegonium (or capsules) grow from the tips of stems. This is the reason for the tall tuft like structure of this moss.











tortula moss: This moss forms tufts over rocks. You can also see clearly in these photos the sporophytes of the moss (the tall brownish structures).












fern moss and pin cushion moss: The fern moss is unique in its resemblance to a fern. This is an example of a pleurocarpus  moss as it forms a mat like appearance wherever it grows. The pin cushion moss, although hard to distinguish, is an apocarpous moss with thin and tiny upward growing archegonium that all form together in one tuft or cushion.