Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany

Personal Assignment – Two ferns with different frond types

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

The Christmas Fern is an example of a fern with dimorphic fronds.  The fertile fronds (as seen in the picture above) are arranged in a circular tuft.  The blade is pinnate and laced shape with the broadest section of the leaflet at its base. The fertile fronds above are taller, more rigid, constricted at the tip, and die off in the winter.  The sterile fronds are more smaller and remain green year round (even around Christmas time, neat). Christmas ferns are native to and can be found throughout moist wooded slopes of south eastern Ohio.  Fun fact: in mass planting efforts, Christmas Ferns have been known to be excellent erosion controllers (https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/polystichum-acrostichoides/)

 

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)

The Royal Fern is an example of a fern with a heteromorphic frond type, meaning that a portion of the frond produces spores and the other portion of the frond is sterile.  Royal Fern is native to Ohio and can be found growing along moist bluffs and streams.  This species is typically less than three feet tall, but in the right conditions it can reach heights in excess of six feet.  The fronds consist of well separated leaflets that turn yellow or brown in the fall.  The spores are located in fertile clusters at the tips of the fronds (when present they will appear as brown tassel like clusters).  Fun fact: “Osmunda fiber used in the potting of orchids comes from the fibrous roots of these ferns.” (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=l320)

 

Tribute to Jane Forsyth’s “Linking Geology and Botany: a new approach”

A description of our site and southeast Ohio as a whole:

The geology of southeastern Ohio can be described using just two words; sandstone, and hilly.  Sandstone is the main rock that resides beneath the soil in this ecoregion. Since soil is formed from the bottom up, the sandstone translates to very acidic soils that in turn boast a unique host of flora (to be seen in the following section). The topography of southeastern Ohio acts as the foothills to the Appalachian Mountains found further east.  These hills were what stopped the advances of the Pleistocene glaciers that flattened nearly all of western Ohio.  The glaciation that occurred in the western portion of the state created a stark line of different soil types.  The soil found in western Ohio comes from glacial tills or rather, an unsorted mix of sand, silt, clay, and boulders, whereas the non glaciated slopes of eastern Ohio lack these tills and have soil types closer to what they were hundreds of thousands of years ago.  The tills in western Ohio are generally found to be more impermeable, nutrient rich, and limey, whereas the soil found in eastern Ohio is generally permeable, and more acidic.

 

Plants consistent with Forsyth’s article

Acidophyles – four examples of acid loving plants

Alders (Genus Alnus)

White Walnut (Juglans cinerea)

Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

 

Unraveling the origin of the Appalachian Gametophyte

I wouldn’t change much in the description of the species found in “Flora of West Virginia”.  The description provided in the excerpt paints crude but understandable picture of what the Appalachian Gametophyte is.  The description of the habitat in the excerpt nearly matches where we found our specimens of the Gametophyte (we found our specimens in the back of cave beneath a limestone out cropping).

 

Marsh, Prairie, and Fen

Marsh

The marsh we visited was completely surrounded by a tall grass prairie and was just a small portion of the 1600 acres of restored wetlands within Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Some of the more common woody plants I observed along the trail were cottonwoods, sycamores, and boxelders.  The majority of the teal trail was cut through a tall grass prairie, but focusing strictly up on the wetland portion of the hike, some of the common herbaceous plants were cattails, swamp milkweed, and broad leaf arrowhead.  As for “weeds” observed at this site, I noticed a sad amount of invasive wetland plants such as phragmites, purple loosestrife, and common reed.

*Here is an absolutely stunning sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) at the trail head leading to the wetlands.

Prairie

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park has restored some tall grass prairies within its boundaries.  The metro park has a series of mowed trails that weave throughout the prairie allowing visitors to hike and observe the native vegetation.  As far as woody plants go, a few trees found in and along the prairie were pin oaks (one of my favorites), black walnuts, and honey locusts.  Being that we were in a prairie its not surprising  that the majority of the vegetation at the site was herbaceous. Some of the more interesting prairie plants we observed at this site were stiff golden rod, saw tooth sunflower, and prairie dock.  Although most of the vegetation at this site was native, some undesirable species were still present, like wild carrot, dandy lion, and chickory.

*Here is one of my favorite woody plants, the pin oak (Quercus palustris) located along the edge of the prairie.

Cedar bog (that isn’t a bog)

The last site we visited was cedar bog.  Although the name claims the area is a bog, it really isn’t, and here’s why.  Cedar bog sits in between two glacial end moraines, and as water from rain hits these moraines it collects that the bases where it then infiltrates into the ground water.  The water percolates through sand and gravel until finds its way into the aquifer below the nature preserve.  At this point the groundwater flow directs water upwards where it discharges into the nature preserve.  This ground water influx keeps the soil less acidic and more nutrient rich which actually  makes cedar bog a fen. Fens support a whole host of super unique plants that cannot be found anywhere else.  As for some of the unique plants found only in fens, I aimed my focus at carnivorous plants. Both of the plants I found were minuscule and not having a trained eye for these two little fellas posed a serious challenge for me.  The first tiny carnivorous plant I found was called a sundew.  Sundews are herbaceous and can form prostrate or straight rosettes. They can be red or green, or a combination of both, and the heads of tiny frills (glandular tentacles) used to attract their prey. The particular  sundews at our site were no bigger than a quarter.  “The trapping mechanism uses the stalked glands secreting the sweet mucilage that serves the triple function of attracting the insect, ensnaring them and providing the enzymes to aid the digestion process.  The sessile glands help to absorb the broken down nutrients.” (https://www.carnivorous–plants.com/sundew-plant.html)

*Here is one of the tiny sundews (Drosera spp.)

The next tiny carnivorous plant we found was a bladderwort.  bladderworts have a floating stem bearing simple or divided leaves. the flowers are bisexual and bilaterally symmetrical with two sepals, five fused petals, two stamens and a superior ovary (and are usually yellow). “The bladders, or traps, are hollow underwater structures with a flexible door or valve that is kept closed. A physiological process moves water from the interior to the exterior of the bladders, generating a state of low pressure within the traps. If a small animal triggers the bristles that project from the surface of the door, the trap suddenly opens, and a quick inflow of water sucks the prey inside.” (https://www.britannica.com/plant/bladderwort).

*Here is the tiny bladderwort (Utricularia spp.) found at the nature preserve.

**We also found a bonus carnivore too cute not to share*