Oh, hey! So good to see ya. Thanks for coming back! So this page is going to be a little different than the last, but don’t worry, there will still be tons of cool stuff to show you. First, let me explain some of the mumbo jumbo technical terms on this page.
Each of the first 20 plants on this page will be assigned a CC value. This value, a coefficient of conservatism, gauges how associated a plant’s communities are to high-quality natural areas. Basically, this scale from 0 to 10 is telling us which plants are the most area-restricted, 10 being a pretty picky plant – more on this here. The Whetstone Park itself is assigned a FQAI (floristic quality assessment index) value. This allows us to evaluate the quality of all plant communities and compare them to one another. The equation used for the FQAI calculation is equation number 6 in this report. Whetstone Park received a FQAI value of 16.9. After taking a look at these 20 fascinating flora, there is a section on invasive plants I found in the area with some identifying features. Post-invasive investigation I posted a third section that contains plants on the site that were mentioned in Jane Forsyth’s “Geobotany” article, along with their associated substrates.
Now, onto the first 20! *ordered from lowest to highest CC value*
Part 1: CC Values of Natives
Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) – 1
Black raspberries are pretty easy to identify, due to their glaucous stem (that means a waxy whiteish covering). It is compound with three serrate leaflets and is covered with small thorns. The berries (actually an aggregation of drupelets) of this plant attract birds, bees, and other mammals, including us! Yep, they’re edible AND we use them for natural dyes.
American elm (Ulmus americana) – 2
The American elm’s key identification feature is the bark – if you press on it, it feels soft and squishy due to its high moisture content. The wood of this tree is difficult to split, which makes it great for hockey sticks!
Red maple (Acer rubrum) – 2
Red maples have simple, opposite leaves with the leaves having typically 3 clearly visible lobes. This can be differentiated from the sugar maple, which usually has 5 lobes. This early successional forest tree is used for making clothespins and boxes and turns a beautiful bright red color in the fall.
Calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) – 2
The calico aster has tubular shaped disk flowers and strap-shaped ray flowers with alternate simple leaves. The flower gets its name from the colors of the disk flowers – they begin as a light yellow, and as they age turn either a dark red or purple.
Riverbank grape (Vitis riparia) – 3
Box elder (Acer negundo) – 3
Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) – 3
Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) – 3
Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) – 3
Black cherry (Prunus serotina) – 3
Bristly greenbrier (Smilax hispida) – 3
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) – 4
Blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) – 4
Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) – 4
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – 5
Black walnut (Juglans nigra) – 5
Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) – 5
Bitternut hickory trees have alternate pinnately compound leaves with toothed leaflets. This monoecious plant has a distinctive bud – it is long and yellow, and looks kind of like a candle flame. This hickory is the fastest growing species of its kind and can live up to 150-200 years!
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) – 6
The pawpaw has simple, alternate leaves that are spirally arranged. This plant has perfect flowers that occur from May to June. Besides being Ohio’s state fruit, the pawpaw is planted ornamentally and can be used to make breads and ice cream.
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) – 6
This tree is very easy to identify, as the leaves are alternate and palmate with 3 to 7 lobes. Additionally, the fruit of the plant is a spiky brown ball – very distinctive from anything else on this page. It turns a bright orange-scarlet color in the fall, and the wood is valued for making high quality furniture.
Northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) – 9
The northern white-cedar is our plant with the highest FQAI score. This conifer can be identified by its needles – they are extremely flat and look braided up close. The oil extracted from the leaves of this plant have been known to relieve many illnesses, including respiratory tract infections and cold sores.
Part 2: Invasives
Honeysuckle is a shrub belonging to the genus Lonicera, and is considered highly invasive in over 5 continents. It is detrimental to the growth of native non-invasive plants by forming dense thickets, and provides a source of not-so-nutritional food for birds and deer. The deer being attracted by this plant have also shown to contribute to tick presence, increasing the rate of Lyme disease contracted by ticks in the area.
Multiflora rose is another invasive shrub, with thorns along the stems and pinkish white flowers that bloom in late spring/early summer. An easy identification feature found on this plant is the pair of fringed bracts at the base of every leaf. Although it is invasive, we have found uses for this guy – in the past it was used as a “living fence” to confine livestock, and is now used along highways as a crash barrier and to reduce headlight glare.
Phragmites, also known as common reed, is an invasive that has multiple drawbacks. Besides obstructing vision and being difficult to walk through, it has a reputation of degrading wetlands by blocking out wildlife and native species, and can be a huge fire hazard in large quantities. The non-native invasive species of phragmites is taller and way more dense than the native form, and has a darker green color with a rough stem texture.
Part 3: Substrate-Associated Species
The swamp white oak can be distinguished from the other oak species by their huge single, alternate leaves. The sinuses are much more shallow than other oak species, and the dark green color on the top of the leaf contrasts with the white underside. These oaks are usually found in wetter areas, and Forsyth classified them to be found on high-lime, clay-rich substrates of the plains in western Ohio.
The northern red oak is one I’ve seen multiple times on my trips to Whetstone, and it can be characterized by its bark – there are long, continuous grooves in the bark that look like ski trails. The leaves are simple and alternate, with deeper sinuses, smooth margins and pointed lobe ends. This tree is classified in the same substrate as the swamp white oak – high-lime clay-rich till plains.
The eastern hemlock is an evergreen conifer with short, flattened soft needles. The needles also have two white stripes on their undersides, and are connected to the branch by a small peg. Forsyth classified this species to be located on the acidic, dry sandstone hills of eastern Ohio.
Lastly, the bur oak. This oak has funky leaves compared to the other oak species – they are kind of spatula shaped, with the leaf becoming wider at the top, and having varying sinus depths throughout the entire margin. Forsyth classified this tree to be located in the till plains of western Ohio as well, but not due to substrate association. This tree was found to be abundant in margins of prairies in the western United States as well as small prairies in Ohio, and was discovered when Europeans first came into the state.
Thanks again for taking time to read about these guys! I hope you enjoyed our journey through plant identification and observation, and maybe you can go out on your own to take a look at the park. Bring tennis rackets – I hear the courts are fun!
See ya next time,