Surveying the Property!
I never imagined that almost a year after purchasing our first home, I would be surveying the site for plants! The previous owners were quite the green thumbs and operated an organic garden center/craft boutique on site.
There are plenty of cultivated perennials around the house, but the best part of the property is the untouched ravine. The landscape sits nestled between the Rocky Fork Creek and a rolling hill of Springfield Township in Richland County. We are a stones throw from The Ohio State University Mansfield, North Central State University, and the hustle of Lexington Springmill Road. After pulling into the drive, you are quickly transported into a green escape!
I was a little worried about this interpretive sign at first. I chose to focus on my personal property as my botanical survey site. Private lands do not have educational signs on the grounds.
Our home is a brand new canvas in a way. The entire family is exploring the different parts of the property and the home. There has been a ton of yard work happening. I have the poison ivy rashes to prove it! One of our favorite adventures is to put on our water boots and head down to the creek. The shale bottom makes it very convenient for cleanup!
In the attic we not only discovered walnuts, but we also found bats!! Now until the end of July is there baby making season. I have a couple months of time to knock out a few boxes. Bats are a protected species in the State of Ohio, so come August our residents will be evicted with one way exit shoots. I hope to hang a few bat apartments around the property with the intention to keep our skeet eaters around!
We definitely bought a fixer-upper and I am so thankful we did. This old house has shown us tons of secrets and given us the opportunity to project through the quarantine. Most importantly, this is our own, and it is a little piece of green happiness away from the hustle and bustle. This is our Cottage & the Ravine! Below is our interpretive sign. It is simple, warm and inviting with a touch of color and a dash of food for thought.
Lets Take a Look Around…
Most of the property is consumed by a couple varieties of Acer. The Maple pictured below is rather large. It takes about three adults to comfortably lock arms around the trunk. I think next year in the spring time, we will tap this tree to see how much sap we can get. The actual process of making maple syrup is a labor of love. It takes over 30 gallons of sap to make about a gallon of syrup. It takes days to boil the sugary tree sap into that delicious stuff we put on our pancakes.
I knew we had Walnuts on the property when I found them in the attic! The house sat empty for several years free of humans, but the red squirrels decided they would make the house their temporary residence. I could have opened a walnut stand with the bushels stored in the crawlspace. The squirrels and walnuts have since been evicted. I found this baby Walnut on the north side of the drive. It was missing the terminal leaflet and the underside of the leaflets were slightly fuzzy. Let introduce the Black Walnut!
I found it a little disappointing that most of the property has been invaded by Virginia Creeper and Lambs Quarter. I was hoping to discover a few shrubs transplanted by the local bird population. No such luck. Remember I mentioned the green thumb peeps who owned the place before? They left behind a few shrubs! This beauty makes the entire front room smell like Lilac! How ironc. It is the Common Lilac! This shrub is so popular it even has a capital: Rochester, NY. The folks there like this shrub so much, they started an annual festival that last two weeks in honor of this hardy plant.
I was able to find a bushed shrub on the West side of the property. I think this was my only “dropping” transplant….plant. There are no other Forsythia on the backside of our yard. I personally knew this was a Forsythia when I saw the gorgeous March display of yellow flowers all over the new growth of the shrub. Something kind of cool about this plant, is it will only flower on new growth. This means if you let your Forsythia age and become all “twiggy”, the spring display will not be as flashy if you had pruned the year before. Sadly it is May and those pops of yellow flowers fall off by the first week of April.
We have flowers too!
I mentioned before we have a lot of Virgina Creeper, as well as Lambs Quarter. I completely forgot about the OTHER. Poison Ivy!!! I find it hiding in the flower beds, the drive, climbing up trees, and randomly growing about the ravine. I currently have itchy spots on my left eye area, wrists, and cheek. I look like I tried to contour first time and stopped in the middle. The rash struggle is real! Botanist Beware! If you see the leaves of three, leave it be. I find the three leaflets joining at a red center is a dead giveaway to run away!
Conservative Plants: The Coefficients of Conservatism(CC)
What is this coefficients of conservatism? Is it a new Death Metal band? Wrong! The coefficient of conservatism is a “number” assigned to a specific tree/shrub/flower species. The scale ranges from 0-10. The higher the number, the more likely you are to see these plants in your landscape. Now this does not apply to just any landscape. The coefficient of conservatism only applies to those landscapes deemed “untouched” and as closely to pre-settlement days as possible. These are plants not bought at the garden center, but instead naturally cultivated by our friends of nature.
The Maple below has a CC of 3. This is a fast growing tree native to North Eastern Ohio. We all know this tree by its samara fruit. You can find these in nearly every Ohio lawn, but they prefer lots of sunlight around water sources. This tree dominates the canopy of the ravine space.
The other dominating Maple below has a CC of 5. A little more common back in the pioneer days. These wonderful plants are great a nice shad tree rest. These lovely trees are “used” for their sap. Yummm Maple Syrup. I hear even the Native Americans utilized this tree for many other resources such as soap from the burnt ashes, and the inner bark for teas that treated general flu symptoms. Did I mention the fabulous fall color?
The next specimen below has a CC of 3.Hairy! Oh the hairy buds, the hairy twigs, and the red buds that are on the older twig growth. Ugh! I can barely see that little buddy in this photo. This plan is another North American native. This one gets around because we can identify these trees from Maine to North Dakota! Wow!
The tree below has a CC of 6! Even more common than the Sugar Maple back in the day. This tree species is the 2nd most common tree. The Maples dominate, but these Ash trees are all over the place. This tree is an Eastern and Central American native. These trees are strong and used to make a number of items that experience a lot of impact stress. Batter up! The White Ash is used for baseball bats, longbows, and even guitars!
Moving right along…the tree below has a CC of 5. This Hickory is a North American Native stretching from Michigan all the way down to Alabama! These nuts are better than most of the hickories, but it is advisable NOT to eat them. They are poisons! Enjoy these trees along swampy ground or creek beds where they like to grow.
Botanist beware! Do not eat the plant below that has a dismal CC score of 0. Poison Hemlock was not around during pre-settlment times….it was introduced by the humans that traveled across the pond. Poison Hemlock is common around roadsides and other well drained, gravel like soils. Ironically I have a massive patch of this on the north part of the gravel drive. Note the stem and its alien like red/white coloring. The leaves are feather like and look gorgeous. Don’t let the fur children or the human children ingest.
I said the Maples dominated the ravine…I lied. The Lamb’s Quarter takes the cake. ALL OVER the ravine floor is this stuff. I can’t walk without stepping on it. With that being said, it too has a low CC score of 0. It is as invasive as they come. Thought to have originated in Europe, but no one really knows because it is ALL OVER! I hear you can cook the young plants by either steaming or boiling it. I live close to an Emergency Room. I guess I can give it a try!
The last CC plant for today is the little creeper of the ravine. Between the Lamb’s Quarter and this…I don’t know which one ranks the highest. This vine grows up the trees, along the fence, through the grass, and all over greenhouse. Most often mistaken for poison! With a CC of 2, I thought for certain this plant was an invasive species, but it is not. Look out for this come fall for its gorgeous color display.
Petrides, George A. 1972. A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs. Houghton Miflin Company. New York.
Lewandowski, Dennis J. (2008). “Hosta Virus X” (PDF). The Ohio State University. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Wildflower Guide. Little, Brown and Company (Canada) Limited.