The first part of my friend trip assignment was to search for, find, and identify two different conifer trees that thrive in the Hocking Hills area because of the acidic, well drained soil.
Scrub pine, or Pinus virginiana, is a pine tree that does not grow very tall because of its preference of sterile soils and rocky outcrops. The needles appear in bundles of two. This seeding was found at the top of a steep slope that is very well drained.
The second conifer that was discovered was shortleaf pine. Pinus echinata, unlike scrub pine, grows to be very tall despite it still preferring these acidic soils. The branches of shortleaf pine solely grow at the top making it near impossible to get a picture of the needles of this specimen. The bark, however, is fairly distinctive which can be seen above.
Sourwood , Oxydenrum arboreum, also prefers rocky outcrops and well drained soils but is not a conifer. The leaves are simple, alternate, and entire in margin. The leaves have a very sour taste to them.
Mountain maple, Acer spicatum, closely resembles other maples but has a few different traits. The leaves are sarate and have less lobes than many other maples. It also stays very short, thriving in the understory. Wildlife love this plant as a food source.
A member of the Vacinnium genus, blueberry is also important for wildlife. With alternate, simple, and entire leaves, it’s berries provide an important source of food for many wildlife species. As a shrub, this plant stays fairly small.
Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, is a representative species of Hocking Hills. This evergreen tree prefers moist areas that are well drained. The needles sprout from all parts of the branch and provide a lot of shade for the ground underneath. These trees are so good at sheltering the area underneath them that they create a microclimate that many species of wildlife prefer. One key identifying feature of hemlock is the two white stomata lines underneath each needle.
Lastly, when you’re walking through the woods wondering if the area you’re in is somewhere where these plants would grow, Smilax glauca will be the first to let you know. Greenbrier is another plant that prefers these acidic soils. The leaves are alternate, simple, and entire with the veins running parallel to the leaf. It also has many thorns that will rip into anything that brushes against it.
Marsh, Prairie, and Fen
Marsh: The marsh at Batelle Darby Creek is a haven for many species of wildlife that require wetland habitat. This marsh appeared to be made up of roughly 90% grasses and 10% forbs. In the wettest parts of the marsh, the water is filled with various water plants like duckweed that attract wildlife of all forms. Cattails make up the majority of cover and have almost created a monoculture in this area. Grasses like big blue stem and Indian grass are both native grasses that inhabit the drier areas of the marsh. There are also rushes and sedges intermixed. Of the forbs, common aster and goldenrod make up the majority. Thistle, fleabane and Queen Anne’s lace also make appearances throughout the marsh. The wetland appears to be in the beginnings of succession as there are many eastern cottonwoods growing in some of the wetter areas.
Prairie: This grassland is composed mostly of native grasses. The ratio of grasses to forbs appears to be roughly 85% to 15%, meaning that the prairie is in good shape. The dominant grasses include both big blue stem and Indian grass. There is not many signs of succession in the grassland itself which is a good sign. The woody plants in this area consist mainly of black raspberry and poison ivy scattered throughout the grass. As previously mentioned, there is a small amount of forbs growing but there are some intermixed among the grasses. These include but are not limited to, goldenrod, new England aster, common aster, stiff leaved goldenrod, ashy sunflower, and milkweed.
Bogs and fens are two very different landforms with very different ecologies. A bog is essentially a wetland that cannot drain. Water in a bog only leaves in the form of evaporation. The plants in a bog often decay in the water making it very acidic. Sphagnum moss is a sure sign that a wetland is a bog as it often forms in mats on top of the water. Cedar bog, however, does not display these traits. Cedar bog drains. In this drainage is dissolved limestone which makes the water clear and allows sedges to grow. When looking at these two definitions, it is clear that cedar bog is, in fact, not a bog but a fen.
Most fens get water through rain or springs. Cedar bog is different in this way in that it gets most of its water from an underground aquifer. The water in this aquifer rises up through the ground in this area, filing it with water. The majority of water gets here this way but the fen still gets water through rain and surface runoff.
My mini assignment for this trip was to find and identify two plants that make you itch. Below are poison ivy and poison oak. Both plants are woody vines that can grow about anywhere and have three leaflets. The differences between the two is in the leaves. Posion ivy has more of a toothed lobe whereas poison oak has a rounded lobe like a white oak tree. Poison oak leaves are also duller in color. The vine on poison ivy is extremely hairy which is another tell tale sign. These vines are much more common now then they were at the time of European settlement. The increases amount of edge from human development has created more habitat for them and they have used this to their advantage.