Assigned Plants: During  our Battelle Darby field trip, I was given the task to identify two lobed trees. I was excited about this because I appreciate the intricacy and patterns that are presented on lobed leaves.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum): Sugar maples produce sap in winters thaw, which can be used to make maple syrup. However, 40 gallons of sap is needed to produce 1 gallon of syrup. Its wood is also very useful for making furniture. 

White Oak (Quercus alba): The bark of the whiteish in comparison to other oak trees and their acorns are bowl shaped at the cup.

Limestone Loving Plants: We also had the opportunity to see some calcifies, or limestone loving plants!

Blue Ash (Fraxinous quadrangulata): Blue ash trees have squarish twigs and their inner bark actually yields a blue dye. They thrive in limestone areas of higher ground.

American Hackberry (Caltis occidentalis): American Hackberry is another limestone loving plant. This tree has coarse toothed leaves and fruits “sugar berries” that are eaten by numerous birds.

Invasive Plants:

Japanese Honey Suckle (Lonicera japonica): This honeysuckle plant is eaten by many birds and mammals, but it is an invasive species and is generally considered to be a weed.

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata): Autumn olive can be some-what thorny. This plant is sometimes  planted in order to prevent or help control erosion. This plant was spread by cultivation from Maine to  New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Related Questions: 

1. The geology of Ohio (if not regarded too closely) may be divided neatly into two parts. Contrast these two parts in terms of their geographic location, types of underlaying rocks and their physical properties, and the landscape/topography that characterizes each.

According to “Linking Geology and Botany… a new approach” by Jane Forsyth, Ohio’s geology is largely divided into two categories: limestone versus sandstone. Western Ohio is more closely associated with limestone rock. Limestone is also prone to erosion overtime, as it is vulnerable to the changes in a humid climate. This is another reason you typically see flatter terrain in western Ohio than eastern Ohio. Another specific quality of limestone that largely effects the biodiversity of plants growing in each region of Ohio is that limestone has a basic pH and sandstone has an acidic pH. Specific plants are better suited to grow in one of the respective conditions. Sandstone largely makes up eastern Ohio, but is also found in the Cleveland area and some western regions where it may sit above shale. Shale is more easily eroded, but sandstone is not. Sandstone is resistant to erosion in humid conditions (in contrast to limestone); however, the water that seeps through sandstone may dissolve the natural cement that is holding the rock together. This processes would take many years as it occurs very slowly. Therefore, where sandstone sits on top of shale, there is much less erosion, which has resulted in steep-sided hills

2. The reason for the difference in kinds of rocks is not difficult to understand. Describe the original sequence of sedimentary rock strata (three types in order from top to bottom), an arch that formed 200 million years ago noting where the crest of the arch was located compared with the low-lying toe of the arch, and an important river system that occupied OH for a long time. (Be sure to give the name of the river, state about how many years it flowed and  what effect it had  upon the landscape. What what curtailed the activities of the river?)

Originally, there was a horizontal array of sedimentary rock strata, which was composed of sandstone on top, shale in the middle and limestone on bottom thick series of limestone. This was eventually tilted into a low arch, which preceded erosion. The erosion occurred as a result of pressures that created the Appalachian Mountains in eastern US. These pressures not only cause erosion of Ohio land, but also exposed some of the oldest rocks in the highest part of the arch. Limestone was the oldest rock in the arch found at the highest area in the arc. In the younger regions and lower parts of the arch was where sandstone was found. The Teays River was a preglacial stream that also played a large role in the erosion of limestone in western Ohio, Sandstone to the east, and even the underlying shale.  The river flowed for about 200 million years, but continued to erode the land for that entire period.

3. Pleistocene glaciers invaded OH a few hundred thousand years ago or less. What feature of the landscape slowed the glaciers and so caused there to be a glacial boundary cutting across OH? Sketch a map of Ohio and on it place the glacial boundary

The Pleistocene glaciers breached Ohio roughly a few hundred thousand years ago. However, the steep-sided sandstone hills of eastern Ohio hindered the advancement of the Ice. Sandstone is very tough and does not erode easily. On the contrary, limestone is more easily eroded and could not stop the ice from advancing. Since limestone is in more of western Ohio, we can observe these effects when it comes to accessing and comparing terrain.

4. Describe “glacial till” in terms of its general composition (a definition of till), and how it differs in eastern and western OH.

Till is the unsorted mixture of sand, silt, clay, and boulders, all of which are assembled by the melting of the glacier and other sand of gravel that is melted off the glacier. Western Ohio has a glacial till that is potent in lime and clay, which were resultant from the glacial erosion of the limestone. Eastern Ohio has small amounts of lime or clay. However, the region where the glacier moved from limestone to sandstone has more lime and clay than anywhere in Ohio. Some regions of eastern Ohio have gravel deposits from outwash.

5. Contrast the basic substrate for plants in western and eastern OH in terms of drainage, aeration, pH (limey versus acid) nutrient availability.

In western Ohio, the substrate consists of lime, clay till. This is relatively impermeable soil that cannot drain adequately or be aerated properly. Knowing this, water tends to stay on the surface and forces low oxygen availability  in the soil.However, the soil can be very dry in some places due to drainage through natural openings in the soluble limestone. The nutrient distribution is abundant  in these soils. In eastern Ohio, sandstone can produce an acidic, low nutrient substrate where the rock is exposed. It also provides a moisture that is cool and readily available since the water is coming from springs.  The shale beneath can produce an acidic, low nutrient environment, but it is impermeable, unlike sandstone. Till in the region contains some amounts of clay and lime, which make the water less acidic, the sandstone more moist, and more nutrient rich soils.

6. Name 5 species of trees/shrubs that have a distribution generally limited to limestone or limey substrates (such as Ohio’s Lake Erie islands).

redbud (Cercis canadensis), red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana), fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), blue ash (Fraxinous quadranqulata), hawthorn (Crateagus mollis)

7. Name 5 species of trees/shrubs that have a distribution generally limited to high-lime, clay-rich substrates developed in the thick glacial till of western Ohio

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), beech (Fagus grandifolia), red oak (Quercus borealis), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), white oak (Quercus alba)

8. Name 5 species of trees/shrubs that have a distribution generally limited to sandstone hill of eastern OH

Chestnut oak (Quercus montana), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), scrub pine (Pinus virginiana), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), hemlock (Tsuga candaensis)

9. What is the major determinant of the distribution of each of these species:

  • a) sweet buckeye (contrast with hemlock)
  • b)  hemlock (contrast with sweet buckeye
  • c) rhododendron?


Sweet buckeye does not grow anywhere within the glacial boundary. It has not been made entirely clear as to why this is, but likely due to problems with repopulation of these plants or because of climate. Hemlock is also present in areas of unglaciated, eastern Ohio. Hemlock is found in cool, moist environments like ones cut into deep valleys of sandstone that are watered by springs. Rhododendron is found south of the glacial boundary. This is largely due to the where the Teays river used to be. This plant was distributed around the river and even though the stream was blocked by glaciers, the biodiversity persists.