Deep Woods

My individual assignment was to find and photograph two Orchid Species. Orchids are cool plants with bilaterally symmetric flowers. All three of the species we saw on our field trip had leaves present only at their base.

Orchid 1: Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypridium acaule)

The basal leaves of the Pink Lady’s Slipper.

The Pink Lady’s Slipper is an orchid with big basal leaves. It flowers in spring, so the flowers and stem had long since withered away by the time this photo was taken. In the spring, the Pink Lady’s slipper has big pink flowers that apparently look like a lady’s slipper. Notice in the picture above some dried up Chestnut Oak leaves on the ground- according to Newcomb’s Wildflower guide, the Pink Lady’s slipper can often be found around Oaks and Pines.

Orchid #2: Nodding Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes lucida)

These flowers are nodding.

Nodding Ladies’ Tresses have nice little white flowers, and, once again, basal leaves. The leaves in this case are much smaller and narrower than those of the Pink Lady’s Slipper. According to Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Nodding Ladies’ Tresses like moist places and open woods, and is the most common of the Ladies’ Tresses in the area.


Ohio is generally divided into two geological regions. First is the the western half, which is mainly flat and has substrate composed mostly of limestone. Second is the eastern half, which is characterized by hilly areas dominated by sandstone. These hills blocked the glaciers of the ice age, creating a boundary across the southeastern half of the state.

Accompanying these geological differences are variations both in the soil and the plants that grow in it. The soils in the western half of the state generally have bad drainage, low aeration, lots of nutrients, and a limey pH. Plants in this area include Sugar Maple, Beech, and Red Oak, and Shagbark Hickory. The eastern half, by contrast, has a high runoff capacity, high aeration, low nutrient levels, and an acidic pH. The geo-botanical charactersitics of this region were exemplified by what we saw on our field trip. Acid-loving plants in Deep Woods include:

Acidic substrate plant #1: Sourwood (Oxydendrum arborium)

Wow, that’s sour. (Notice the Pink Lady’s Slipper Leaves in the background).

The Sourwood is a tree with alternate, simple leaves that are shaped like long, pointy eggs. I tried the leaves, and they do indeed taste sour. Sourwood flowers in June and July. This specimen was found on the slope of a hill in Deep Woods, very close to (if not right on top of) where the Pink Lady’s Slipper was found.

Acid-loving plant #2: Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)

The squiggly leaves of the Chestnut Oak.

The Chestnut Oak has leaves that are very shallowly lobed (or perhaps very bluntly toothed). We saw lots of them on our field trip. It is similar in appearance to the Chinkapin Oak, which actually like more calcareous soils! The young Chestnut Oak pictured above was found near the top of a hill at Deep Woods, near some nice moss.

Acid-loving plant #3: Butternut (Juglans cinerea)

The Butternut is also known as the White Walnut. Note the end leaflets present on most of the leaves.

Less common than the familiar Black Walnut, the Butternut prefers rich forests like Deep Woods Preserve. It can be told apart from the Black Walnut by the presence of end leaflets on most of its leaves, which are usually absent in black walnut. The Butternut pictured above was found in an openish area near a creek at Deep Woods.

Acid-loving plant #4: Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

The Eastern Hemlock.

The Eastern Hemlock is a conifer that loves the sandstone hills of southeastern Ohio. It has short, delicate needles that (although not pictured above) have two conspicuous white bands of stomates on their undersides. This Hemlock was found in a dryer area near another openish space, right down the path from the Butternut.

Appalachian Gametophyte (Vittaria appalachiana)

One of the most interesting things we observed on our field trip was the Appalachian Gametophyte, pictured here:

The Appalachian Gametophyte is actually a fern that has lost its sporophyte stage!

While the plant pictured here looks more like some kind of moss or liverwort, it is actually a fern! According to the Pinson and Scheuttpelz paper, the Appalachian gametophyte is the gametophyte of a fern whose sporophyte stage has somehow gone extinct. It is likely that the sporophyte was lost sometime during or before the Pleistocene ice ages, as suggested by the fact the the Appalachian Gametophyte’s range lies immediately south of the glacial border. Because it no longer produces a sporophyte, the Appalachian Gametophyte only reproduces assexually.

This Appalachian Gametophyte was found in the crevices of a big, porous, sandstone cave on the side of a hill in Deep Woods. It liked the darker parts of the cave, and could only really be seen with a flashlight. If it wasn’t pointed out to me, I never would have guessed that this was actually a fern. It has very little, flat “leaves” with tiny little bumps on them.

Marsh, Prairie and Fen

The Marsh

The first stop on our second field trip was a marsh at Batelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Unfortunately the wetland was a bit parched due to recent dry weather, but there were still a lot of cool plants. The woody plants were represented mainly by young cottonwoods and sycamores, although we also saw a willow. Graminoids included several species of grasses and sedges, although the cattails were what dominated the landscape. A various few blooming plants were also present along the trail.

A young American Sycamore  (Platanus occidentalis)  in the marsh

The marsh, complete with cattails.


The Prairie

The second stop on our trip was a fairly large prairie, not far from the marsh. The landscape here was dominated by graminoids, including big bluestem, indian grass, and a variety of other grasses, sedges and rushes. Woody plants included chinquapin and other oaks, cottonwoods, and others, mostly found at the edge of the prairie. Many goldenrods could also be found rising within the graminoids.

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) in the prairie

Cedar Bog That Isn’t a Bog

The last and most prominent stop on our trip was Cedar Bog (that isn’t actually a bog). Cedar bog is situated at a low elevation between two ancient glacial end moraines. Water from these higher moraines flows downward into the aquifer that lies directly below cedar bog, subsequently supplying cedar bog with a constantly renewing flow of water through a hole in the dense clay substrate that underlies the rest of the adjacent area. This constant flow of water is what makes Cedar Bog a fen in reality. Bogs have stagnant, unmoving water, nutrient-poor conditions, and are vegetally characterized by a limited number of plants, mainly floating sphagnum moss. Fens, like Cedar Bog That Isn’t a Bog, have nutrient rich conditions, flowing water, and a wider variety of plants, mainly sedges. In addition, limestone from deep beneath Cedar Bog alkalizes the water, makes it clear and fresh. To put it in the words of the displays at the Cedar Bog Nature (from which I acquired most of this information), “Bogs clog” and “Fens Flush.” In some parts of Cedar Bog we could actually see the water flowing, which was pretty neat.

My task for the Cedar Bog segment of our field trip was to find two plants from the Apiaciae family. Here they are:

Cedar Bog Apiaceae #1: Cowbane (Cicuta virosa)


While they are a bit difficult to see in this picture, Cowbane can be identified by its mostly untoothed, lance-shaped leaflets. As can be seen throughout the Apiaceae, Cowbane has florescences in the form of compound umbels that bloom in late summer and fall. It’s habitat is typically in moist woods and swamps, much like where this photograph was taken. One fun fact is that cows have been severely poisoned after eating Cowbane. I cant say I’m surprised. (fun fact source:

Cedar Bog Apiaceae #2: Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Socrates allegedly died after consuming this plant

Poison hemlock has a smooth, blotchy stem, and has sheathing leaves characteristic to many other members of the Apiaceae family.  It’s compound umbels bloom in late spring and into summer, which is why you can’t see them in this picture taken in mid to late September. Consumption of this plant is very deadly, which is why it’s especially important to know what it looks like when you’re foraging for wild carrot, which looks similar. Wild carrot can be told apart from poison hemlock because it has hairy stems that lack purple splotches, and has umbels that condense and become concave, turning into what is known as a “bird’s nest.” (source: