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 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)
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)
Acid-loving plant #2: Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)
Acid-loving plant #3: Butternut (Juglans cinerea)
Acid-loving plant #4: Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
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: https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/cowbane.html)
Cedar Bog Apiaceae #2: Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
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: https://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/single_weed.php?id=114)