Marsh, Prairie and Fen

During this semester, we have went to many different types of environments that are home to different plants and trees. The first three of these locations that we visited are a marsh, a prairie, and Cedar Bog (that is not a bog). I’ll go into a little more detail about each location below.

Marsh

The marsh that we visited, is a very good example of your typical marsh. It was home to many plants that thrive in very wet areas and almost everywhere you walked was muddy and gave a little beneath you due to the water in the soil. We observed almost purely herbaceous plants such as grasses, sedges, and the common cattail. It’s important to note that there were no trees present in the marsh.

Common Cattail

Prairie

The prairie that we visited was home to mostly grasses and plants of the Asteraceae and Fabaceae families. The most predominant grasses we encountered were blue big stem and indian grass. Prairie’s in general are dominated by grass with the rare tree in an acre of prairie. The presence of the Fabaceae family can be explained by the natural low nitrogen levels in prairies and the bacteria that lives in these plants roots. The bacteria is able to take nitrogen from the air and provide it to the plants.

Big Bluestem Grass

Cedar Bog (That is Not a Bog)

Cedar Bog has a fairly interesting hydrology, which is part of the reason its plant life is so diverse. When thinking of the way Cedar Bog drains its excess water, you must first think of where the water comes from. The water in Cedar Bog comes from direct rainfall as well as indirect rainfall such as water flowing underground and then surfacing at Cedar Bog as it is a lower point sea level wise when compared to the surrounding area or water surfacing from the aquifer beneath. Once the water reaches Cedar Bog, some of it surfaces as the saturated soil can hold no more. When it come to the name “Cedar Bog,” it may be a little misleading. If you haven’t been too keen to the clues, Cedar Bog is not actually a bog. Water does not reach bogs from under ground supplies, rather from rain or streams. In a bog, The water does not drain because of the soil having a layer of peat and decaying plants. It’s much like a clogged bathtub or drain. Fens on the other hand, have their water come from rain, streams, and underground sources. Fens are also capable of draining through underground waterways if the amount of water raises enough. So out of these two, a fen definitely describes Cedar Bog better than bog.

The causation of the unique hydrology described above along with the great plant diversity found in Cedar Bog can be attributed to the glaciers in the area between 14,000 and 24,000 years ago. The glaciers formed a set of hills known as end moraines to the east and the west of Cedar Bog, leaving it in a deep valley. As the glaciers melted sand, limestone, and gravel filled the bottom of the valley. These are very permeable and allow water to pass through them with ease, so the area around Cedar Bog turned into an aquifer that holds large amounts of cold groundwater which flows into cedar bog. This non acidic water is what makes the plant diversity in Cedar Bog possible.

Cedar Bog (That is Not a Bog) Discoveries

While at Cedar Bog (That is Not a Bog), I was tasked with find two plants with opposite leaves. This proved to be tougher than I had anticipated as most everything that drew my eye had an alternate leaf arrangement. However, I was able to find one tree and one herbaceous plant during the trip that both have an opposite leaf arrangement.

Black Ash – Fraxinus nigra

Black Ash is a tree with an opposite leaf arrangement and some pretty characteristic leaves. The leaves are always serrated and come with 7-11 leaflets. Another pretty telling characteristic is that the leaflets are stalkless and attached straight to the leaflet petiole. Black Ash is commonly used in basket making, which gives it the nickname of “basket ash.”

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White Snakeroot – Ageratina altissima

This particular plant was extremely hard to key out as it’s very similar to white boneset. The flowers come in bundled stems with 5 separate petals each and are all very close together. The flowers of the two plants are practically identical and the only way to tell them apart is by examining the leaves. White Snakeroot had long serrated leaves with a long stem while boneset has a lance shaped leaf with little to no stem. One cool/not so cool fact about White Snakeroot is that it’s rather poisonous to animals and humans in high quantities.

 

Hocking Hills

For our second trip, we visited Deep Woods Farm in the Hocking Hills area. The geology and vegetation is much different here than at Cedar Bog (that is not a bog). This area is filled with steep hills and a mostly sandstone rich and acidic soil making it ideal for trees such as Hemlock or Chestnut Oak. Cedar Bog is very flat with a limey neutral soil that is more ideal for trees such as Red Bud or Hackberry. Below are two other trees that I was able to identify and capture while on our trip, Butternut and Sourwood

The butternut or Juglans cinerea shown above has alternate pinnately compound leaves. Each leaf has 11-17 leaflets and the tree grows best in well drained areas, explaining its presence in the sandstone hills of eastern Ohio.

Sourwood or Oxydendrum is the only species in its genus. The tree has alternately arranged leaves that are slightly serrated and requires acidic soil to grow, which explains why it was found in the acidic sandstone hills of eastern Ohio.

Hocking Hills (Deep Woods) Discoveries

While at Deep Woods, I was tasked with finding and documenting three different species of mosses. Here’s what I found!

Hair Cap Moss – Polytrichum commune

Hair Cap Moss is green when young but browns with age. You’ll often find this moss in large groups taking over quite a bit of land. The moss stem can become quite long as it grows but is mostly found being no longer than 5 inches (which is still quite long for a moss). You’ll see that the leaves branch out in a way that personally looks like the top of a pineapple.

Climacium Moss – Climacium americanum

Climacium Moss is resembles miniature trees which gives it a second common name of tree moss. The leafy portions of Climacium Moss have red to brown stems that are significantly sparse with leaves on the lower end of the stem. The leaf color changes with age with the young leaves being light green or white, middle aged being dark green, and older leaves turning an olive color.

Sword Moss – Bryoxiphium norvegicum

 

Sword Moss can be a rather difficult moss to capture as in this case. This Sword Moss was found deep in a small cave where it was extremely hard to reach. This moss is one of the very few arranged in straight rows on opposite sides of the stem. The leaves are rather long compared to their width and simple.

Conclusion

I have to say that I learned a lot during these field trips and definitely had a lot of fun along the way (especially at Deep Woods). To close, I’m going to mention one new plant that we encountered on the trip that I found especially interesting. Reindeer Lichen or Cladoni rangiferina really stuck out to me when Dr. Klips showed us a sample. I had always thought lichens to be small very short plants tightly clung to trees and other substrates, but Reindeer Lichen was very very different and characteristic from my expectations. It can come in rather large bundles and occupy a large area and has these massive horned characteristics that I never really expected to see from a lichen. I have to say, it definitely lives up to its common name with the thick antler looking branches.