Deep Woods – Hocking Hills Area
Part 1: Deep Woods is located in and around the Hocking Hills area of southwest Ohio. Here, some of Ohio’s most stunning geologic features can be found. Deep Woods, along with the surrounding Hocking Hills area, is known for the sandstone cliffs and overhangs. Vegetation that grow in this geologic area prefer acidic soils, while, in comparison, areas such as Cedar Bog is alkaline and limey. Jane Forsyth, author of Linking Geology and Botany: a new approach, states that trees such as chestnut oak and sourwood (pictured under pt. 2) can be found in the acidic, dry substrate, sandstone hills. One shrub/woody vine observed was winged sumac. Among the many herbaceous plants, ferns such as interrupted fern were spotted, along with the elusive Appalachian gametophyte and a variety of mosses and lichen, such as the Dixie Reindeer lichen.
Part 2: While visiting, I was tasked with finding two species of plants belonging to the blueberry family (Ericaceae), plants that favor the acidic soils of Southwest Ohio. The first was the Sourwood tree. These trees grow in acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained and clay soils. Some key characteristics of the Sourwood tree include its oval shape, simple, elliptic leaves that are dark green but turn a vibrant crimson color in the fall. The Sourwood tree is named as such due to the acrid taste of its leaves. These leaves are sometimes used by climbers, hikers, and backpackers as tea leaves to quench thirst.
A second plant in the blueberry family is a wintergreen plant that I have tried my best to identify. I believe the specific plant I found is the eastern spicy-wintergreen. Identification is difficult without the flowers or berries of this wintergreen plant. Wintergreen grows in forests as well as meadows and fields. This plant has a pleasant smell – some believing it smells like anise, mint, or resin. When fruiting and flowering, the berries and flowers droop downwards. Wintergreen was once used as a cold remedy by many Native American tribes.
Part 3: While exploring the area, we came across many different lichen forms. Lichen are rather inconspicuous, and many people pass them without even taking notice – me included. However, this trip opened my eyes to the various forms of lichen, and I found the vide variety to be fascinating. My favorite lichen was the script lichen we found growing on a hanging branch. The pattern created by this lichen was intricate and oddly beautiful.
Marsh, Prairie, and Fens/Bogs
Part 1: Marsh
Ohio is home to many areas with marshes and wetlands, including Darby Creek Metro, which consists of over seven-thousand acres of restored wetlands, forests, and prairie areas. The marshland habitat of Darby Creek is home to calcareous soil that is moist and limey. Here, a plethora of grasses and sedge plants can be found, as well as trees such as swamp-white oak, white oak, and dogwood. Herbaceous plants are plentiful and include jewelweed, false white indigo, and weedy plants such as the common cattail.
Part 2: Prairie
The prairie habitat has similar properties as the marshland area – i.e. the type of soil and geology. Again, lots of grasses, such as Indian grass, can be found; however, this area is dryer than marsh areas. Woody plants and trees observed in this prairie include species of willow, sycamore and cottonwood. Unfortunately, this area, much like many other Midwestern areas, is subject to the invasive multi-flora rose plant.
Part 3: Cedar Bog (that isn’t a bog)
Cedar Bog is located in Champaign County, Ohio, south of the city of Columbus. This interesting location has been an area of interest for hydrologists for quite a while. Cedar Bog has been analogized to a U-shaped hose with a leak at the base, where the water flowing out from the leak feeds the Cedar Bog wetlands. Water reaches the bog in other ways as well, including runoff from upland areas, groundwater filtering through gravel left by glacial hills, and deep groundwater following a Teays River Valley ancient and buried corridor filled with glacial sand and gravel. Often times, bogs and fens get confused. There is a saying to help differentiate: bogs clog, fens flush. Bogs become clogged with decaying moss which becomes peat. On the contrary, fens are able flush out excess water through a series of streams leading to the misidentification of Cedar Bog – it should be Cedar Fen! One key difference between the two is that fens tend to have greater water exchange and are less acidic; as a result, water and soils located in fen habitats tend to be richer in nutrients. Plants observed at Cedar Bog include black ash and white cedar. Herbaceous plants such as white turtlehead can be found in areas that thrive in wetland habitats.