The Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park
Located along the northern edge of OSU’s campus, the Wetland Research Park is made up of fifty-two acres of urban research sites adjacent to the Olentangy River. The School of Environment and Natural Resources manages the park, running experiments and classes. Throughout the park are two experimental wetland basins, an oxbow wetland and bottomland hardwood forest.
Trees of the Wetland Research Park:
- Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides): this tree is commonly found in floodplains and river bottoms. It has distinctly triangular leaves that fade from a deep green to a light greenish yellow as autumn progresses. Native Americans allegedly used the cottonwood to construct lodge poles, and the shape of the teepee is believed to be inspired by the cottonwood leaf.
- Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana): this tree displays short, needle-like foliage that becomes increasing more scale-like as maturation progresses. Eastern red cedars are subject to rust galls – a colorful fungus that apparently does no real harm to the host plant.
Vines/Shrubs of the Wetland Research Park:
- Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii): an invasive honeysuckle shrub, Amur honeysuckle has the characteristic bright red berries that many honeysuckle species have. The leaves are broadly egg shaped, but have a distinct long, fine tip. The berries have been eaten by many bird species that end up spreading the seeds to unwanted areas.
- Frost Grape Vine (Vitis vulpina)
Flowers of the Wetland Research Park:
- New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
- Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima)
The Wetland Research Park is no stranger to the infamous poison ivy. There are several identifying characteristics that can help someone avoid the itch. Poison ivy is often associated with leaves that are grouped in three, with the middle stem being the longest. The side leaves are said to resemble mitten, having a small notch that looks like the thumb of a mitten. Additionally, the vining part of the plant is often hairy, especially when it is climbing on trees. The berries are a grayish-white color that matures by August, but sometimes lasts until around November. Pictured below is poison ivy, of which you can see the three leaves, the ‘thumb’ on the side leaves, and the longer middle stem. Upon closer look, the stem shows very fine hairs: “hairy vine, no friend of mine!”
Coefficient of Conservatism
Coefficients of conservatism are values ranging from zero to ten. These values, assigned to individual species, are estimations of the degree to which a species is associated with high-quality, natural communities reflective to those which existed in pre-settlement times. It is often based on the narrowness or breadth of a plant’s ecological tolerances. A plant with a score of zero exhibits a wide range of ecological tolerances. They are often opportunistic invaders of natural areas. The Wetland Research Park is no stranger to plants with a coefficients of conservatism equal to zero.
Some of the lowest CC value plants included:
Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)
- CC = 0
- As a member of the asteraceae family, Indian blanket has showy ray flowers that are red to orange at the base with yellow tips, each of which have three teeth at the broad end. The disk flowers in the center are usually a uniform brownish red. They can be found in dry plains or open area, such as meadows and prairies. The stems are branched and leafy towards the base. Apparently nursing mothers bathed in tea made from this plant in order to help combat sore nipples.
Common Plantain (Plantago major)
- CC = 0
- Also referred to as Broadleaf plantain, this plant has been naturalized throughout Ohio and can survive in multiple soil types. It is a hearty plant that can survive wear and tear because it is a ground-hugging rosette. The leaves are large, oval, thick, and strongly ribbed. Subtle flowers appear in clusters on single erect stems. They are usually greenish white. These plants were once widely used as medicinal herbs treating an array of bites, stings, and cuts, as well as ailments of the mouth, tongue, and eyes.
Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta)
- CC = 0
- A very common low-spreading plant, Yellow Wood Sorrel has clover-like leaves and one to several bright yellow flowers. This plant can be found all over Ohio and in much of the United States, surviving in virtually all soil types. The leaves are distinctly sour and have been used in salads. Use sparingly, however, because the plant has trace amounts of oxalic acid.
Common Horseweed (Conyza Canadensis)
- CC = 0
- Known as an annual weed, Common Horseweed flourishes under an extremely wide array of growing conditions. Numerous small flowers grow from multi-stemmed panicles at the tops of stems. The seeds are easily distributed long distances by the wind. The leaves are arranged alternately and are longer near the base and somewhat toothed. It’s extreme tolerability to poor conditions makes this plant a problem in the agricultural realm, becoming an impossible weed in crop fields, landscapes, and nurseries. In recent times, Common Horseweed has become resistant to a number of agricultural herbicides.
It was rare to find a higher valued coefficient of conservatism. A higher value indicates plants with a narrower range of ecological tolerances that’s typical of a stable or near climax community. The highest values I personally recorded are most commonly placed in the intermediate values.
Some of the highest CC value plants included:
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
- CC = 3
- Due to the lack of high CC plants, the Eastern Cottonwood pops back up on my blog. Tied at a three with other plants previously covered, I ran out of new plants to cover. Common to floodplains, the Eastern Cottonwood is easily recognizable by the triangular leaves. Eastern cottonwoods are home to numerous pests, such as an array of caterpillars and borers. However, the tenacious behavior of these trees allows most to keep growing to very large sizes.
Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
- CC = 4
- Hackberry trees are found in nearly all of Ohio and frequent areas near bodies of water, as well as fields and fencerows. This tree is adaptable to a variety of sites and soils. The bark is a distinct light grey and described as ‘warty.’ The leaves are alternate and serrate. Humanity often utilizes hackberry trees as erosion control due to deep, strong roots.
Common Pawpaw (Asimina trioba)
- CC = 6
- Although pawpaw trees are found throughout Ohio, they prefer soil that is moist, deep, rich and well-drained. As a result, it is often found in places such as ravines, hillsides, and along or near bodies of water. The leaves appear almost tropical in nature, and the pawpaw fruit is often highly sought after. My friend once described it as a cross between a banana and a mango. I’ve never had one, but it sounds delicious.
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
- CC = 7
- Swamp white oak is primarily an oak found in Midwestern United States, and is not particularly rare in Ohio. Like its name suggests, Swamp White Oak is frequently found in wet woodlands, swamps, wetlands, bottomlands, or near bodies of water. The leaves are alternate and large. There is variability in how shallow or deep the spaces between the lobes are. Of all oaks, the underside of the Swamp White Oak is the whitest. This oak is often used for lumber and landscaping because of the relative ease of transplanting
Bonus Plants: Mosses and Lichens
Two mosses I found and identified include what I believe are Fissidens adiantoides and Bryum argenteum.
Fissidens adiantoides is more commonly referred to as maiden-hair or split-toothed moss. It is considered rather robust, with characteristic two-rowed leaves, common to the Fissidens genus. This moss grows in moist areas, on rocks, trees, and the forest floor. Bryum argenteum is referred to as silvery-bryum. This moss received such a name as a result of its distinct shiny look when the tips, which lack chlorophyll, reflect light. This moss is well adapted to coexistence with humans, and is common along sidewalks and cracks.
Common Green Shield Lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata): this foliose lichen grows on many varieties of trees, but never on rocks. It likes sunny locations and is widely distributed in the eastern U.S. The lobes are rounded and broad, with the characteristic dull green color.
Wart Lichen (Lepraria neglecta): this crustose lichen was more difficult to identify. This tree has a thin layer of this lichen over the bark, but characteristics were difficult to identify. Some bumps were observed, but the alleged ‘warts’ of this lichen eventually erode away and leave behind dull white spots.