Coefficients of Conservation

Ahhh back to Overbrook Ravine the gem of Clintonville, Ohio. On today’s botany adventure I set out to identify more plants in the park as well as give them a rating by using the coefficients of conservatism (CC) assigned to each species by Andreas et al. (2002). This data is needed in order to  ultimately calculate the floristic quality index (FQAI) of the area.

However, a wasp wasn’t particularly happy with the fact that the flowers/plants were being rated on a scale 1-10 and stung me for being so judgmental, I can’t say I blame him/her.

The following is a list of 20 species observed in over brook ravine along with their CC values:

American basswood Tilia americana 6
American Beech Fagus grandifolia 7
Black Cherry Prunus serotina 3
Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra 6
Riverbank Sycamore Platanus occidentalis 7
Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima 0
Slippery Elm Ulmus rubra 4
Vines, Graminoids, Forbs, Bryophytes
white snake root Ageratina altissima 3
yellow wingstem Verbesina alternifolia 5
shorts aster Symphyotrichum shortii 4
common blue wood aster Symphyotrichum cordifolium 4
blue stemmed golden rod Solidago caesia 4
common ivy hedera helix 0
yellow fox sedge Carex vulpinoidea 3
virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia 2
poison ivy toxicendron radiicans 1
new england aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 2
small white aster Symphyotrichum lateriflorum 2
clustered black snake root sanicula odorata 3
white vervain verbena urticifolia 3

CC values/ square root of the # of species found

=69/sqrt of 20



Normally 1-19 for a site is low quality, 20-35 is high quality, and anything above that is exceptional…

Top 4 Species Observed

American Beech was tied with Riverbank Sycamore for the top spot at Overbrook Ravine with both bringing home a top score of 7 for the site.

American Beech or Fagus grandifolia has distinctive smooth gray bark, coarse-toothed leaves and is very ecologically important.  Not only is it a tall tree with great canopy cover but its fruits also provide food many organisms in its local ecosystem (Peterson). Young beech leaves can actually be soaked in gin to create a drink called beach leaf noyau.

Sycamore has peeling mottled bark with giant lobed leaves that could almost be mistaken for a maple (if you’re an amateur). Oftentimes you’ll find these water loving trees hanging out near riverbanks or places that often flood (Peterson). One of the reasons these trees are so ecologically important and score such a high CC value could be because they stabilize riverbanks and protect them from erosion. The cavities of this tree are also used by birds, opossums, and raccoons. Sycamores are considered to be the most massive tree in the U.S.

Yellow wing stem also had a high CC value for this area with a score of 5. It is recognizable through leaves that fan out from the stems like ‘wings’ and bright yellow clusters of flowers. Yellow wing stem is fantastic plant for pollinators and is recognized by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation as important not only for multiple kinds of pollinators but also butterflies and moths.

Wild ginger or Asarum canadense has a CC value of 6 and has heart shaped leaves with a lighter shade of green tracing the form of the leaf. This plant has two antibiotic compounds in the leaves and can be used to treat wounds.

Lowest CC Values Observed

Ladys thumb had a whopping CC value of 0. This plant has bright pink flowers at the top of the stem that look like a strawberry nerd rope. Ladys thumb tends to take over an area which is potentially the cause of such a low cc value.

Common Milkweed had a surprising low value of 1. I feel like such a low rating was underserved, it plays an extremely important role in both the migration and reproduction of Monarch butterflies. Additionally, it has  fruits called follicles where the seeds are attached to silky strands. Personally, I would give this plant an 8 based solely on the fun factor.


Poison Ivy has leaves of three and has been talked about extensively on previous blog posts. It was given a CC value of 1, *cough cough* overrated *cough*.

Lastly, pokeweed was also given a CC of 1. Berries of this plant are dark purple and produce a gorgeous magenta dye. Many birds feast on the berries from June to the end of fall and even eat the dried ones in winter.

~unfortunately forgot to take a picture of this plant:/~

Invasive Species

Tree of Heaven is an invasive from China and has spread across North America. Recently, in field experience for Ohio Botany it was discovered that the twigs on this plant are smooth and soft but also that these plants have a pith that smells like rancid peanut butter.

Phragmites is an invasive species that takes over wetlands quite easily. The picture below is from Sheldon’s Marsh State Nature Preserve in northern Ohio. Phragmites have leaves that easily cut the skin and reedy stalks with bushy, fluffy, seed tops (not the most scientific description). Phragmites spread through underground rhizomes which makes them extremely hard to kill.

Autumn olive has a silvery oval look to their leaves and reddish bark. This invasive spreads quickly through rapid growth and the distribution of their drupes by birds. Interestingly, drupes from this plant can be made into jams and baked goods.

Multiflora rose is a terrible and prolific invasive in Ohio. Multiflora rose produces hips that are eaten by birds and animals and spread throughout the ecosystem.  A single multiflora rose plant can produce 1 million seeds each year.


Overbrook Ravine has both Olentangy shale as well as Columbus Limestone. Many plants written about loving lime rich soils in ‘Geobotany’ by Jane Forsyth appear here in Overbrook Ravine as well, maybe she was onto something…

Chinquapin oak or Quercus muehlenbergii is characterized by leaves that are toothed, wavy edged, and oblong. Bark is light gray and flaky.Chinquapin oak was often offered gifts by tribe leaders so that it would grant them good fortune.

Redbud, Cercis canadensis is another lime loving plant. Interestingly, this tree enjoys drier soils but was located within the ravine, which one can only assume is subject to flooding. This tree has beautiful pinkish purple flowers in the spring, which are edible, and heart shaped leaves in the summer and fall.

The final substrate associated species found at Overbrook Ravine was Celtis occidentalis or hackberry. urly edged almost looks like it is dripping down the trunk bark. Leaves are shaped like hearts, toothed, and are rough to the touch. According to, Hackberry fruits are edible.

American hop-hornbeam has egg shaped leaves with cerated edges and shaggy peely bark. Hop-hornbeam thrives in limey substrate. It has seeds formed together that resemble a hop. Hop-hornbeam can be used to treat toothaches and muscle soreness. Below is a poor quality zoomed in image of hop-horn beam seeds.