Hi, y’all! In this post I’ll be talking about CC values, invasive species, and geobotany. All pretty cool stuff. All of the species talked about were found at the Olentangy Wetlands Research Park except for one invasive species I will mention later. Without any delay, let’s get started!
What we have here are 20 species from my botanical survey and their CC values as dictated by the FQAI Report. From these values, I was able to calculate the Floristic Quality Assessment Index.
Arrow-leaved Aster 3
White Snakeroot 6
Common Greenbrier 4
Obedient Plant 5
Riverbank Grape 3
Tall Ironweed 2
Common Dandelion 0
Black Cherry 3
Chicory 0 (non-native)
Eastern Cottonwood 3
Bird’s Foot Trefoil 0 (non-native)
American Elm 2
Black Walnut 5
Sweet Violet 0 (non-native)
Floristic Quality Assessment Index:
Sum of CCs= 63
Square root of # of native species= sqrt(17)= 4.1231056
FOUR HIGHEST CC SPECIES
Our first species that has the highest CC of the 20 from my list is American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). This species has alternate branching and simple, serrated leaves. Their bark is their most striking feature as it looks like white and brown splotches that are peeling off from the rest of the tree. Sycamores are grown on plantations primarily as pulpwood trees.
Our second species with one of the highest CC values is pawpaw (Asimina triloba). This species has very large, aromatic leaves with alternate branching. Many people take pride in their pawpaw fruit hunting; from my experience, they taste like an overripe banana. Not my favorite. Native Americans twisted the inner bark of this species to make strong ropes.
The next species is white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima). This is a very common perennial species with opposite, serrated leaves. Eating the stem and leaves of white snakeroot can be deadly to animals as they contain a poisonous substance called tremetol.
The fourth highest CC value species is black walnut (Juglans nigra). Black walnut have alternate branching with pinnately compound, serrated leaves. This species produces a toxin called juglone that stunts the growth of other plant species competing in their same space. Young black walnut trees have distinct diamond patterned bark. These trees also produce thick skinned, greenish fruits.
FOUR LOWEST CC SPECIES
One of the native species with the lowest CC value on this list is tall ironweed (Vernonia gigantea). This species has more than one head of purple flowers. Each flower has five fused petals. They are commonly found in disturbed areas and attract many pollinator species.
Our next species is American elm (Ulmus americana). American elms have alternate branching with simple, serrated leaves. Three distinguishing factors when considered together are the rough feeling of the leaves, the pointy tips to each leaf, and the corky, uplifted bark. When you press into the bark, it should feel slightly soft and should also be peelable. Dutch Elm Disease has caused many of these trees to die; they can sometime be saved with injections in the cambium that fight of the pathogen.
The third species is blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). This species has blueish-purple flowers that are fluffy and tubular. Mistflower prefers to grow along moist, ditch banks, which makes sense as to why I found it next to the Olentangy River. The flowers of this species are nectar-rich, making them popular with butterflies and other pollinator species.
The last species with the lowest CC value is arrow-leaved aster (Aster sagittifolius). This perennial species can have one or more leafy stems that seem to spread out across the ground. Each flower has 8-15 ray florets and 8-12 disk florets. The rays are a lavender to light-bluish. Many people buy seeds and plant these flowers in their yard as a pretty native plant that will look nice and attract pollinators.
Our second section of today is about invasive species (boooo). Let’s take a look at four species mentioned by the Ohio Invasive Plant Council and learn a little bit about each one. I found these species at the Olentangy Wetlands Research Park and near my apartment complex near West Campus. We’ll start with the plants I found at the wetlands.
Our first invasive species is multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). Wow, I seriously hate this plant. Multiflora rose thorns have caused me more problems in the field than I could actually count. I’ll stop ranting though so that we can get into some features. It can tolerate a wide array of soils, temperature, and moisture conditions and has become a ruthless invasive that will find itself in any disturbed area. It is known for becoming so dense that it outcompetes native plant species. This shrub has multiple stems and can sometimes act as a vine; it has large curved thorns along the stems that act as hooks. They have 5-11 small, toothed leaflets and have whitish-pink flowers in the spring. Back in the 1930s, this stuff was promoted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service as a kind of “living fence” for livestock. Boy, was that a mistake.
Up next is phragmites, also known as common reed grass (Phragmites australis). It stands anywhere from 5-10 feet tall and is pretty distinguishable by its bushy panicles in the late summer that become “fluffy” due to the hairs on the seeds. You can see these fluffy panicles in my picture! It’s typically found in marshy and wet environments. It is said to have arrived by accident in the late 18th to early 19th century in ballast material. For those of you who don’t know, ballast is a kind of grain-like material packed below and around railway ties.
Our next invasive is reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea). I can stand 2-7 feet tall and has compact panicles that spread slightly. The seeds are shiny and brown and ripen in late summer. This species does best in wetter soil where there is full sunlight; it often invades wetlands and areas with high disturbance. Reed canary grass was planted in the U.S. as early at the early 20th century for pasture and erosion control.
Now we are going to look at a species found near my apartment complex across the river near West Campus. There are a lot of wooded edges and disturbed areas around here, which happen to be the best places for invasive species to move in.
This species is tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Heavenly? Hardly. People seem to get this species and black walnut mixed up pretty often, and I can see why. With dark bark and pinnately compound leaves, tree-of-heaven looks like a pretty convincing walnut tree; however, there are some differences that will help you determine if you’re dealing with this invasive. First, tree-of-heaven females produce single seeded samaras that are present during the late summer. If you’re dealing with a male tree or are just generally stumped, another thing you can look for are fruits. Don’t see any large, round, greenish fruits? You’re not looking at a black walnut, my friend. Tree-of-heaven also smell pretty nasty; they smell like peanut butter gone really wrong. Black walnut isn’t going to have this smell. Chinese immigrants introduced tree-of-heaven in California during the gold rush for medicinal purposes.
Alright folks, our third section is geobotany! What is that, you say? We’ll start with the basics. Geology is the study of earth and botany is the study of plants. Geobotany is an interdisciplinary study that dives into the relationships between plant species and their respective substrates. Not all plants grow in the same kinds of environments and soils. Geobotany allows us to determine where certain species are most likely located based on the soil and substrates they prefer. Now that we have a little background out of the way, let’s dig in to four species that are associated with specific substrates found at the Olentangy Wetlands Research Park in Columbus, Ohio.
Our first species is eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). Two distinct features about this tree are the heart shaped leaves and the bright pink-purple buds flowers that appear in the spring. Redbuds are like the plant version of Valentine’s Day! Aww. The flowers I mentioned are actually edible and dysentery used to be treated using an astringent from the bark. Redbuds are generally limited to limestone or limy substrates. They seem to prefer higher, drier sites where limestone is present at shallowly below the surface; however, there are some odd instances of redbuds growing in non-limy soils.
The next species on our like is hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). As a member of the Elm family (Ulmaceae), their leaves look very similar to those of American and slippery elm. Their best distinguishing factor is their extremely warty bark! Pretty cool, right? Hackberry wood is known for being very flexible and tough, which made a favorite for cabin floors way back when. Man… talking about dysentery and cabin floors. Oregon Trail, anyone? Anyway, like redbuds, hackberries are also generally limited to limestone or limy substrates. Although it can be found in higher and drier locations, it’s pretty commonly found in floodplains.
Up next is eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana). Redcedar leaves (what we call needles) look like little scales, as you can see in the picture. These aren’t what you think a typical pine tree would look like. They also have very distinguishable whitish-blue “berries” that are actually fertilized cones. Their branches can be quite dense at times and acts as great habitat for birds. Redcedars are like the two previously mentioned species with their limitations to limy substrates and limestone. Even more like redbud, they prefer the higher, drier sites where the limestone is shallowly below the ground surface.
Our last tree for this section is swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). This species looks pretty similar to white oak (Quercus alba), but there are a few things to look for. Swamp white oak prefer poorly-drained soils and wetter environments while white oak prefer well-drained soils and dry environments. Swamp white oaks also have shallower lobes and whitened undersides to the leaves. This is especially apparent in the fall when looking at dried leaves on the ground. Native Americans and pioneers actually crushed up the acorns of swamp white oak and used the powder to thicken stews and make bread! I’m tempted to try it sometime… Like I previously mentioned, this species prefers poorly-drained soils that are clayey and limy in nature.
The substrates associated with the trees I talked about were laid out by Jane Forsyth in her “Geobotany” article. The locations where I found each species matched up almost exactly with the descriptions she gave. How satisfying. From the species found, we can make a good guess that the soils of the Olentangy Wetlands are high in limestone and clay content, while also being poorly-, to moderately-well drained.
Alrighty, everyone. This is everything for now! I hope you found it interesting and maybe go out hunting for some of these species yourself! I’ll leave you with this fun paw print that I found near the edge of the marsh. I know what it belongs to, do you? Happy hunting!