Whetstone Park (Columbus) is a 148-acre community park and landmark within the Clintonville neighborhood. Located at 40°2’38″N83°1’31°W, the park was originally a family farm belonging to the mayor of Columbus during the early 1800s, James A. Rhodes. In 1944, it was converted into a park for Victory Gardens during World War II. In its expanse, Whetstone Park also includes a horseshoe-shaped wetland area that was built as a means of slowing and filtering stormwater during its path to Adena Brook. The principal ecological feature is its vast woodland area with a stream running throughout the entire property.

In a birds-eye view, the wetland is located right above the Olentangy Trail as it passes from east to west.

PLANT COMMUNITIES

I. The Roadside 
Connecting the roadside parking spot with the most convenient entry point to access the streambank is through the parking lot of the Whetstone Park Shelter #1. A hidden access point after crossing through some brush grants access to the woody streambank area which is frequented by local hikers and fishermen. The habitat harbors an array of typical disturbed-site plants, with some exotic herbaceous species and many native species. The dominant woody plant here is the Amur honeysuckle (lonicera maackii). The floor and trees of the woods are lined with Fortune’s Spindle (Euonymus forunei), which grow in abundance and blanket the area. Herbaceous dicots include the brightly-colored yellow crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis), the poisonous perennial herb, white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), and the American jumpseed (Persicaria virginiana), whose ripe seedpods eject projectile seeds that can “jump” several feet when disturbed–true to its name.

yellow crownbeard

II. The Canopy
The canopy leading up to the wooded area has a fairly dense coverage of common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) with scattered individual American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), sugar maple (Acer saccharaum), and box elder (Acer negundo). The shrub layer consists of saplings of those trees, along with Northern spicebush (lindera benzoin). The invasive multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) is present in abundance. The ground layer is a diverse mix of native herbs, with most of it occupied by Fortune’s Spindle (Euonymus forunei) and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). The parsley family (Apiaceae) is well-represented in this area, with white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) occupying most of the paths in abundance. Many wildlife, including deer, was spotted in this area–grazing on the ground cover of the Euonymus plants, which are supposedly like candy to deer. This area is a relatively undisturbed ecosystem that deserves protection.

The entryway to the wooded area, dominated mostly by common hackberry trees – View 1

The entryway with a makeshift bench made of nearby lumber from fallen trees – View 2

III. The Woodland
This amazing ecosystem is a moist environment with an abundant growth of woody plants. Along the streambank, winged euonymus (Ligustrum obtusifolium) and late figwort (Scrophularia marilandica) are quite common, overtopped by common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) and black maple (Acer nigrum). Lesser burdock or wild rhubarb (Arctium minus) and clustered sanicle (Euonymus alatus) were found scattered throughout the area. Both of these plants can be found in nutrient-rich woods similar to these, where it is able to tolerate somewhat degraded habitats, and is not considered a particularly conservative species. The common American trailplant (Adenocaulon bicolor) was found along the trail undoubtedly made by frequenters of the area.

The common pawpaw (Asimina triloba) and the rapidly growing tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) lined the path of the woodland in abundance.  Near the stream was the “conservative” white flower leafcup (polymnia canadensis)–with the highest coefficient of conservation value of 7 found in the area, and considered endangered in Vermont and in Connecticut. This flowering plant is typically found in moist forests over calcareous rocks. The flower head has tubular disk flowers in the center with ray flowers that are often strap-shaped around the periphery.  In addition, the Canadian moonseed (Menispermum canadense) was found along the streambank, where it thrives in the moist soil. Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is prevalent all throughout the woodland. It could be found along every path and streambank, abundantly occupying the area.

Streambank – View 1

Streambank – View 2

ANNOTATED SPECIES LIST

ANGIOSPERMOPHYTE (flowering plants)

Aceraceae (maple family)

Acer negundo (L.). Box elder. CC=3. Native tree. Box elders are usually asymmetrical and crooked. Box elder seed-bearing flowers have no petals and are reduced to simple pistils. This tree was found in relative abundance all throughout the wooded areas of the park.

Anacardiaceae (cashew family)

Toxicodendron radicans (L.) Kuntze. Poison ivy. Native vine. CC=1. Poison ivy is a well-known plant that causes contact dermatitis caused by urushiol, a clear liquid in the plant’s sap. It is identified by the saying “leaflets of three, let it be.” This vine was found in extreme abundance in the woods, growing on most of the trees in the area.

Apiaceae (parsley family)

Sanicula odorata. Clustered sanicle. Native forb. CC=3. Commonly known as the clustered black snakeroot, it is a flowering plant that thrives in nutrient-rich woods and is able to tolerate somewhat degraded habitats. It is not a particularly conservative species. This forb was found in clusters and in plenty along the streambank.

Clustered sanicle

Aristolochiaceae (birthwort family)

Asarum canadense (L.). Canadian wild ginger. Native forb. CC=6. This forb is an herbaceous perennial plant that forms dense colonies in moist-soil environments. It was scattered but had dense patches in shady areas. Wild ginger smells similar to spice ginger, but is unrelated and is not recommended for consumption. Its solitary, foul-smelling reddish-brown flowers are located at ground level and are probably pollinated by flies. Like many forest herbs, the seeds have oil and sugar-containing elaiosomes attached and are dispersed by ants. This plant was found in abundance in the woods and near the stream.

Asteraceae (maple family)

Acer flordianum. Southern sugar maple. CC= 7. Native tree. This species is an indication of calcareous soil in woodlands.

Acer saccharinum
. Silver maple. Native tree. CC=1. One of the most common trees in the United States.
Acer saccharum L. Sugar maple. Native tree. CC=3. The dominant tree of the woods. This is the principal source of maple syrup.
Adenocaulon bicolor. American trailplant. Native forb. CC=5. The American trailplant, also known as pathfinder, is silver-green in color and the only species native to the U.S. and Canada. It has a glandular stem that makes it identifiable. This plant was found in abundance in the woods.
Ageratina altissima. White snakeroot. Native forb. CC=6. The white snakeroot is a poisonous perennial herb that is known for poisoning cattle and thereby poisoning their milk. This forb was found in abundance in the woods.

White snakeroot

Arcticum minus (L.). Lesser burdock. Introduced forb. CC=0. The lesser burdock is an introduced forb native to Europe but has been considered an invasive weed in the United States. It has alternate leaf arrangement and clusters of purple flowerheads arranged on the short stalks on the upper ends of stems. It is a problematic invader of pastures, hay fields, and open prairie ecosystems. It acts as a secondary host for pathogens such as root rot, which affect economically important plants. This forb was found in abundance along the woodland floor.
Eutrochium purpureum. Sweet Joe-Pye-weed. CC=6. Native forb. The Eutrochium purpureum kidney-root is an herbaceous perennial plant in the sunflower family. It thrives in semi-shaded woodlands in full sun. It has large pink flowers when bloomed that are a favorite nectar source for a variety of butterflies (monarchs, swallowtails). They are coarsely-toothed and leaves are in whorls of 3 or 4 and have a pinnate vein arrangement. It was found in sparsity throughout the drier wooded areas of the park.

Sweet Joe-Pye-weed

Polymnia canadensis (L.). White flower leafcup. CC=5. Native forb. This flowering plant is native to eastern North America and is considered endangered in Vermont and Connecticut. It is typically found in moist forests over calcareous rocks. This plant was found in abundance along the outskirts of the streambank.

Leafcup

Solidago ulmifolia (Muhl. ex Willd.). Elm-leaved goldenrod. Native forb. CC=5. This goldenrod species is a common plant that tolerates moist soil in comparison to other goldenrods. . It has thin, coarsely-toothed leaves, and its flowers arch outwards and downwards, creating a vase-shaped flower cluster. It is a favorite flower of butterflies and native bees. It thrives best in full sun and dry soil. This plant was one of the most abundant in quantity found all throughout the woods.

Elm-leaved goldenrod

Verbesina occidentalis (L.) Walter. Yellow crownbeard. CC=5. Introduced forb. This flowering plant is considered a weedy plant in disturbed areas due to its presence in managed agricultural areas such as hayfields. This was one of the most beautiful flowering plants in the vicinity. It was found in abundance in the woods, where the soil was not as moist.

Annonaceae (custard-apple family)

Asimina trilobal (L.) Dunal. Pawpaw. Native small tree. CC=6. There were several pawpaw trees scattered throughout the woodland. Pawpaw is the northernmost representative of a principally southern plant family. Its fruits, commonly known as “custard apples,” are difficult to harvest in their ripe state in the wild, as its fruits are avidly consumed by wildlife.

Pawpaw

Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family)

Amur honeysuckle

Lonicera maackii (Rupr.) Maxim. Amur honeysuckle. Introduced shrub. CC=0. This shrub was found in extreme abundance in the woods. Amur honeysuckle is an erect, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that can grow to 15- 20 feet in height. The plant is considered invasive. Amur honeysuckle is an especially aggressive weed in calcareous woodland in Ohio.

Celastraceae (staff-vine family)

Fortune’s spindle

Euonymus alatus. Winged euonymus. Introduced shrub. CC=5. This shrub is commonly known as burning bush and is a flowering plant native to Asia. This plant is poisonous through ingestion and invasive in nature. They seed prolifically and become dominant, forcing other plants out. It has two to four corky ridges formed along the length of young stems, and has opposite, dark green leaves that are smooth and tapered at the ends. In the fall, they turn a bright crimson/purple color, which is why they are also known as the “burning bush.” This plant was one of the most abundant plants found all throughout the wooded area and along the stream.
Euonymus fortunei (Turcz.) Hand.-Mazz. Fortune’s spindle. Introduced vine. This vine is commonly also known as wintercreeper and is native to east Asia. It is highly invasive and damaging in the US, where it causes death of trees and forests in urban areas. It can tolerate a broad range of environmental conditions, ranging from full sun to deep shade, and acidic to basic and low nutrient soils. It is native to east Asia and was introduced to the US in 1907. This vine was blanketing the entire wooded area and was the most abundant vine found in the woods and along the stream.

Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot family)

Kochia scoparia (L.) Roth ex Schrad. Summer-cypress. Introduced tree. CC=0. Summer-cypress is a large annual herb native to Eurasia that was introduced to many parts of North America. It is commonly found in grassland, prairie, and desert shrub ecosystems. Its leaves have an alternate arrangement, are stalkless or nearly so, and its surfaces are hairless to sparsely hairy with toothed edges. There were a few individual summer cypresses along the drier regions of the woodlands further from the streambank.

Fabaceae (legume family)

Gleditsia triacanthos (L.). Honey locust. Native tree. CC=4. Honey locust, also known as thorny locust, is a deciduous tree in the Caesalpinaceae or Fabaceae family. It is found in the moist soil of river valleys and is highly adaptable to a variety of conditions. This plant was found in abundance along the stream, with some even growing out of the streambank soil. It is an aggressively invasive species and can dominate the land. It has long compound leaves that are divided into as many as 30 oval leaflets–some of which are doubly divided and more numerous and smaller in composition. It is an aggressively invasive species and can dominate the land. It is fast-growing and has a tendency to be an aggressive colonizer.

Lauraceae (laurel family)

Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume. Northern spicebush. Native shrub. CC=5. The spicebush is a shrub commonly found in eastern North America where it thrives in moist, rich woods. This plant has an aromatic scratch-and-sniff scent. It is found in abundance near the streambank.

Menispermaceae (moonseed family)

Menispermum canadense (L.). Canadian moonseed. Native vine. CC=5. The Canadian moonseed is a flowering plant native to eastern North America, where it occurs in thickets, moist woods, and the banks of streams. As described, this plant was found in abundance in the moister soil of the woods, close to the stream.

Canadian moonseed

Moraceae (mulberry family)

Broussonetia papyrfera (L.) Vent. Paper mulberry. Introduced tree. CC=4. This tree is native to Asia and is widely cultivated elsewhere; it grows as an introduced species in parts of the US. This tree was found scattered throughout the woods.
Morus alba (L.). White mulberry. Introduced tree. CC=3. This fast-growing, short-lived tree has a lifespan comparable to humans. The species is native to Asia and it is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere (U.S., Mexico, Kyrgyzstan, etc.). This tree was found scattered throughout the woods.

Oleaceae (olive family)

Fraxinus albicans. Texas ash. Native tree. CC=6. This North American native tree is found in the eastern and southern US and Mexico. It thrives in dry, rocky slopes–often over limestone. There were individual saplings found throughout the deeper woodlands.
Fraxinus uhdei. Shamel ash. Native tree. CC=5. This tree is commonly known as tropical ash and is considered an invasive species in Hawaii. This tree was found in abundance growing from the streambank, directly atop the stream.
Ligustrum obtusifolium (Sieb. & Zucc). Japanese privet. Introduced shrub. CC=0. This species of privet is native to Asia and is considered an invasive species in some parts of North America. This plant was very commonly found along the wet soil of the streambank.

Platanaceae (plane family)

Platanus occidentalis (L.). American sycamore. Native tree. CC=7. The American sycamore is a native deciduous tree that is tolerant of many living conditions. It was found in abundance in the woods.

Poaceae (grass family)

Oplismenus hirtellus. Basket grass. Native grass. CC=0. Basketgrass is a common perennial grass that can be found on every continent in the world (except Antarctica). The roots are styptic and a poultice of the roots can be used on wounds to wash bleeding wounds and aid in healing sprains and broken limbs. This plant was found in abundance on the woodland floors.

Polygonaceae (knotweed family)

Polygonum virginia (L.). American Jumpseed. Native forb. CC=3. American jumpseed is a shade-tolerant forb that gets its name from its projectile mature seedpods that shoot out “jumping” seeds when disturbed. This plant was found in abundance in the woods where the soil was not as moist.

Rosaceae (rose family)

Rosa multiflora (Thunb. ex Murray). Multiflora rose. Introduced shrub. CC=0. This species of rose is commonly referred to as baby rose, and is native to Asia. They can be distinguished from other rose species by the fringed stipules at the base of each leaf. It is highly invasive and is now considered a noxious weed or invasive plant in most parts of the country. It grows aggressively and produced large numbers of rose hips that are eaten and dispersed by wildlife–mainly birds. Dense thickets of the plant exclude most native shrubs and herbs from being established and can be detrimental to native bird nesting habits. This shrub was found in abundance in the drier soil of the woods. 
Pyrus calleryana.
Callery pear. Introduced tree. CC=5. This species of pear is native to Asia (China and Vietnam). It is a deciduous tree with a conic-rounded crown with ovulate leaves that are glossy dark green with a pale underside. This tree was found as an individual sapling close to the streambank.
Prunus caroliniana. Carolina laurelcherry. Introduced shrub. CC=6. This small evergreen shrub has a scratch-and-sniff scent of maraschino cherries. Native to the lowlands of Southeastern United States, this shrub was found in abundance in the drier regions of the woods.

Rutaceae (rue or citrus family)

Ptelea trifoliata (L.). Common hoptree. Native tree. CC=5. This deciduous shrub or tree has alternate, trifoliate leaves. This tree was found in abundance along the stream.

Sapindaceae (soapberry family)

Acer nigrum. Black maple. Native tree. CC=3. This is a species of maple closely related to sugar maple (Acer saccharum). The saplings of these trees were found scattered throughout the woods.

Black maple

Scrophulariaceae (figwort family)

Scrophularia marilandica (L.). Late figwort. Native forb. CC=4. This forb is also known as Maryland figwort and is a flowering plant found growing in dry woods throughout eastern and central North America. The individual flowers are long and short-cylindrical in shape; each flower has a short-tubular green calyx. This forb was found in abundance in the woods.

Simaroubaceae (quassia family)

Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle. Tree-of-heaven. Introduced tree. CC=0. The tree-of-heaven is pronounced  “chouchun” in mandarin, which directly translates to “foul-smelling tree”. This deciduous tree is native to both China and Taiwan, and thrives in temperate climates rather than in the tropics. The tree grows extremely rapidly and was found in abundance in clusters a few feet away from the streambank.

Smilacaceae (greenbrier family)

Smilax hispida (Muhl.). Bristly greenbrier. Native vine. CC=3. The bristly greenbrier is a stout woody spine with bristlelike black spines that climb high via tendrils. The plant was found in abundance along the bottoms of trees, commonly at the bottom of common hackberry trees.

Ulmaceae (elm family)

Celtis occidentalis (L.). Common hackberry. Native tree. CC=4. This large deciduous tree is the dominant tree of these woodlands. This tree was the most abundant tree found in the woods and along the streambank.
Ulmus alata. Winged elm. Native tree. CC=3. This small deciduous tree is endemic to the woodlands of the south-eastern and south-central United States. The species is the least shade-tolerant of the elms found in North America. This plant was found in abundance in the woods.

Urticaceae (nettle family)

Pilea pumila (L.) A. Gray. Canada clearweed. Native forb. CC=2. Clearweed, also known as richweed, is an annual forb native to most of North America. It occurred in large colonies all throughout the woods.

Viburnaceae (elder family)

Virburnum sieboldii. Siebold’s Viburnum. Introduced large shrub. CC=0. This shrub is native to Japan and has opposite, simple leaves that are highly glossy and tough. The leaves have a very pungent burnt rubber smell. It was introduced to America through the horticultural trade and has spawned many varieties and hybrids since. This shrub was found in abundance in the entryway to the wooded area.

Vitaceae (grape family)

Parthenocissus quinquefoliaI (L.) Planch. Virginia creeper. Native vine. CC=2. Common climbing trees in the woods and are often confused with poison ivy. The fruits are toxic and the leaves in are reported to cause dermatitis in the autumn.
Parthenocissus vitacea (Knerr) Hitchc. Thicket creeper. Native vine. CC=1. Thicket creeper, also known as false Virginia creeper, is not a conservative plant. It is a woody plant that was abundant throughout the woods wrapping around trees.

REFERENCES

“City of Columbus.” 2021. Whetstone Park, www.columbus.gov/recreationandparks/parks/whetstone-park/.

Forsyth, J. 1971. Linking Geology and Botany …a new approach. The Explorer 13:3.

Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Wildflower Guide. Little, Brown and Company (Canada) Limited.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Ohio’s Top Invasive Plants. Accessed at http://ohiodnr.gov/invasiveplants

DeBerry et al. 2021. Banisteria 55: 112149 (2021)

Petrides, George A. 1972. A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs. Houghton Miflin Company. New York.

Andreas, Barbara K., John J. Mack, and James S. McCormac. 2004. Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQAI) for vascular plants and mosses for the State of Ohio. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Surface Water, Wetland Ecology Group, Columbus, Ohio. 219 p.

Peterson, Lee. A. 1978. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Miflin Company. New York.

**Disclaimer: (12 forbs + 6 vines) + (8 shrubs) + (18 trees) I made up for the differences in # of objectives by finding more trees in the area and more shrubs and vines. I apologize for this – I really tried scouring the woods for more forbs and vines, but the woodland area was mostly covered in trees and in Fortune’s spindle.