Monday, September 17, 2012

The best place to botanize in Ohio is...

There are so many great places to botanize in the state that its hard to pick one particular place or region, but one of my favorite areas is in Wayne National Forest in Gallia Co. Ohio.  Bordering West Virginia, this area boasts an astounding array of species and has a decidedly appalachian affinity.  Near Kenton lake many of these species can be found, and roadsides are a good place to start looking.

I have reported on Gentiana andrewsii from this site in a past post.  This species is widespread in Ohio, but in my experience can be best described as locally abundant.  The plants growing in this roadside ditch are particularly robust and flower for a sold 2-3 months per year.  I have seedlings growing on for study in the garden.

A typical roadside scene for Gallia county and much of southern Ohio.  Asclepias syriaca,   Conoclinium (Eupatorium) coelestinum, Eupatoriadelphus (Eupatorium) fistulosus, Bidens coronata, Vernonia gigantea and many more  

A little further up the road I stumbled upon an uncommon white form of Lobelia siphilitica growing amongst the typical lavender-blue form the lines the low, wet roadsides of Ohio in late summer and fall.

Hiking into the forest for a bit, we came into the habitat of the plant I was most interested in revisiting at this site on the fringes of a Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) swamp near Kenton lake, where  an there is an interesting riparian community dominated by Sedge (Carex) species and other emergent species.

Here is Stenanthium gramineum "var. robustum".  This is a very rare taxon in Ohio and grows only in counties that border the Ohio river.  At this time of year, it can be hard to locate, but once you see one, it becomes infinitely easier to locate others.  I put the name "var. robustum" in quotes because some taxonomists feel that the variation that has been described for this species is clinal (environmental) and does not warrant recognition.  The plants in this population are very tall and robust, and Whatever your taxonomic preference might be, populations like this are exceedingly valuable to horticulturists who can  responsibly propagate this species.  Take it from me, a slow and tedious process!

Detail of the inflorescence of Stenanthium gramineum "var. robustum".  This is about 4 weeks post anthesis.  Note that the female flowers occur only at the top of the inflorescence and the spent male flowers only at the bottom.  The developing seed capsules were still developing; a good sign considering the extreme heat and drought of summer 2012.  Several plants had failed to flower and appear to have aborted the developing inflorescence

Another photo of the inflorescence  with a 2.25 x 3.5 inch coin envelope behind it for reference

The sluggish stream ( I think it is Lick Creek) that feeds the buttonbush wetland.  Parts of the stream are bordered by sandstone outcroppings that support Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) forest

A large, disturbed meadow bordering Lick Creek.  An abundance of wildflowers could be found here.  Helenium autumnalis, sneezeweed, and Eupatorium perfoliatum boneset can be seen

Kenton lake in early September

Sparganium americanum growing in shallow water at the edge of Kenton lake

The spherical fruits of Sparganium americanum are quietly satisfying and fascinating

Growing with the Sparganium was wool grass, Scirpus cyperinus, one of the most distinctive and lovely native grass-like plants.  Here it is flanked by Eupatorium perfoliatum, boneset

In the well-drained, sandy soils bordering the wetland,  hazelnut (Corylus americanus) could be found growing luxuriantly and producing a bumper crop of nuts

It a disturbed area along a path on the shore of Kenton lake I found Chrysopsis mariana, the golden aster.  This is another southern plant that reaches the northern limit of it's distribution in Ohio

Chrysopsis mariana, a close-up of the golden aster.  I am very interested to know how this would perform as a garden plant.  I could see the vibrant yellow flowers from the opposite shore and was taken by the compact nature of the plant at close range.  This was growing in damp, acidic sand, but judging from the conditions it may prove to be adaptable

Perhaps the best find of the day was the last....

Gentiana villosa is a southern plant that has it's northern occurrences in Ohio.  It is very rare here, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon a small population on one of the trails near the lake.  I have never seen this in Ohio before and was quite excited by the find.  I hope to collect some seed from these plants in a couple of months.

The flowers of Gentiana villosa, Sampson's Snakeroot

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