Cedar Bog That Isn’t A Bog
1. Cedar Bog is the largest and best example of a boreal and prairie fen complex in Ohio.
Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve is a fen (not a bog) left behind by glaciation 14,000-24,000 years ago. Western Ohio was almost entirely glaciated, and Cedar Bog is very much in that previously glaciated area. When southward-moving glaciers reached bedrock hills around present-day Cedar Bog, they folded around this, the highest point in the state. As a result, glacial hills, aka end moraines, formed to the east and west of Cedar Bog, leaving the area in the bottom of a valley. Since the area of/around Cedar Bog is mostly sandstone and gravel, materials that are permeable to water, the entire Mad River Valley around Cedar Bog is an aquifer, holding large volumes of cold ground water. It is this water that is forced to the surface at the valley that is Cedar Bog, which helps form the unique fen that supports such a diverse and important ecosystem.
Fens are very similar to bogs, and can contain much of the same decaying plant matter and peat. However, there are some key differences.
Fens are created by a water table that is very close to the surface and keeps the ground saturated. The water level in a fen can rise and fall slightly, but fens are characterized by having flowing water year-round. They also tend to have higher nutrient content than bogs and are able to support a wider variety of plant life. Also, fens have alkaline to neutral and clear water, because the water in a fen contains limestone, which helps support sedges.
Bogs are defined by their lack of nutrients and inability to support large plant life. A bog is created over hundreds-thousands of years, formed when plant matter decays in a lake and fills it. Decaying plants make the water of a bog acidic. Bogs contain layers of peat, and contain plant life most along the lines of fungi, mosses, and small shrubs. Bogs are very valuable for their ability to store carbon.
- For this past field trip, my assignment was to find 3 non-native plants that lived in Cedar Bog!
- One of the first non-native plants that I found living in Cedar Bog was watercress (Nasturtium officinale).
Watercress is an aquatic plant species of the family Brassicaceae. It is a rapidly growing perennial plant native to Europe and Asia.
They can be recognized by the fact that they float, their leaves are pinnately compound, and they produce clusters of small white and green flowers that are frequently visited by pollinators.
As watercress is non-native to North America, it acts as an invasive species. However, it has become an often-important food source for ducks, muskrats, and deer, and people often use watercress as a peppery addition to their foods.
2) Another non-native plant that I found on this trip was garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).
Garlic mustard is a biennial flowering plant also in the Brassicaceae family. It is native to Europe, north-western Africa, and western and central Asia. They are identifiable by their lower leaves which are kidney-shaped with scalloped edges. Leaves feel hairless, and the root has an “S” or “L” shape just below the stem base. In spring, the roots and new leaves smell like garlic, and flowers are small and white with 4 regular parts. Flowers are followed by skinny seed pods.
Garlic mustard is also considered an invasive species. In North America, the plant offers no known wildlife benefits and is toxic to larvae of some rare butterfly species that lay their eggs on the plants. These butterflies are adapted to native mustards but not to some specific chemicals produced by Garlic Mustard.
3) The last non-native plant that I catalogued on this trip was Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum).
Poison hemlock grows throughout the United States. It is recognizable by its white flowers that grow in small erect clusters. It grows 1.5-2.5m (5-8 feet) tall, with a smooth, green, hollow stem, usually spotted or streaked with red or purple on the lower half of the stem. All parts of the plant are hairless (glabrous), and the leaves are 2- to 4-pinnate, finely divided and lacy, overall triangular in shape. This plant is often found in poorly drained soils, particularly near streams, ditches, and other watery surfaces. This plant is also considered an invasive species!
It is very toxic, and animals such as sheep, cattle, swine, horses, and other domestic animals are often poisoned by eating even a very small amount of this plant. In ancient Greece, hemlock was used to poison condemned prisoners. Socrates was sentenced to death through hemlock poisoning for “impiety and corrupting the young men of Athens” in 399 B.C.
Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany
My personal assignment for this trip was to identify 3 Cryptogams of the Glade. A cryptogam is a plant that reproduces by spores, and not by using flowers or seeds. Examples of cryptogams are ferns, mosses, fungi, and algae. The word “cryptogam” translates to “hidden marriage,” indicating that since no seeds are produced the reproductive cycles of these plants may be a little harder to see with the naked eye.
1. The first cryptogam I recorded was Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia rangiferina).
Cladonia rangiferina, also known as Reindeer Lichen, is light-colored lichen belonging to the Cladoniaceae family. It grows in both hot and cool climates in well-drained, open environments, similar to the environment in which we found it on our field trip. This lichen is also extremely cold-hardy.
Reindeer Lichen, like many lichens, is slow-growing. Reindeer Lichen is also edible, but may cause stomach upset when not well-cooked, due to acids present in them.
- The second cryptogam I recorded on this trip was haircap moss (Polytrichum commune).
(pictured here amongst reindeer moss, roughly outlined in red.)
Haircap Moss is one of the most common plants found around the world. It is part of the family Polytrichaceae, and it provides a low-growing ground cover that is unique to mosses. Haircap moss has flat, thin, simple leaves with a whorled arrangement. A fun fact about Haircap Moss is that teas made from this species have been consumed to relieve and dissolve gall bladder and kidney stones!
- On this trip, we were also able to locate and identify another cryptogam, called Broom Moss (Dicranum scoparium).
Broom Moss is the most common species of the wind-blown moss species Dicranum. It is a species of Dicranid moss, native to North America, including the Great Lakes region. It usually forms tufts or mats on on soil in dry to moist forested areas. The foliage is yellowish green to dark green above, becoming brown and withered below. Male plants are less common than female plants and usually smaller in size. Also, broom moss has been found to have some antimicrobial properties!
Information sourced from article: Jane L. Forsyth (1971) “Linking Geology and Botany… a New Approach.”
The geology of Ohio may be divided neatly into two parts: Western and Eastern Ohio. Western Ohio is underlain by limestone, which is a relatively non-resistant rock. So, this part of Ohio has been worn down to a predominantly flat landscape. Eastern Ohio, on the other hand, is underlaid primarily by sandstone, a relatively resistant rock, which is underlain by shale to the west (and throughout the Cleveland area). Shale is much less resistant to erosion than sandstone, being worn down to low plains everywhere except where it is capped (and therefore protected) by the sandstone, and as a result, erosion in Eastern Ohio has succeeded only in carving out deep valleys, but not in wearing away the intervening higher land, forming a landscape of steep-sided sandstone/sandstone-capped hills.
The reason for the difference in kinds of rocks is relatively simple to understand. The original sequence of sedimentary rock strata, from top to bottom, were sandstone, shale, and then limestone. These layers were tilted into a low arch before erosion began about 200 million years ago. The arch stood highest generally north to south through Western Ohio, which is now where the oldest rocks are exposed. Further east, away from the crest, the youngest layers (sandstone) were not removed, which led to the difference we see today. Most of the erosion of all the limestone in western Ohio + the shale and limestone in the East was accomplished by the Teays River, a pre-glacial river that was present in Ohio for about 2oo million years. The Teays system is thought to have eroded the land throughout the entire length of that time, until the advance of the glaciers of the Ice Age (Pleistocene Epoch) curtailed its activities less than a million years ago.
The Pleistocene glaciers were greatly slowed down by the sandstone hills of eastern Ohio, so the glacial boundary in Eastern Ohio is much further north than that of Western Ohio.
An effect of glaciation is the deposition of glacial till, an unsorted mixture of sand, silt, clay and boulders accumulated directly by the melting of the ice. Till occurs as a broad, continuous blanket over almost all of glaciated Ohio. In Western Ohio, the glacial till is rich in lime and clay, products of the glacial abrasion of the limestone bedrock. In eastern Ohio, on the other hand, most of the till contains very little lime and clay.
Based on these geological differences between Western and Eastern Ohio, the basic substrates of plants in Eastern and Western Ohio were also found to be different. In Western Ohio, the most common substrate is limey (basic), clayey till which provides a relatively impermeable soil, high in lime, poorly drained, inadequately aerated, and comparatively rich in plant nutrients. Some species of trees/shrubs that have a distribution generally limited to limestone or limey substrates such as Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands are Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Red-Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Fragrant Sumac (Rhus Aromatica), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata). Some species of trees/shrubs that have a distribution generally limited to high-lime, clay-rich substrates developed in the thick glacial till of western Ohio are Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Red Oak (Quercus borealis), Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata), and White Ash (Fraxinus americana).
In Eastern Ohio, the very permeable (= well-aerated) sandstone bedrock produces a very acidic, low-nutrient substrate which is particularly dry on the tops of the hills. Some species of trees/shrubs that have a distribution generally limited to the sandstone hills of Eastern Ohio are Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Scrub Pine (Pinus virginiana), Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), and Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).
The Sweet Buckeye tree doesn’t occur anywhere within the glacial boundary. Hemlock, by contrast, is also present in unglaciated Eastern Ohio but its distribution extends well north of the glacial boundary in that area. Rhodendron, on the other hand, seems to be distributed along the former location of the ancient Teays River system. Although the Teays drainage was blocked by glacial advance, the plants whose distribution was determined by the Teays River system’s patterns still remain.
There are instances of plants that we saw on our field trips that are consistent with the patterns Forsyth explains with respect to acid sandstone places, like we visited on our Deep Woods field trip, compared with calcareous sites in Eastern Ohio, like the Battelle Darby Metro Park field trip.
During our field trip in the Deep Woods, we located several species of trees that Forsyth mentioned as being typical of acid sandstone substrates, such as Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and a Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum). Another plant we saw in this acidic soil was Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), a species of orchid that is usually found in acidic soils
During our Battelle Darby Metropark field trip, on the other hand, we were able to see several species of trees that Forsyth mentioned as being typical of calcareous substrates. For example, on our trip we were able to see Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia), as well as red oak (Quercus borealis) and White Oak (Quercus alba) trees. These trees were mentioned in the article as being characteristically present on the high-lime, clay-rich substrates developed in the thick till of Western Ohio.
Spotting the Appalachian Gametophyte!:
During the Deep Woods field trip, we also spotted the Appalachian Gametophyte! The Appalachian Gametophyte is an example of a fern which exists only in the gametophyte stage of its life cycle. Because it’s only able to exist as a gametophyte, the Appalachian Gametophyte usually does not travel very far in terms of range of offspring.
We saw the Appalachian Gametophyte close to the beginning of our trip, within the depths of a sandstone cave. The part of the cave where we spotted the gametophyte is dark and moist year-round, and fairly deep within the cave, so it was also protected from many environmental disturbances.
This past Wednesday, our class went on a field trip to the Battelle Darby Metro Park! On this trip we saw many things, including wetland plants, smelly plants, invasive plants, plant/animal interactions and more, as Dr. Klips put it! While there, I was given the assignment of writing a blog post on 3 Trees in the Wet Prairie Ecosystem we visited. So here they are!
3 Trees of the Wet Prairie Ecosystem
1. Eastern Cottonwood, Populus deltoides
One of the trees we saw in the wetland prairie ecosystem was the Eastern Cottonwood tree, of the genus Populus. The Eastern Cottonwood is a type of Poplar present through all of Ohio, and is almost as massive as the Sycamore in terms of its girth and broad-spreading canopy! It “frequents floodplains and river bottoms,” so it makes sense that we found it in the wet prairie ecosystem, but it can also be planted “in the driest of soils and survive to produce adequate shade.” The fact that it can adapt well to harsh conditions makes it prized in the Great Plains and the south-central United States.
- Willow, Salix
Another tree we saw in the wetland prairie ecosystem during our field trip was the Willow tree, of the genus Salix. Although Black Willow trees are the most common Willow in Ohio and are known to be found in wetlands/alongside streams, ponds, rivers, and in swampy/marshy areas, Black Willows are recognizable by having stipules that completely encircle the stem. As can be seen in the picture, this tree does not have such stipules, so I think this tree might be a Streamco Willow, Salix purpurea. The Streamco Willow was introduced from Europe in colonial days, but has since “escaped on a limited basis into wet areas of Ohio” (like the wet Prairie!). The Streamco Willow grows to 15 feet tall by 15 feet wide, and as a member of the Willow family, it is related to Poplars and other Willows.
- American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis
The last tree of this blog post that we found in the wet Prairie on our field trip was one of my favorite trees, the American Sycamore! While it’s not the tallest tree, it’s considered the most massive tree as defined by its circumference in the eastern half of the United States. The American Sycamore is often found naturally along the edges of bodies of water and in wet areas of fields or woodlands, making the wet prairie environment a perfect environment! Unfortunately, the American Sycamore tree is very prone to annual infections of a fungus, anthracnose, which destroys new growth in spring.