Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany

In a visit to Deep Woods Nature Preserve near Hocking Hills, Ohio, I got to explore various flora growing in the eastern portion of the state. This acidic, eastern part of the state differs from the more basic western portion in that it is set over a layer of sandstone, making its soil acidic, allowing for a different range of flora than the eastern part that I am more familiar with. I have selected two acid-loving plants to share: eastern hemlock and chestnut oak.

eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) | an moist, acid-soil loving plant native to eastern Ohio. Pictured are the undersides of the needles, showing two lines of white stomata.

Eastern hemlock is a member of the Pinaceae family, being an evergreen northern tree. It has cinnamon-colored bark, small cones, and distinct needles with two lines of white stomata on the underside. This tree is currently threatened in Ohio by the hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an east Asian invasive insect that sucks the sap from eastern hemlocks. While being able to reproduce asexually with up to two generations per year, this insect has proved to be quite devastating in some areas, but not reaching the region that this specimen was found in. This tree is generally contained to acidic soils, such as in eastern Ohio on a layer of sandstone, however its range spreads into central Ohio on more basic limestone soils. This tree is also a semi-popular landscape tree which also likely contributes to its range extent (Wikipedia, 2019).

chestnut oak (Quercus Montana) | an acid-soil loving native Ohio tree. Pictured is a gorgeous seedling showing off its new growth. Note its large rounded “teeth” on the margins of its leaves.

Formerly Quercus prinus, this acid-loving tree is a member of the white oak group. This tree is generally limited to the eastern, acidic portion of the state but not exclusively. This tree has a high tannin content and its bark has been used historically for tanning leather. Also having a high density, it makes for good firewood. Its acorns are also an important food source for many types of wildlife (Wikipedia, 2019).

Other trees found in this area which also love acidic soils were sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), mountain maple (Acer spicatum), and pitch pine (Pinus rigida).

If I were to write the description for the Appalachian gametophyte, I would distinctly divide it into two groups or variants based on this report. This is similar to the approach in the American Journal of Botany article but I would simplify many of these very specific groups to larger regions to make it more palatable for use as an identification guide

Marsh, Prairie, & Fen

My class recently took a field trip to Cedar Bog, which should be more aptly be named, Cedar Fen. This area of protected native ecosystems sits on a geological and hydrological wonder, a fen. While both wetlands, bogs and fens are a bit different in structure. Bogs are known for their “clogging” nature, where water sits in one place, undrained, while fens are “flushed” by an underground aqiufer. This difference gives a variety of different resulting wetland ecosystems, one of which I got the chance to explore.

The marsh we visited at Cedar Bog included a quite large diversity of native flora, as well as a few invasive species. Black ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata), eastern whitecedar (Thuja occidentalis), and eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) were the dominant tree species in this hydric ecosystem. There were many cat tails (Typha latifolia) in the saturated soils and other water-loving herbaceous species. Notable invasive species include honeysuckle and multiflora rose. We also saw common sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) near the edge of the marsh by the prarie(pictured below)

common sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

The restored prairie we visited was dominated by blue bigstem (Sorghastrum nutans) and indian grass (Andropogon gerardi) (pictured below). Multiflora rose and honeysuckle could also be found at the edges of this prairie.

indian grass (Andropogon gerardi)

I specifically looked at some of the plant armaments on this trip. I documented two plants: prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). While commonly called thorns, plant armaments can come in either thorns, prickles, or spines. In this case, multiflora rose exhibited prickles, while prickly-ash showed spines. Note that the prickly-ash spines come in predictable pairs, while the multiflora rose prickles appear to be alternately arranged.

multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)

Multiflora rose can be most easily recognized by its flowers, however it was not flowering on this visit. It grows long branches with small leaflets of 5-9 on each stipule. This is an aggressively-invasive plant that seems to be somewhat managed in this area. A popular ornamental, this plant is difficult to manage and has taken over many similar ecosystems.

prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)

Prickly-ash is a native shrub that is the northernmost North American member of the citrus family (Rutaceae). It has hairy buds and bitter-aromatic dark green leaves. Its fruit are follicles with 2 seeds in each carpal. Extracts are taken from the bark which are used commonly for for traditional and alternative medicines as they are known to have antifungal and cytotoxic properties.


Braun, E. Lucy. The Woody Plants of Ohio: Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Climbers, Native, Naturalized, and Escaped. Ohio State University Press, 1989.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, September 22). Hemlock woolly adelgid. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:11, September 22, 2019, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, June 4). Quercus montana. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:21, September 22, 2019, from