Hello! Thanks for joining us today as we venture out once more to explore all of the plants that Ohio has to offer.
In order to form a better understanding of how plants grow in a wide range of environments across the state, let’s focus on one field site located in Columbus: the Whetstone Park of Roses.
Whetstone Park is a vast expanse of natural land with a few cultivated areas inside (like the Garden of Roses, its claim to fame!). The park is located north of the city and it spans an impressive 148 acres in total. Whetstone makes for a great field site as it has several different landmarks, each providing certain benefits to the plants that grow nearby. There are areas of dense forest, Adena Brook, Whetstone Pond, and a few open fields. Most notably, the park is bordered to the west by the Olentangy River, which feeds the brook.
Here is an aerial view of the park, courtesy of Google Maps!
A proposed interpretive sign for Whetstone
As I strolled across the park looking for plants, I came across this informational sign:
It was located near a natural field comprised of tall grasses and wildflowers, just buzzing with all sorts of pollinators. I enjoyed the sign’s colorful graphics of common pollinators, as well as the interesting facts about why pollinators are so important. However, I feel that the sign was lacking in the plant department, only showing examples of flowers and including no information about any of them! I decided to create a similar sign, but with two major changes. First, I wanted to put the focus on the plants by including facts about them and their contributions to supporting animal life instead of the other way around. Secondly, I figured that since this sign focused on some of the park’s flowers, I would instead choose the park’s trees for my sign! I do want to retain the clean organization of the above sign, as well as find a way to display the animals-plant link, but in a manner that does not distract from the trees.
Here is the design that I came up with:
My sign includes pictures of various significant trees from the park, as well as facts about how they are beneficially utilized by wildlife. I decided to include simple black graphics (to avoid taking away from the trees) of both the animals mentioned on the sign and the tree leaves, berries and nuts that are so useful to them in order to further display their link. Overall, I like how the design turned out, and if I were to make future signs, I would choose a variety of plants and their benefits to wildlife to put up around the park. I would also like to enlarge the signs in order to put more text on them!
Now, let’s take a closer look at the plants that we discovered while on our walk through Whetstone…
First up, we have a beautiful Black Locust tree, or Robinia pseudoacacia. This tree has opposite, pinnately compound leaves with entire margins and was located along the side of the road, right at the outskirts of the forest. It grows clusters of fragrant white flowers with yellow centers, which honey bees can use to produce high-quality honey. Black Locust wood is among the strongest in North America, and the first settlers utilized these trees for building their homes.
(info from: https://www.livescience.com/50732-black-locust-tree-shaped-the-united-states.html)
Next, we found a Silver Maple, or Acer saccharinum. Maples can be distinguished easily by closely examining the lobe pattern and edges of their leaves, as each is unique. This Silver Maple has opposite, simple leaves with lobed margins, and was found growing in the forest area along a walking path. Silver Maple sap can be used as a cough syrup, and their wood is highly workable, making it ideal for furniture.
(info from: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_acsa2.pdf)
The first flower we came across in a grassy area was this lovely little Pink Clover, or Trifolium pratense. It is a short plant, with oblong leaves and a large head that has many florets. It also comes in a white variety, which is also pictured below. Interestingly, the Pink Clover has many medicinal purposes, such as treating skin cancer, eczema and psoriasis, as well as alleviating PMS symptoms.
(info from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-308/red-clover)
Next, we saw the Yellow Wood Sorrel, or Oxalis stricta. It stands out with its vibrant yellow flowers with five petals and heart-shaped leaves that form trios. It was fond growing at the base of a few immature trees at the forest edge. This flower has been used for both cooking and medicine! It has a tangy flavor that makes it a good candidate for steeping teas and flavoring soups and stews. Additionally, it helps treat sore throats, nausea, mouth sores, and UTI’s.
(info from: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/yellow-woodsorrel-uses.htm)
There were an abundant amount of vines, all targeting tall trees or growing along the forest floor. The first vine we came across was the Winter Creeper, or Euonymus fortunei, climbing up this tree. This vine has opposite, simple leaves with serrated margins. Oddly enough, these vines are planted by many gardeners who wish to have more ground cover in their flower beds or want to spruce up a bare outdoor trellis.
The next vine we encountered was the River Grape, or Vitis riparia. It was found snaking along an immature tree branch along the outskirts of the forest. It has opposite, heart-shaped leaves with serrated margins. It was surprising to find this River Grape in its location, as it was nowhere near a river!
As we further our exploration into plant diversity, it is important to remember that not all plants are safe, so we must proceed with caution. One such plant is Poison Ivy, or Toxicodendron radicans (see, the prefix “toxico” in its scientific name even gives it away!). When it contacts the skin, Poison Ivy causes an intense allergic reaction that produces itchiness, rash and painful blisters. Yikes! In order to stay safe, we must learn how to identify this common plant. While it may seem tricky, there are plenty of characteristics that make Poison Ivy stand out.
First, its leaves end in triplets, where the leaf at the head of the plant is usually slightly longer than the two on either side. Secondly, the two side leaves tend to have short, almost nonexistent stems, while the head leaf has a much longer, obvious stem. Third, Poison Ivy leaves may be shaped like a pair of mittens, where there are two small “thumbs” that point posteriorly on both side leaves. Lastly, Poison Ivy produces toxic white berries from late summer to early fall.
A sample of Poison Ivy can be seen in the photo below, where it was found growing underneath the brush in the park.
Plants with Low and High Coefficients of Conservatism
First up on our list of plants with low coefficients of conservatism is the Pennsylvania Bittercress, or Cardamine pensylvanica, with a CC of 3. It was found growing near a small stream, and has four white petals and bright yellow centers. Its leaves are opposite and pinnately compound, with small lobed margins. These flowers are edible, and have many health benefits such as removing carcinogens from the body and reducing the risk of developing vision problems.
(info from: http://www.eattheplanet.org/bittercress-a-nationwide-herb/)
Next up we have the Fanleaf Hawthorn, or Crataegus flabellata, with a CC of 3. This small tree was found growing along a walking trail, and has opposite, simple leaves with serrated margins and clusters of white flowers with yellowish-orange centers and many, long stamens. Hawthorns also produce berries, which are edible and packed with antioxidants! They have been found to lower blood pressure, aid in digestion, and prevent hair loss.
(info from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/hawthorn-berry-benefits#1)
Our third plant is the White Heath Aster, or Aster ericoides, with a low CC of 2. These pretty flowers were found right next to a small pond, and have many white petals and large yellow centers. Its leaves are oblong and triangular. They have been used for reviving unconscious patients and by the Native Americans in sweat baths to produce herbal steam.
(info from: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_syere.pdf)
For our last plant, we found this Sugar Maple, or Acer saccharum, with a CC of 5. It was found along the walking path, and has opposite, simple leaves with lobed margins. The Sugar Maple has hard, heavy wood that is used for a variety of purposes from furniture to gunstocks to bowling pins!
(info from: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_acsa3.pdf)
First up on our list of plants with high coefficients of conservatism is the Hairy Angelica, or Angelica venenosa, with a CC of 6. This flower was located along the walking trail, and is rather unique-looking, with several spherical clusters of tiny white flowers forming one giant spherical cluster. It has teardrop shaped leaves with serrated margins. The Hairy Angelica has highly toxic roots, so avoid ingesting this plant!
(info from: https://izelplants.com/angelica-venenosa-hairy-angelica.html)
Next on our list is the Bush Honeysuckle, or Diervilla lonicera, with a CC of 7. This bush was found growing close by a small stream and it has alternate, pinnately compound leaves with serrated margins and clusters of white flowers with yellow centers and long stamens and pistils. Interestingly, the Bush Honeysuckle can be mixed into an eyewash to relieve sore eyes.
(info from: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/d/diervilla-lonicera=bush-honeysuckle.php)
Our third plant is the Red Oak, or Quercus rubra, with a CC of 6. It was found along the walking path and has alternate, simple leaves with lobed margins. Its wood stains an extremely beautiful reddish-orange color, and is a popular choice for flooring, furniture, and door and drawer handles.
(info from: https://www.thewoodbox.com/data/wood/redoakinfo.htm)
For our last plant, we found this American Basswood, or Tilia Americana, with a CC of 6. It was growing in the middle of a grassy field, and has alternate, simple, heart-shaped leaves with serrated margins. The American Basswood used to be used for making prosthetic limbs due to its pliability, but is now used for more traditional purposes such as carved wooden boxes, toys, and Venetian blinds.
(info from: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_tiama.pdf)