Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ashtabula County Wildflowers

On Thursday, I met up with a group of highly skilled naturalists affiliated with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The site of interest for the day was in the east-central portion of the county, only 5 or so miles from Ohio's eastern border with Pennsylvania. I saw and photographed several wildflowers there that are common in this part of the state, but are more rare in central Ohio.

First up we have dwarf ginseng, Panax trifolius. Here, you can see its head of star-shaped flowers. This plant is related to American ginseng, the larger and commercially valuable forest dwelling species whose roots fetch hundreds of dollars per pound. This species seems to thrive in Ohio's snowbelt region, and I saw hundreds of plants on Thursday.

Next, we have Trillium erectum. This trillium, so named because of its three distinct petals, sepals and leaves, is one of Ohio's most handsome species. It has many different common names, including Wakerobin and stinking Benjamin. A few of us smelled the flower, and we agreed that the scent was "citrusy" rather than offensive. This is my favorite trillium species simply because of its large, red blooms. This plant can be tricky however, and some individuals lack the deep red color. I have seen individual plants with cream colored or almost sea green flower petals.

Onto the third species of the day, Claytonia caroliniana, or Carolina spring beauty. This plant is related to the much more common Virginia spring beauty, one of Ohio's most common wildflowers. It is also in the same genus as the lance-leaved spring beauty, which you may remember from my trip to Colorado. Look to the leaves to distinguish Ohio's two species. Virginia spring beauty has long narrow leaves, while Carolina spring beauty has wide ovate-lanceolate leaves, one of which can be seen in the background of this picture.

Finally, Viola hastata or halberdleaf yellow violet. This species is named for its halberd shaped leaves, which are often dark green and variegated with even darker green lines. I was surprised to see about yellow violets back when I was beginning to look at wildflowers in Ohio. This is definitely a handsome violet. Note the very dark purple lines, which presumably guide insects to nectar and pollen.
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