This past Wednesday, I traveled with my botanical sensei, Rick Gardner, and several of the Ohio Natural Heritage Naturalists to the Shawnee State Park and State Forest region near Portsmouth. What a great time we had. We headed to a place called picnic point, all 20 or so of us, to check out some of the interesting plants that grow along the forest roadsides. Yes, roadsides. Many of the rare plants at Shawnee like disturbance, and therefore, are home along the steep cuts of the narrow forest roads.
One of the first plants we ecountered was Eupatorium album, white thoroughwort. Although this species is listed as potentially threatened in Ohio, I heard Rick say "i've only seen this a few times in my life". You just don't hear Rick say those things very much!
The natural habitat on the ridge tops in the picnic point area is comprised of species that can tolerate the acidic, dry habitat. In the photo above is blackjack oak, Quercus marilandica on the left, and Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida, on the right. The only time I see these species is when I travel to the extreme southern dry ridges of our great State.
Other woody species we observed included chestnut oak, Quercus prinus, and black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, among others.
The understory of the open forest was covered with huckleberries, blueberries, and greenbriar. My legs were scraped up after we walked through this stuff- I should have been wearing my jeans instead of my lightweight nylon hiking pants.
Butterflies are always plenty whenever I travel south. Although the day wasn't particularly "lep-ful", this hackberry butterfly did enjoy sucking my sweat from my hat. It stuck around for several minutes.
Here you can see our illustrious group. You may even recognize a few folks.
Rick is the leader of the trips, and it doesn't go unnoticed. How many other botanists get fanned by a giant leaf when they begin to perspire? Unfortunately, this was the leaf of a nasty non-native species, princess tree, Paulownia tomentosa.
If you're a gardener, you may recognize this plant. Its relatives in the genus Ageratum are commonly used in the nursery trade. Pictured above is our native blue mistflower, or Conoclinium coelestinum, formerly placed in the genus Eupatorium. This species is also used as a garden plant.
Take a close look at this one. Yes, this is a blazing star, but this is Liatris aspera. I wonder why I haven't seen this species in the garden trade like spiked blazing star, a native that almost anyone that has hung around a suburban yard in the past ten years might recognize?
Shawnee is always a interesting place, with fascinating flora and fauna. And this trip didn't disappoint, with some particularly cute creatures running all over the place- But that will have to wait to tomorrow. Megan just brought down some great homemade salsa from our homegrown tomatoes. But we don't have any chips- time for a quick run to Kroger!