Thursday, September 24, 2009

Metro Parks Challenge #3 Battelle Darby

A curious goldfinch greets us along the trail

If you live in Ohio, or quite possibly if you really like aquatic ecosystems and live in another state, you may have heard of the "The Darby". This gem of an ecosystem lies just outside Columbus and drains the Darby Plains, once home to a great expanse of natural tall grass prairie, and now home to some of Ohio's richest agricultural land.

Even so, the Big and Little Darby Creeks are still amazingly rich in biodiversity- if I were at work I could tell you exactly how many rare species live in these streams, but safe to say it is dozens. The streams were designated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as State Scenic Rivers back in 1984 and recognized as national scenic rivers in 1994. I have to say that these two creeks are the biological gems of central Ohio, and I just simply need to visit these areas more often.

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is where to go to see the Big Darby, and even some of Little Darby, as the two streams reach their confluence in this Metro Park.
The streams are quite unassuming. But underneath their surfaces is a rich diversity of beautifully colored fish and freshwater mussels with bizarre life histories.

So what better place to introduce Weston to a world class ecosystem AND complete our third Metro Parks Hike for the year? Here he is in the backback- If you remember back to our Sharon Woods hike, we forgot the sun shade- but not this time.
However- We DID forget his bib! How fun it was to watch Mom get food all over the place. Murphy's law was certainly in place this day- forget the bib and he'll be sure to be extra messy with his baby barley cereal.

On our way along the trail, we encountered things like cutleaf coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata.
And in higher drier meadows we saw one of the cudweed species in the genus Pseudognaphalium.

And we also got to introduce Weston to map turtles. This female was basking on a rock in a large pool created just downstream from the confluence of the Darby Creeks. She was absolutely huge, probably 10 inches long- dwarfing her male counterparts at the other end of the rock.

As we returned north through the most mature woods along the trail, I happened to spot the plant pictured above. Weird, I thought to myself, I've never seen this. I thought it might be an orchid. A quick e-mail to my colleague Rick Gardner after we returned home and he confirmed that my suspicion was indeed correct. He identified this as the autumn coralroot, Corallorhiza odontorhiza. Some plant species produce flowers that never open and are self fertilized- botanists call these cleistogamous flowers. Autumn coralroot can produce both types of flowers, so it is possible that these flowers will open eventually, or it is possible that they will remain closed and self fertilize.

Megan, Weston, and I had great fun at Battelle Darby Creek Metropark. We parked at the Cedar Ridge area and followed the Indian Ridge trail south to the Indian Ridge Picnic area and back. Here's an aerial view of the day's adventure.

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  1. Very nice- I knew you would lots of interesting naturey things to say! I love how we focus on different things- provides good balance.

  2. What a wonderful hike, messy shirt and all!

  3. I'm interested in the "beautifully colored fish and fresh water mussels with their bizarre life histories". Recently read about the bitterlings laying eggs in the siphons of mussels, but didn't think that was a local phenomena. Love hearing all the co-evolved mutualisms. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction!

  4. What a coincidental posting! At lunch today, one of my employees brought into my office a plant that he couldn't identify (it's usually the other around). As soon as I saw his specimen, I knew exactly what it was--Pseudognapthalium--becasue I'd seen it on the Ohio Nature Blog this very morning! Though I could have kept my mouth shut and looked like a real pro, I admitted that I'd seen the plant this morning on Tom's blog.

  5. Megan- Yes, I agree. Be sure to check out Megan's post as well.

    Chris- Thanks very much. He is pretty cute, isn't he?

    Jennie- Freshwater mussels have some really cool mutualisms. I'll try to point out some on my next post.

    Scott- Cool. This has happened to me plenty of times, especially with insects, but really with everything. I learn so much by reading nature blogs. Thanks for reading this nature blog.



  6. OMG! Weston's getting so big already! Jeeze!

  7. Messy is cute at that age :-) Love the turtle shot.