- The site of the Lower Olentangy Ecosystem Restoration Project is located off of Olentangy River Road on the west side of campus at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The long and narrow site is boarded by a small parking lot to the west and by the Olentnagy River to the east. Along the parking lot there is a fairly dense layer of tall trees and woody shrubs before dipping down a steep incline into a sandy riverbank. There are several short pathways that cut through the dense vegetation from the parking lot down to the river, most certainly a result of being surrounded by a large, urban college campus. Once down along the riverbank the site is much more open, as most of the vegetation consists of smaller shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants about knee or chest high. There are a few small, solitary trees in this area, as well as various insects and waterfowl. The vegetation then begins to taper out as the sandy beach turns into a muddy surface that descends into the river.
- Map of site:
3-4. Plants and interesting facts!
Interesting fact: Tree-of-heaven is often considered an invasive species due to its ability to grow rapidly and out-compete surrounding vegetation. This tree can form dense thickets, release toxins into the soil, and even grow through cracks in the middle of sidewalks and alleys. It is the tree described in the well-known book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” by Betty Smith (www.bio.brandeis.edu).
Staghorn sumac is a large shrub (occasionally a small tree) that is names for the soft hairs found on the branches as they resemble a deer’s antler when “in velvet.” The twigs release a milky sap when crushed, and Native Americans used the plant as an antiseptic, an astringent, and in place of tobacco (www.oardc.ohio-state.edu).
Common pokeweed is toxic to humans, pets, and livestock, but was used medicinally by Native Americans to treat hemorrhoids and headaches. Additionally, modern scientists have isolated a protein from the plant that they are trying to use to prevent the HIV virus from replicating in human cells (www.oardc.ohio-state.edu).
5. Poison ivy:
As pictured above, poison ivy (Rhus radicans L.) grows with leaves of three leaflets with the middle leaflet usually attached to a longer stalk. Additionally, each leaflet is typically glossy and has a pointed tip, but can vary in shape from elliptical, egg-shaped, or mitten-shaped with teeth. The plant can grow as either a trailing vine, a climbing vine, or an erect shrub, and it produces small, white berries. Poison ivy is commonly found in areas that have been or are frequently disturbed, such as on the edge of a path or forested area.
Photos from Bob Klips of the Ohio Moss & Lichen Association
Coefficient of Conservatism (CC):
4 high CC species:
Platanus occidentalis (L.) American sycamore (Fig. 12). Native woody canopy tree. CC = 7. The bark of this tree species is often mottled and flaking off to reveal yellowish or whitish underbark. Its leaves are alternate and simple, with 3-5 lobes and edged with large teeth and small fruits in long-stalked hanging balls can be seen in late fall. Sycamores are common in woodlands and wooded banks of streams and rivers. They rival tulip-trees in height but are generally considered the most massive trees of eastern U.S., and the hard wood is frequently used for boxes, barrels, butchers’ blocks, cabinetwork, and furniture (Petrides, 1972).
Acer saccharum (Marshall). Sugar maple. Large, native, woody, canopy tree. CC = 5. Sugar maple is largely distinguished by its opposite, simple, moderately-lobed leaves (typically 5 lobes). Additionally, the trunk bark often has large vertical grooves or ridges. It is a common tree that grows in mesic and sandy woodlands, as well as in parks and yards. Not only is the species valued for its uses in furniture and syrup production, but Sugar maples have also historically been used as soap, dye, and for treating coughs, diarrhea, liver, and kidney problems (The Arbor Day Foundation).
Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash. Indian grass. Native ground-cover grass. CC = 5. This species of grass ranges from 3-8’ in height and has broad, blue-green leaves and a large, golden-brown seed head. Indian grass is an important component of tall grass prairies and can also be found in open woods and fields in both dry and moist soils. The grass seeds are eaten by small mammals and birds, and the plant serves as a larval host for the pepper-and-salt skipper butterfly (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center).
Aesculus glabra (Willd) Ohio buckeye. Native canopy or medium-sized tree. CC = 6. Ohio buckeye trees have opposite leaves with (usually) five leaflets arranged like the spokes of a wheel. It is distinguished from Sweet buckeye by its ridged bud scales (Fig. 10) and foul twig odor. Ohio buckeye is commonly found in woodland areas and along wooded river valleys. Crushing its fruits and branches used to be a popular strategy to poison and kill fish for food (Petrides, 1972).
4 low CC species:
Phytolacca americana (L.) Pokeweed. Native ground-cover plant. CC = 1. Common pokeweed is a large, bushy plant that can grow between 4-10’ high and has a large taproot, smooth red-purple stems, and dark purple berries that form in clusters. It is often found in pastures, roadsides, and open woods where it prefers moist and gravelly soils. Pokeweed is toxic to humans, pets, and livestock, but was used medicinally by Native Americans to treat hemorrhoids and headaches. Additionally, modern scientists have isolated a protein from the plant that they are trying to use to prevent the HIV virus from replicating in human cells (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center).
Cynanchum laeve (L.) Honeyvine milkweed or sandvine. Native, twining, herbaceous vine. CC = 1. This species of herbaceous vine has two opposite, heart-shaped leaves per node and long, smooth, green fruit pods with seeds in them. The weedy plant is common in central and southern Ohio and is usually found in fields, fencerows, and along riverbanks. Its twining and climbing habits make it a major pest during crop harvest, forcing the use of herbicides for control. Also known as Ampelamus albidus (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center).
Aster ericoides (L.) White heath aster. Native ground-cover aster. CC = 2. White heath aster consists of a composite flower numerous yellow disks and roughly 12 white rays. Needle-like green bracts extend at the base of the flower head. It is slightly common and can be found in prairies, savannas, rocky forests, and along roadsides, railroads, and pastures. Many types of animals benefit from this plant, including bees, wasps, and flies that are attracted to the flowers, aphids that suck juices from the plant, caterpillars that feed on the foliage, and white-tailed deer that feed on younger-growth plants (Hilty, 2017).
Typha latifolia (L.) Common cattail. Native marshy plant. CC = 1. Cattails range from 4-9’ tall and are unbranched with linear bluish gray leaves and a brownish, flowering stalk. They are relatively common and occasionally considered invasive, and are found in marshes, swamps, seeps, river and pond borders, and ditches. The starchy rootstocks of this plant serve as a key food source to muskrats, and many wetland animals and birds rely on the dense stands for cover and nesting (Hilty, 2017).