Field Trips

Prairie and Fen

Tallgrass prairies are native to North America and is an ecosystem that is capable of supporting a vast amount of biodiversity. The ecosystem health of tallgrass prairies are dependent upon fires, set naturally or with human help. Also: an open community dominated by grass, having less than 1 tree per acre.

They are rare in Ohio, mainly due to the effects of agriculture, but have persisted in pioneer cemeteries, railroad right-of-ways, and some moderately grazed areas. Common plants for in tallgrass prairies include big bluestem, indian grass, nodding wild rye, and switch grass.

Cedar bog is an alkaline bog and is one of  only 25 National Natural Landmarks in Ohio. Alkaline bogs occur near gravel ridges or moraines where springs can supply ground water. Spring water is highly alkaline because the water moves through the soil, it goes through limestone-rich gravel. The cool water cool the temperature below ground and effects the germination and growing season of the vegetation found there.

 

Woodlands and Meadows

 

 

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

A good way to distinguish sensitive fern form other ferns is that it grows its spores on a modified leaf, called a ‘fertile frond’. This fertile frond and the fern grow from separate stalks from the original rootstalk. It is also known as sensitive fern because it is highly susceptible to the first frost of the year.

There are several insects associated with this fern, which include: the aphid Amphorophora ampullata, which feeds on the juices of the fern, the larvae of the sawfly feed on the leaves, and the sensitive fern borer moth, which bores into the stem and root system of the fern. The foliage can be toxic to animals such as horses and deer if eaten in large quantities.

 

Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginia)

Witch-hazel is considered a large shrub to a small tree. It has obovate leaves that turn yellow/yellow-orange in the fall, and produces yellow flowers that 4 ribbon/strap like petals that grow in clusters. It’s fruit is in a hard capsule that will release the seeds 1 year after pollination. The capsule typically ‘explodes’ launching 2 seeds up to 10m from the tree. It can be differentiated from other with-hazel plants by the fact the it flowers in the fall, and not the winter.

Native Americans boiled the stem to produce a decoction that was used to help treat swellings, inflammations, and tumors. From this specific type of witch-hazel, it produces a specific kind of tannin that is known to display a cytotoxic effect against colon cancer cells. Parts of the plant are used to make the astringent that many of us have in our cupboards.