Introduction

Blendon Woods is a metro park within Franklin County, sporting great diversity throughout its forests, meadows, ravines, and lake waterfowl reserve. The park lies in the Big Walnut near the glacial boundary of limey glacial till to the west and acidic sandstone to the east. Streams that run through the park enter Big Walnut Creek and eventually flow into the Upper Scioto watershed. The land has been populated for thousands of years from pre-glacial eras and beyond. Notable groups include the Adena, Hopewell, and Iroquois. From the 1600s and beyond, the land was used to travel through by Native groups. During European colonization, most of the land remained uncleared for agriculture due to the thick oak, maple, and beech stands that occupied the area. In the modern century, Blendon Woods contains more than 650 acres of reserved land for recreation and habitat preservation, originally opening with 241 acres in 1951. This survey hones in on the Sugarbush trail, the longest available at the park, which runs through forested areas and meadows. The area is rich in floral and wildlife diversity, with countless birds, waterfowl, deer, amphibians, and more. Lake Thoreau was installed as a 11 acre body with a 118 acre waterfowl reserve surrounding it. Two observation decks are open year round for a chance to spot wildlife. I’ve lived by this metro park my entire life, and have spent hours exploring the trails. Here is where I encountered my love for the natural world, and in this survey I hope to share it.

https://digital-collections.columbuslibrary.org/digital/collection/p16802coll28/id/165232

Blendon Woods Metro Park–Thoreau Pond

An aerial view of Blendon Woods, off of state route 161


A Note on Poison Ivy

The trifoliate slightly lobed leaves of poison ivy

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

While exploring the natural world, it can become easy to ignore all of the foliage as one tromps through the wood. However, staying aware remains important as some of the greatest threats are found within the plant life itself. One of these threats is poison ivy (Rhus radicans), a woody vine with alternate trifoliate leaves with occasionally red stalks and sparsely lobed margins. The vines it grows on posses small aerial roots and can be fibrous. The leaves can be anywhere from 4 to 14 inches, with small, yellowish flowers in early Summer and clustered white drupes in the fall. A similar climbing vine is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), but is distinguishable by its palmately compound leaves of five toothed leaflets.

Poison Ivy may be harmful to humans, but a variety of wildlife from birds to whitetail deer rely on the foliage and fruit as food sources. Humans are rare in having an allergic reaction to the oily resin produced by the plant.

 


Flowers and Inflorescences

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

The blooms of Multiflora Rose

The forest floor had scattered rose bushes

The Multiflora Rose, while sporting attractive clusters of white flowers, is actually an invasive species that was originally cultivated from East Asia. It is recognizable by its feathery alternate compound leaves and long, comb-like stipules alongside its spikes. The flowers emerge in terminal clusters alongside serrated leaves. This species has been planted for erosion control and wildlife benefits but was brought in the 19th century for ornamental purposes. Despite the food source it provides for mammals and songbirds, this plant has escaped many controlled plantings encouraged by the USDA and spread rapidly. The shrub itself can grow up to 15 feet, forming thickets quickly and even being used to reduce the impact of vehicle crashes on the side of highways. (https://www.ecolandscaping.org/07/landscape-challenges/invasive-plants/multiflora-rose-an-exotic-invasive-plant-fact-sheet/)

 

Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

Common Ragwort is a member of the Asteraceae or sunflower family, posessing ray and disc flowers with an apocarpous gynoecium. The flowers are organized on a cymose capitulum. This plant is actually poisonous, often posing harm to livestock as it is considered a weedy growth in paddocks. Ragwort is a host plant and source of food for Cinnabar moths while attracting a variety of pollinators. Ragwort is also biennial, flowering on its second year.

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/common-ragwort

 

Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

Residing in the Brassicaceae or mustard family, the Dame’s Rocket sports four petaled bright pink or purple flowers in the spring in woodlands and disturbed areas; often, it is an invader. Like most mustard family members, its fruit consists of a long silique and a bractless terminal inflorescence. Usually, it is a perennial or biennial with finely toothed, hairy, and alternate leaves. It is often mistaken for phlox, but is distinguishable by its four petals instead of the five typical of phlox. Dame’s Rocket provides nectar for a variety of pollinators and has edible flowers.

https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Invasives/fact/DamesRocket.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Note the delicate leaves beneath the infloresence

This plant is a member of the Asteraceae family, otherwise known as the sunflower family distinguished by the presence of sterile ray and fertile disc flowers posessing the carpels. The leaves are alternate and double pinnately compound with delicately lobed leaflets. It can grow up to 3 feet tall with clusters of small white flowers with yellow centers. Yarrow has frequently been used as medicine for fevers and within herbal teas particularly by Native peoples.

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=acmi2

 

 

 

 

 

 


Invasive Plants

Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)

The twin flowers of honeysuckle

As a highly aggressive and difficult to remove invasive, many of those working in environmental fields, including myself, abhor the Amur Honeysuckle. This woody plant has opposite, entire, oval, and semi-evergreen leaves, beating competition in the early spring and late fall. The stems can grow as large as 30 feet and are hairy with noticeable stripes. Honeysuckle flowers during spring upwards of summer with pairs of flowers made up of five fused petals turning yellow with age. Introduced from East Asia in the early 19th century in New York for erosion control, ornamentation, and wildlife habitat, this plant quickly spread especially in disturbed areas. This plant cuts off other native understory plants from sunlight beginning in early spring as one of the first to sprout leaves, growing and spreading rapidly with this energy. They can grow as colonies with connected roots and root suckle other plants. While no biological control is available for this species, mechanical removal including root systems or applications of herbicides after the flowering and fruiting seasons have finished have proved to be effective in preventing growth.

https://www.oipc.info/invasive-plants-of-ohio.html

 

Autumn-Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

While often having attractive silvery scales adorning the surface of its leaves, the Autumn-Olive has aggressively found its way across the soils of Ohio. Native to East Asia and cultivated in Germany, this plant was similarly brought to North America as an ornamental and found suitable ecosystems here. It is recognizable by its wavy, long oval, entire leaves. The flowers are small and yellow and are replaced with red fleshy berries. Autumn-olive is able to fix nitrogen with beneficial bacteria on its roots, allowing it to survive in unfavorable substrates across the state. Mechanical removal is successful when the plant is removed and the roots are buried. Fire and repeated mowing is also used but is not as effective due to the quick sprouting of the species. Herbicides can be applied to the foliage or bark and are often the most successful control method in combination with mechanical removal.

https://www.oipc.info/invasive-plants-of-ohio.html

 


Fruits of Woody Plants

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

The redbud possesses alternate heart shaped, simple leaves with an entire margin and vibrant pink buds in the spring before the presence of leaves. These buds are actually edible as well! They are almost like spinach and work great in salads or omelets. The fruit that forms during summer consists of a legume pod. This tree is a member of the legume family Fabaceae though does not grow nitrogen-fixing root nodules like other species. Redbuds tend to occur on dry, high sites with shallow soil. The fruit of redbuds is a flat, long legume containing small red seeds. The legumes are about 2 to 3 inches long and are edible when young. The seeds are dispersed by wind and birds.

(https://bernheim.org/learn/trees-plants/bernheim-select-urban-trees/eastern-redbud/

 

 

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

Native to Europe and Western Asia, these maples are invading the edges of woodlands in the US. They were originally brought for ornamental use and have spread due to their high tolerance of a variety of environments. They are also more likely to resist insect and fungal infections. Like most maples, this tree produces a pair of winged fruit known as samaras, each containing two seeds. These trees have broad, opposite, simple, and pointed lobed leaves. It is distinguishable from Sugar Maple as milky sap emerges when the petiole is cut. The fruits are dispersed through the wind, spiraling as they fall and earning the nickname ‘helicopters’.

https://nyis.info/invasive_species/norway-maple/

 

 

 

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Flowers and emerging fruits

The Tulip tree is one of my favorite to spot in Ohio, sporting green and orange flowers in spring as one of the tallest American hardwoods, and is the state tree of Kentucky. It is actually more closely related to magnolias than other hardwood trees. It thrives in deep, rich, and well draining soil often soaking up full sun. If not for the striking flowers, the uniquely 4 pointed lobed leaf makes it identifiable. The fruits are samaras are upright and arranged in a tight spiral emerging from the flower. These fruits are dispersed with the wind. The wood of this tree has been used for construction since colonial settlement and was utilized to carve canoes by native groups. The flowers are pollinated by bees and hummingbirds, and can be used for a gourmet honey.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Tulip-Poplar

 

Morello/Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

The sour cherry tree originates in the Eastern hemisphere within Europe, being brought to the Americas for ornamental purposes then moving southward in the states. It is distinguishable by its 6-8 pairs of wide leaves with side veins and cracked bark. The leaves are egg shaped and often double toothed. The flowers and fruits are clustered on leafy spur branches, fruiting in mid-summer. Some varieties are cultivated for their tart flavored fruit. The fruit is considered a drupe.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mosses and Lichens

Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum)

Delicate foliage

This beautiful moss earns its namesake with delicately twice to triple pinnate leaves matting across as this pleurocarp grows over its rhizomes. The triangular to ovate leaves grow on long stalks, posessing long cilia on their margins. Additionally, when under the microscope, the leaves are papillose. The sporophytes are rarely produced and are green to dull red in color with a curved, cylindrical capsule, conical lid, and white beaked hood. When the cap is released, spores are dispersed in the wind. Fern moss typically grows in acidic, moist areas such as rotting logs or shaded sandstone. In terms of ecological value, this moss provides nesting material for a variety of birds and salamanders. It also provides shelter to small animals and invertebrates. Humans have used this moss for packing material in log cabins, bedding, and even ornamental purposes.

https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/mosses/plants/cm_fernmoss.html

 

Yew-Leaved Pocket Moss (Fissidens taxifolius)

Note the flat leaf stalks

This member of the Fissidens family is an acrocarp with notably flat stems and up to 15 pairs of oppositely arranged, oblong, and smooth leaves. They are semi-translucent and taper abruptly from where they clasp the stem. A whitish midrib extends the entire portion of the leaf. The sporophyte of this species emerges from the base of the stem as an individual stalk, featuring a capsule wider at its peak that turns red as it ages. When the cap is released once mature in Autumn, inward curving red papillose teeth are revealed on the capsule. Pocket moss is fond of soil containing clay, making it more common in glaciated Ohio. It rarely grows on rocks or bark. The trumpeter swan feeds on this particular species.

https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/mosses/plants/yl_pkmoss.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Moss (Climacium dendroides)

Tree moss coating a mound of clay soil

This unique species grows from firm brown stalks, ending in tufts of leaves resembling a tree! Tree moss is acrocarpous, while the leaves are toothed, egg shaped, and end in a point. Though, this species is often identifiable from its unique structure. The stem also has leaves, but they are flush against it and not pleated. The red or brown sporophytes are rare, only to be seen in late winter or early spring posessing a cylindrical capsule. It resides on fallen logs or directly on substrate, rarely seen on rocks. Tree moss thrives in areas that are frequently flooded or marshy habitats. This species is widespread across the continental US, reaching up to the alpine tundra.

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Climacium%20dendroides&lifeform=9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough Speckled Shield Lichen (Punctelia rudecta)

Brightly colored foliage

Rough Speckled Shield lichen is a fairly large, brightly colored foliose lichen that typically grows on trees in light shade but is also found on rocks. The center of the thallium has dense clusters of isidia for asexual propagation. The body itself is a dusty greenish teal with broad, rounded lobes and a brown undersurface that can peel up from the substrate. The tips of the lobes have white spots known as psuedocyphellae where hyphae from the medulla break through the cortex. This species is relatively common and found in every county in Ohio. It has been used as a dye that creates a magenta color. This species was found throughout the site, on fallen branches and living bark.

 

 


References

Information on the trees and woody shrubs was sourced from Peterson’s Guide to Trees and Shrubs (1986) by George A. Petrides. Identification and information on lichens was found in the Common Lichens of Ohio Field Guide (2015, OH DOW) by Ray Showman. Any additional information was sourced online or from our professor, Dr. Klips, in the field.