Battelle Darby Metro Park
On our lovely field trip to Battelle Darby Metro Park I was gifted the task of finding three different vine species. The first vine species I sought out was probably the first one that came to your mind as well. There is nothing more appropriate than to start with the infamous vine that, if you are lucky, you have not encountered up close – poison ivy.
Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron radicans
Here it was found growing on a tree in the park. So how does one spot poison ivy, you ask? There is always the classic saying – ‘leaves of three, let them be’, but I’m sure it won’t take you long to realize that there are more plants in the world besides poison ivy that have ‘leaves of three’. The leaves do appear in leaflet groups of three that are toothed and they alternate on the vine. Another helpful identifier of poison ivy is that the middle leaflet stem is longer than the two on the side.
So what is it about poison ivy that makes it such an unwelcome guest? The answer to that would be urushiol. Urushiol is a chemical that causes the nasty, itchy rash that most people get when they come into contact with it.
Poison ivy actually has quite an interesting history! A french doctor by the name of André-Ignace-Joseph Dufresnoy was almost put to death over his love of this vine. Sounds crazy, right? Right. He thought that this vine might have some use in medicine and crafted some medications and infusions. During the time of French Revolution he had sent some of his dear plant to a friend and later wrote asking how the plant, Rhus, was doing. Well his letter was then intercepted and he was accused of conspiring with Russians. Why would a man get arrested for asking how a plant is doing, you ask? Good question. As it turns out, the french word for ‘Russians’, Russes, is very close to the latin name for poison ivy, Rhus. This story does have a happy ending as he was able to explain the little mix up. (https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/no-ill-nature-the-surprising-history-and-science-of-poison-ivy-and-its-relatives).
Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia
This vine has alternate, compound leaves that have five leaflets. It is native to the eastern half of the United States and is a fairly hardy vine.
While this plant is not toxic like our friend, poison ivy, it too has been used for medicinal purposes. Specifically the bark of this vine has been used for purposes such as a tonic, an expectorant, and even as a remedy for edema, which is swelling in the tissues of the body caused by fluid. (https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_paqu2.pdf.)
Virginia creeper is also useful for wildlife too! Many animals make this vine a part of their diet including songbirds, deer, and small mammals. What a helpful little vine!
Moonseed – Menispermum canadense
And last, but most certainly not least, we found moonseed on our trip! Moonseed is also a native vine and has alternate, simple leaves, and a pretty cool name. The leaves have 3 to 7 shallow lobes that are rounded at the ends. The leaves are attached not at the base of the leaf, but rather just near the base on the underside which is quite unique.
Hoping back on the toxic train (what an un-fun train), this vine produces a berry that is toxic to eat. (https://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/moonseed)
The name ‘moonseed’ is pretty self-explanatory, but let me explain anyway. The vine was named after the seeds that it produces which just so happen to look like a crescent moon.
I know people say that you shouldn’t pick favorites, but I do. It is this one. The moonseed vine is my favorite of the three I looked at because I think it is just so pretty!
I tried to find a joke about vines to conclude this post, but alas I came up short. So enjoy this joke instead!
Why couldn’t the gardener plant any flowers?
He hadn’t botany!
Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany
Three flower families
The first of the families that we came across at Deep Woods was the rose family – Rosaceae. The flower we found was common cinquefoil. It has five heart-shaped, yellow petals and a numerous amount of stamen along with palmately compound leaves. The latin genus name for this plant comes from the word ‘potens’ which means powerful. Why is this little yellow flower powerful? Cinquefoil is rumored to have many medicinal properties, that’s why! (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c332).
This second family I came across through my own wandering. Daisy fleabane belongs to the aster family which happens to be my favorite! It has upwards of forty white ray flowers with yellow disk flowers. Just like the cinquefoil, this flower also got its name through supposed uses the flower has. Fleabane daisies, when dried, were believed to be able to get rid of occupying fleas. While I’m not quite sure if this belief holds true, it gave this flower a fun name! (https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ERAN).
A third flower family we saw belonged to the mint family. The irregular purple flowers and square stem are a dead giveaway that this flower is a mint! (Also, a square stem?? super weird. I love it.) Creeping Charlie is one of the many names that this flower has. A more common (and less fun) name for it is ground ivy. Apparently a lot of people don’t like this plant because a google search brings up many ways to get rid of it. Some people, however, liked this plant so much that they brought it over from Europe for the purposes of ground cover and medicine. (https://www.ediblewildfood.com/creeping-charlie.aspx). Whether you want to demolish it or eat it is up to your discretion!
Other than some cool flowers, we also considered the ideas that Jane Forsyth put forth in her article Linking Geology and Botany .. a New Approach. Deep Woods is in hocking county which lies in the eastern/southeastern part of Ohio which is characterized by acidic sandstone. One could deduce this through the variety of acidic loving plants that we found on our hike! Examples of these acid loving plants that we found include chestnut oak, pink lady slipper, greenbrier, and eastern hemlock.
Battelle Darby metropark has a limestone substrate which is evident through species that we found there. For comparison, some calicphor species we saw at this park include chinquapin oak, hackberry, blue ash, and fragrant sumac. (Only the first two I took pictures of).
One last topic that we looked at concerning Deep Woods is the Appalachian gametophyte. This plant has completely lost its sporophyte stage hence why ‘gametophyte’ is in the name. And as one might also guess from the name, it is found in the region of the Appalachian mountain range. We found this species growing on the wall in the back of a cave-like rock structure. What an interesting little guy!