to bobklips.com, the website of Bob Klips, a plant enthusiast living in
False mermaid weed: a very good mother!
Delaware Wildlife Area
Delaware County, Ohio. April 26, 2009
Traits that pertain to an organism's schedule of reproduction and death make up its "life history." Life history traits include the age at which an organism first reproduces, how often it does so, how many offspring it has, and the amount of parental care each offspring receives. The tradeoff between the number of offspring and the resources available for each one has led ecologists to distinguish two sharply different patterns, called "r-selection" and "K-selection." (The names are derived from a population growth equation where "r" concerns the rate of reproduction and "K" is the limit to population size set by the environment.)A trio of trilliums
Typically, r-selected plants are small, fast-growing, short-lived things that bear a large number of small fruits, i.e., weeds of open disturbed sites. K-selected plants are generally large-bodied, long-lived species with big fruits, i.e., forest trees. An interesting departure from the "annuals are r-selected" pattern is exhibited by some forest annuals. There aren't very many forest annuals, as the shady environment is a difficult place to grow from seed to grown-up plant in a single season. One incredibly abundant forest annual is false mermaid, Floerkea proserpinacoides (family Limnanthaceae). It grows as swarms of individual delicate stems on the ground in moist woods, each bearing a few flowers. The pistil of each flower has two or three chambers, each of which can produce one seed. The plant shown here, a robust individual, seems to have 5 or 6 flowers. Translating to a total lifetime seed output of roughly 12 seeds, this annual is remarkably K-selected. Can you think of any other plant that has so few "kids," and thus such high seed survivorship?
False mermaid. April 26, 2009. Delaware (Ohio) Wildlife Area.
Delaware Wildlife Area
Delaware County, Ohio. April 26, 2009
Every year about this time, several good friends get together for their annual "wildlfower walk" in woods at the Delaware Wildlife Area alongside Alum Creek. It was a good year for trillium, as this year we had a sighting of an uncommon one that is sometimes missed --"drooping trillium," Trillium flexipes. Yay!
Trillium is a member of that most typical monocot family, the Liliaceae (Lily family), distinguished by having showy flowers with their parts in threes: 3 sepals, 3 petals, 6 (2 x 3) stamens, and a pistil made up of 3 parts (carpels) fused together. Trillium differs from our other lily family members in that their sepals are actually green and sepal-like instead of being brightly colored just like the petals. There are 4 trillium species in central Ohio --the uncommon, very early-flowering snow trillium (T. nivale) that occurs in some woodlands flanking the Scioto River, and these 3 we saw today:
"Toadshade" (T. sessile) is recognized by its mottled leaves and unstalked (sessile) flower that doesn't ever open widely. Toadshade flowers are foul-scented, attracting beetles and flies as pollinators.
Toadshade at Delaware (Ohio) Wildlife Area April 26, 2009.
The large-flowered trillium, T. grandiflorum, is a widespread, sometimes abundant wildflower that is well loved by people and, unfortunately, by deer. Deer exert a detrimental influence on forest understory vegetation. (Is there a more succinct way to say that?) This flower is used in the logo for the Ohio Byway program. Cute logo!
Ohio Byway logo.
The logo could be labelled "autotroph," as it shows (white) an organism that uses energy from (yellow) the sun to combine gases in (blue) the air and minerals in (green) the ground to construct itself. Below, see large-flowered trillium doing just that.
Large-flowered trillium at Delaware (Ohio) Wildlife Area. April 26, 2009.
Here's the drooping trillium, T. flexipes. (This is often mistaken for "nodding trillium," T. cernuum, a northeastern species collected only once in Ohio, from Lake County in 1879.)
Drooping trillium. Delaware Wildlife (Ohio) Area. April 26, 2009.
There are many more plants in this woodland trying to pass their genes on to future generations. Among them is Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria, family Fumariaceae), pollinated by bumblebees.
Bumblebee foraging on Dutchman's breeches. April 26, 2009. Delaware (Ohio) Wildlife Area.
Here's a video of this bee actively at work. Bumblebees overwinter as mated queens. In early spring, a queen establishes an small colony shallowly underground, typically in an old mouse tunnels or nests. She builds wax chambers for her brood, and feeds the larvae pollen and nectar gathered from a great variety of flowers.
Bumblebee foraging on Dicentra at Delaware Wildlife Area. April 26, 2009.
Spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica, family Portulacaceae) is a small and abundant wildflower. It bears lance-shaped opposite leaves and five-petaled flowers. In an interesting departure fronm the common floral pattern wherein the number of sepals is the same as, or a multiple of the number of petals, flowers in this family have only 2 sepals (visible on the drooping old blossom at bottom of photo).
Spring-beauty. Delaware (Ohio) Wildlife Area. April 25, 2009.
Spring-beauty is one of the few native wildflowers that is also a weed! It is abundant in lawns and grassy roadsides in central Ohio, as shown below in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus. Spring-beauty spreads by undergound tubers (said to be edible). Perhaps this accounts for its success in a habitat where pollinators and sites for seedling establishment may be scarce.
Spring-beauty in the city. April 26, 2009. Columbus, Ohio.
Some people like to rescue animals that have been smacked by cars, bitten by cats, etc. But the wildflower walkers instead focus their altruism on plants in trouble. Although looking like a suave Frenchman or a 1960's Greenwich Village beatnik, this poor spotted geranium leaf was trapped inside an acorn cap, struggling to extricate itself. Intrepid heroes saved the day.
Spotted geranium leaf before (left) and after (right) brave rescue!
This weekend I had the great pleasure of joining members and friends of the Ohio Environmental Council on a wildflower hike at the Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve in Jackson County, Ohio. This was part of their "Real Ohio" tour series exploring some of the State's finest natural areas. It was great fun meeting terrific people and seeing lovely spring wildflowers. Also, we were reminded of some threats to Ohio biodiversity. The preserve has one or more deer exlosures that dramatically demonstrate their influence on the forest understory vegetation. The following is a sober and well-reasoned narrative that describes Odocoilius virginianus with respect to the vegetation.
A picture (MOUSEVER the essay) is worth (count 'em!) a thousand words.
Deer exclosure with a trillion trilliums inside.
Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve. April 25, 2009.
Despite the best efforts of deer to use them as cellular fuel and raw materials with which to build their own bodies (darn those heterotrophs!), there are still some great spring wildflowers blooming. Violets are among them. Of Ohio's 23 native species of Viola (family Violaceae), nearly half of them (10 species) are not violet or even blue, but have yellow or white flowers. Violets are subdivided into "stemmed" species that bear leafy stems bearing axillary flowers, and "stemless" ones with their leaves all basal and flowers one by one on leafless scapes among the leaves. Sweet while violet (Viola blanda) is a stemless violet, a denizen of cool ravines and moist shady slopes, often found in the shade of evergreens such as eastern hemlock, common at Lake Katharine.
Sweet white violet. Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve. April 25, 2009.
Other understory herbs that caught our attention are not in bloom yet this year, but are consicuous nonetheless. Downy rattlesnake-plantain, Goodyera pubescens (family Orchidaceae) is striking by its foliage alone, consisting of a cluster of basal leaves smartly reticulated with white.
Downy rattlesnake-plantain. April 25, 2009. Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve.
Some of the rattlesnake-plantains bear persistent elongate fruiting spikes. The fruits are dry capsules abundantly filled with seeds that are super very extremely tiny because, like all orchids, they totaly lack endosperm or any other stored food for the germinating seedling. The baby plants depend upon mychorhizal (root-associated) fungi for nutrition. These plants flower in mid-August. Please consider mouseovering, or mousingover, or overmousing the image to see the species in flower a few years ago at Deep Woods Preserve, Hocking County.
MOUSEOVER the image to see flowers
MOUSEOVER the image to see flowers
Downy rattlesnake-plantain fruits.
Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve. April 25, 2009.
Another interesting wildfruit is partridge-berry, Mitchella repens (family Rubiaceae). On this evergreen vine the flowers are borne in pairs, and the fruit is a twin berry composed of the ripened ovaries of two flowers. The berry is said to be "edible but insipid." Musover to see the species in flower, mid-June last year at Deep Woods Preserve, Hocking County. It has hairy petals!
MOUSEOVER the image to see flowers
MOUSEOVER the image to see flowers
Partridge-berry at Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve, April 25, 2009.
Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve
Jackson County, Ohio, April 25, 2009
The fern genus Asplenium (name from the Greek, a-without, and splen, spleen, in reference to supposed medicinal properties) comprises the spleenworts. These are delicate evergreen ferns, many of which grow on cliffs such as this sandstone one at Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve in Jackson County, Ohio. Here we see two plants: the lower one is small and lacy-leaved, while the upper one is slightly larger, less disssected, with more nearly entire pinnae.
Spleenworts. April 25, 2009. Jackson County, Ohio.
Another spleenwort feature is the linear shape of the indusia (spore-case clusters) and their location alongside lateral veins onthe undersides of the leaves.
Spleenwort indusia. Left: Asplenium montanum. Right: Asplenium x. trudellii.
April 25, 2009. Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve.The lacy lower one is a clear example of mountain spleenwort, Asplenium montanum, distintinctive in a technical/diagnostic sense by its laciness as species diagnostic traits include leaves that are completely divided into leaflets (it is "pinnate") with the leaflets (pinnae) themselves deeply and irregularly lobed. The acidic (sandstone) rock ledge habitat is correct also.
Mountain spleenwort. Lake Katharine State Natre Preserve, April 25, 2009.
The less lacy upper one, which started out to be a bit of a mystery (eventually solved) is pinnate, at least in the lower half, but the pinnae (leaflets) are not quite divided completely into separate sub-leaflets (pinnules) as they are in its lacy ledge-mate. Accordingly it somewhat resembles a plant named Asplenium pinnatifidum (lobed spleenwort), but comparison with illustrations and descriptions in the terrific new Peterson Ferns field guide showed the leaflets of this Lake Katharine specimen to be a smidge too wavy-edged to the be that "species."
Mystery fern that turned out to be Trudell's spleenwort, a backcross!
The word "species" is in quotation marks above because the A. pinnatifidum (lobed spleenwort) is a hybrid. Spleenworts are famous for freely interbreeding with one another. Numerous hybrid forms have been recognized and in some cases designated as species. This is explained very well in the terrific new Peterson Field Guide Ferns of the Northeastern and Central North America, 2nd Edition, by Cobb, Farnsworth and Lowe, published 2005 by Houghton Mifflin. The guide explains that 8 of the spleenworts in our area are non-hybrid "parental taxa" between which there is a network of interbreeding. Above the Asplenium key the guide has a great diagram, shown below, wherein the large filled hybrid circles represent fertile hybrid taxa and the open ones are sterile. (The small circles represent hybrids that don't occur in the area covered by the guide.) Lobed spleenwort is a hybrid between (lacy-leaved) mountain spleetwort and the completely undivided "walking fern," A. rhizophyllum.
Puzzled about this what this mysterious fern might be, I sent these Lake Katharine pics to Brian Gara, a botanist friend who knows a lot about ferns. Brian promptly explained it is Trudell's spleenwort (A. x trudellii, wherein the "x" signifies its hybrid status), the result of a cross between mountain spleenwort and lobed spleenwort, the latter "probably hiding somewhere in the rock crevices." Wow! Inasmuch as lobed spleenwort is itself a hybrid, and one it its parental taxa is mountain spleenwort, this is an instance of "backcrossing." Hybridization followed by backcrossing is one of the ways that genetic variation can be introduced into populations.
Below, the Asplenium hybridization diagram from the Peterson guide, with Trudell's spleenwort sketched in.
Network of spleenwort hybrids as shown in Peterson Ferns Field Guide (2005).
A metaphor plant
Jackson County, Ohio, April 25, 2009
Many plants have fanciful common names based on a resemblance to objects, parts of animals, people, etc. What fun! Here are some such "metaphor plants," gleaned from the indexes of a few field guides.
Some metaphoric names of plants of the northeastern U.S.adam-and-eve (Aplectrum hyemale); adam's needle (Yucca filamentosa); adder's mouth (Malaxis); adder's tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum); arrow-head (Sagittaria); bachelor's button (Centaurea); beard-tongue (Penstemon); beggar-ticks (Bidens); beggar's lice (Hackelia); black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia); blazing-star (Liatris); bleeding-heart (Dicentra); blue flag (Iris); blue-bottle (Muscari racemosum); blue-eyed mary (Collinsia verna); bluebell (Campanula); bouncing Bet (Saponaria); bugle (Ajuga); butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris); cat-tail (Typha); cat's-ear (Hypochaeris); cleavers (Galium); coltsfoot (Tussilago); coontail (Ceratophyllum); crane's-bill (Geranium); crowfoot (Ranunculus); devil's club (Opplopanax horridum); dragon's mouth (Arethusa bulbosa); false dragonhead (Dracocephalum); Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria); Dutchman's pipe (Asarum); elephant's foot (Elephantopus); foxtail (Setaria); goat's-beard (Tragopogon); Hercules' club (Aralia spinosa); horsetail (Equisetum); hound's-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale); jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum); Jacob's ladder (Polemonium) lady-slipper (Cypripedium); lizard's-tail (Sauruus cernuus); maidenhair (Adiantum); moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia); mist-flower (Eupatorium coelestinum); monkey-flower (Mimulus); moonseed (Menispermum); miterwort (Mitella); monkshood (Aconitum); Indian-pipe (Monotropa uniflora); mouse-tail (Myosurus); ox-eye (Heliopsis); pipe-vine (Aristolochia); prince's feather (Polygonum orientale and Amaranthus hybridus); pussy-toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia); rocket, dames (Hesperis matronalis); shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris); shooting-star (Dodecatheon media); silverbell-tree (Halesia carolina); skullcap (Scutellaria); snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata); squirreltail (Hordeum jubatum); star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum); star grass (Aletris and Hypoxis); star-flower (Trientalis borealis); stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium); sundew (Drosera); sundrops (Oenothera); sunflower (Helianthus); tape grass (Vallisneria americana); thimbleberry (Rubus parviflora); tickseed (Coreopsis); turkey-beard (Xerophyllum); turkey-foot (Andropogon gerardii); turtlehead (Chelone glabra); velvet-leaf (Abutilon theophrasti); Venus' comb (Scandix pecten-veneris); Venus' looking-glass (Specularia perfoliata); green dragon (Arisaema dracontium); bird's eye (Veronica persica); bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus); bird's-nest (Daucus carota); giant bird's-nest (Pterospora andromedea); bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis); bursting heart (Euonymus americana); buttercup (Ranunculus); butterfly-pea (Clitoria mariana); catfoot (Gnaphalium obtusifolium); cheeses (Malva neglecta); corpse plant (Monotropa uniflora); cranefly orchis (Tipulara); crownvetch (Coronilla varia); cup plant or Indian cup (Silphium perfoliatum); devil's paintbrush (Hieracium auriantiacum); dewdrop (Dalibarda repens); devil's bit (Chamaelirium luteum); fairy wand (Chamaelirium luteum); doll's eyes (Actea pachypoda); fairy bells (Disporum lanuginosum); false mermaid (Floerkia proserpinacoides); featherfleece (Stenanthium gramineum); five fingers (Potentilla spp.); gill-over-the-ground (Glechoma hederacea); golden star (Chrysogonum virginianum); goldthread (Coptis groenlandica); Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea); painted cup (Castilleja coccinea); jewelweed (Impatiens); ladies' tresses (Spiranthes); lady's smock (Cardamine pratense); lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album); larkspur (Delphinium); leatherleaf (Chaemaedaphne calyculata); lion's foot (Prenanthes); old man's beard (Clematis virginiana); virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana); pencilflower (Stylosanthes biflora); pepper-and-salt (Erigenia bulbosa); pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea); quaker ladies (Houstonia caerulia); queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra); St. Andrews cross (Ascyrum hypericoides); sicklepod (Arabis canadensis); snakemouth (Pogonia ophioglossoides); Spanish bayonet (Yucca filamentosa); Spanish needles (Bidens bipinnata); spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.); swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris); thimbleweed (Anenome virginiana); three birds (Triphora trianthophora); toadshade (Trillium sessile); trumpetweed (Eupatorium fistulosum).
Some metaphor plants seem more aptly named than others. Plantain-leaved pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia, family Asteraceae) is indeed fairly feline-footy. (Moreover, its generic name, of Latin derivation, is an allusion to the resemblance of the pappus of the staminate flowers to insect antennae.)
Plantain-leaved pussytoes. April 25, 2009. Jackson County, Ohio.
Another nice metaphor plant growing along the same roadside, although one whose basis isn't quite yet evident, is colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara, family Asteraceae). This vaguely dandelion-like weed of disturbed ground has horse-footprint leaves to be sure, but they aren't yet expanded. The "seed" heads are so bright that the fruiting plants could be mistaken for blooming wildflowers.
Colt's-foot fruiting. April 25, 2009. Jackson County, Ohio.
Native species of sometimes weedy generaMost of the time when we see a chickweed it's the little weedy alien Stellaria media (common chickweed, family Caryophyllaceae). Likewise, our frequently seen vetches are introduced roadside weeds of which cow vetch (Vicia cracca, family Fabaceae) is an example. However, along the roadsides and the nearby woodland edges in the wilder parts of southern Ohio, chickweeds and vetches might warrant p'a second look.
Chickweed (Stellaria) and vetch (Vicia)
Jackson County, Ohio, April 25, 2009
Star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) is much more robust than our other chickweeds, and its leaves are unstalked (sessile). Chickweeds are members of the pink family, consisting of herbs with opposite leaves, and flowers that have 5 separate petals that are often cleft (sometimes deeply so, thus appearing to be 10 petals). The garden carnation, sweet-William and baby's-breath are pinks.
The lovely native star chickweed. April 25, 2009. Jackson County, Ohio
This low-growing vine with alternate pinnately compund leaves ending in a pair of tendrils, and bearing racemes of typical legume (Fabaceae) blooms looks a lot like any of several weedy vetch species, except that the flowers are white, not purple. Flower color alone isn't a reliable guide, as albino plants of many colorful species occur from time to time, but the small size of the calyx (sepals) revealed this to be Carolina wood vetch, Vicia caroliniana.
Sweetgum: the amazing finch magnet!
Columbus, Ohio. April 21, 2009
So-called "winter finches" are northern-breeding species in the family Fringillidae that are found this far south only in the winter. There is great year-to-year variation in the numbers and kinds of winter finches that show up in Ohio. This is generally attributed to variation in the cone crop up north, as they are primarily conifer seed-eaters. Bad years for spruce, hemlock and fir seed production in Canada equate to good years for birders here, and this past winter was reported to be a very great one for seeing winter finches. Reported to be. I didn't see any. Until today. In the city. Of all places.
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua, family Hamamelidaceae) is a lowland tree that does very well as a street tree. Not only is it beautiful, but it has the added benefit of being annoying to neighbors as it litters the ground with spiny globe-shaped "sweetgum balls." The balls are multiples of capsules containing numerous small seeds that get distributed gradually over the course of winter-early spring. Some birds love them, especially finches. The fruits are nature's version of the small-seeded thistle feeders that are popular to attract finches. Goldfinches are regular visitors to the roadside sweetgum tree in front of my house in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus. But it was a great durprise (surprise, whatever) arriving home to see the tree alive with approx. 2 dozen of these guys ...white-winged crossbills! People have driven hours to see white-winged crossbills.
Sweetgum tree and white-winged crossbill. Columbus, Ohio.April 21, 2009.
White-winged crossbill in sweetgum tree. Columbus, Ohio.April 21, 2009.
Having seen this species only once, many years ago, it was necessary to consult the definitive field guide, How to tell the birds from the flowers and other woodcuts, by Robert Williams Wood (1959 Dover reprint of 1917 edition).
A revised manual of flornithology for beginners.
Congeneric wildflowers mix and mingle
Delaware County, Ohio. April 16-17, 2009
Two lovely Dicentra species (family Fumariaceae) share the same rich woods habitat and bumblebee pollinators. The foliage is identical too. Differentiating the species is based on their strikingly differently shaped flowers, and, while they both produce clusters of undergound tubers, the tubers are about twice as large in squirrel-corn (and may be the basis of the common name).
Dutchman's breeches. April 17, 2009. Delaware County, Ohio.
Squirrel corn. April 17, 2009. Delaware County, Ohio.
With great similarity in habitat, pollination syndrome, and morphology, one might guess that two co-occurring species would have different climatic tolerances, such that that one of them is near the limits of its range. Guess again. These Dicentra species are broadly sympatric!
Geographic ranges of eastern Dicentra species. Maps from Flora of North America.
Pollen color dimorphism
Yellow trout-lily (Erythronium americanum)
Delaware, Ohio. April 18, 2009
A few plant species exhibit variation, i.e., "polymorphism," in flower color. Dames's rocket, moth mullien, and swamp rose-mallow are familar examples. Yellow trout-lily, Erythronium americanum (family Liliaceae) is an interesting variation on that theme. While this wildflower always has yellow petals (or "tepals" as they are called in this family because the sepals and petals are both brightly colored), there is some variation in pollen color. One form, which seems the most common, has dark reddish-purple pollen. Occassionally there are strikingly different individuals that bear bright yellow pollen. Here are two such plants growing near one another at a woodland in Delaware County, Ohio.
Pollen color dimorphism in yellow trout-lily. April 17, 2009. Delaware County, Ohio.
Polymorphism is an interesting aspect of evolutionary theory. If things were simple, we would expect that one form, more well adapted than the other, would eventually take over the whole population as the more beneficial gene spreads until it becomes "fixed." One general possiblity is that a polymorphism is maintained by "frequency-dependent selection" wherein two forms balance one another because the reproductive value of a trait is higher when it is less frequent. However, it's difficult to conceive of that being the mechanism here, as it is doubtful that pollinators would have a greater tendency to visit a rare pollen color than a common one as long as they are rewarded for their visits. Another possibility is "multiple niche polymorphism," wherein the different genotypes have different fitnesses in different niches. In particular, since different types of pollinators sometimes key in on differently colored flowers, the two pollen color types could constitute adaptations facilitating service by different suites of pollinators.
Note that in this very comprehensive study of trout-lilies, 100 percent of the purple-pollen plants were visited by beetles, while 100 percent of the yellow ones were not. With this massively big sample size of N=1 plant per pollen type, it's time to publish!
April 17-18, 2009
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin, family Lauraceae, of which sassafras is also a member) is an aromatic understory shrub that produces abundant clusters of small yellow flowers in early spring before the leaves emerge. The species is dioecious. At a forest in Delaware County, Ohio, the flowers are being visited by little midges (a type of fly). It is unclear if they are pollinators or incidental foragers on the flowers. Below, a staminate (male) flower cluster, with midges.
Spicebush staminate flowers visited by midges. April 17, 2009. Delaware, Ohio.
According to H.A. Gleason in the best book ever written ---- New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora (1952) -- the flowers in this family are regular and hypogynous, with a perianth (usually termed a calyx) of 4 or usually 6 separate segments in two whorls. For Lindera, we learn the calyx is 6-parted, deciduous; stamens 9, the inner bearing glands at base; anthers introrse, 2-celled, opening by 2 minute uplifted valves.
Below is an enlarged view of the staminate flower.
MOUSEOVER the image to see parts labelled.
Spicebush staminate flower. Note two-celled "introrse" (inward-facing) anthers that open
by minute uplifted valves, and 3 glands in center of flower
The pistillate (female) flowers have reduced male parts termed "staminoidia" that are barely evident in the picture below. Note the plump ovary in the center of each flower, and the elongate style extending upwards.
Spicebush pistillate flowers. Delaware County, Ohio. April 18, 2009.
Midges avidly visit the spicebush while spring peepers (Hyla crucifer) peep.
Midges avidly visit spicebush. Delaware County, Ohio. April 18, 2009.
Mosses on a wall.
Orthotrichum pusillum and Tortula papillosa
Columbus, Ohio. April 11-15, 2009.
In the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus there is a home with a little brick wall separating the front yard from the sidewalk. The wall is situated a short distance from a venerable old sugar maple adorned with mosses. The tree is probably the source population for the mosses on the wall, as they are normally regarded as corticolous (bark-inhabiting) species. Occurence on a wall like this is by no means unusual however.
Brick wall habitat of mosses. April 15, 2009.
Two species of mosses occur here. Both are acrocarps, i.e., "cushion mosses" that consist of separate erect stems which, if they bear sporophytes, bear them at the apex of their stems. The most abundant moss on the wall does in fact produce sporophytes, abundantly. Spores are part of a sexual life cycle. They are produced by the the reductive cell division process called "meiosis" that is necessary for the union of equal amounts of genetic material to take place at some other stage in the life cycle. Just after a recent rain, the moss Orthotrichum pusillum (family Orthotrichaceae) displayed its newly opened spore cases (sporangia, also called "capsules").
Orthotrichum pusillum moss with newly opened spore capsules. April 14, 2009. Columbus, Ohio.
Occurring alongside the Orthitrichum (a few plants are visible in the upper left region of the its photo) is a moss that reproduces asexually --Tortula papillosa (family Pottiaceae). It has broad leaves, many of which are partly covered with few-celled gemmae produced along the costa (midvein), each of which can potentially generate a whole new plant that is genetically identical to the one that produced it.
Tortula papillosa moss producing few-celled gemmae. April 12, 2009. Columbus, Ohio
Congeneric wildflowers mix and mingle
Worthington, Ohio. April 12, 2009
According to the the ecological "competitive exclusion principle," species with identical resource requirements (niches) cannot long persist in the same place because one species will eventually out-compete the other for critical resources. Thus, when we see closely related species together, it raises the question "how are they different ecologically?" The two trout-lilies --yellow flowered Erthronium americanum and white flowered E. albidum (family Liliaceae) --are a case in point. Possibly they have different pollinators, since the function of the (differently colored) petals is to attract pollinators. They are found alongside one another flanking a wooded bike trail in Worthington, Ohio.
Yellow trout-lily. April 12, 2009. Worthington, Ohio.
White trout-lily. April 12, 2009. Worthington, Ohio
Flower color is often an easy way to distinguish related species, but there are generally other, more technical, differences as well. With these trout lilies, the stigmas (uppermost, pollen-receptive, portion of the female pistil) are differently shaped. The stigmas of E. americanum are pressed together, whereas those of E. albidum are separate and outwardly curved.
Trout-lily (Erythronium) stigmas. Left: E. americanum. Right: E. albidum.
They have different geographic ranges, too. E. Lucy Braun in The Monocotyledons of Ohio (Ohio State University Press, 1967), explains that white trout-lily is "a species of the interior, ranging from southern Ontario and Minnesota southward to Kentucy, Georgia, Missouri and Oklahoma; rare eastward to Pa. and D.C.; widespread in Ohio in mesic or dry woods, and sometimes so abundant as to whiten whole hillsides." Yellow trout-lily extends "much farther eastward, through New England to Nova Scotia, widely distributed in Ohio where it is the commoner species on the northeastern counties."
Twin-leaf is locally abundant in calcareous soil of the wooded banks overlooking the Scioto River in Columbus. These pictures were taken at Duranceaux Park, located on the west side of the river south of Fishinger Road. The park is the proposed site of a controversial boathouse planned for the OSU women's varsity rowing team and a private rowing club. Opposition to the plan is intense.
Twin-leaf. April 11, 2009. Duranceaux Park, Columbus, Ohio.
Twin-leaf is a spring wildlflower in the barberry family, Berberidaceae, a family that is closely related to the buttercups (Ranunculaceae) from they are distinguished by having 1 pistil (rather than several-many pistils), stamens as many or twice as many as the petals (rather than being numerous) and petals arranged in a circle (as opposed to being spirally arranged). According to H.A. Gleason in the best book ever written -- New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora (1952) -- "Our herbaceous species are interesting survivors of an ancient Tertiary flora." Other such members of the family are Podophyllum (May-apple) and Caulophyllum (blue cohosh).
Twin-leaf flower. April 11, 2009. Duranceaux Park, Columbus, Ohio.
The twin-leaf ovary is ovoid, many-ovuled, and tapers to a broad sessile stigma. The fruit is a many-seeded obovoid capsule that opens in the upper half by a horizontal cleft extending halfway around it, the top forming a lid. Last year I made a frustrating excursion to this spot to see twin-leaf in flower, but a few weeks late. The leaves and young fruits were quite evident, however.
Twin-leaf as it will appear in a few weeks. May 1, 2008. Columbus, Ohio.
A twin-leaf capsules opens in the distal half by a longitudinal
cleft extending halfway around it.
Erophila (Draba) verna
Marion, Ohio. April 9, 2009
Whitlow-grass is not a grass, but a wee little mustard (family Brassicaceae). The plant, a native of Europe, is often described as "naturalized." That seems to mean that is is well established but not in any obtrusively invasive manner. Because the plants are very small and grow in open barren places such as sidewalk cracks, or between flagstone bricks as shown here, they don't displace any other plants. They look like little people though. Stick-figures. Dancing. The fruits (silicles) are the hands and feet.
Whitlow-grass. April 9, 2009. OSU at Marion, Ohio.
Whitlow-grass has a fairly unusual life span. It is a "winter annual," overwintering not as a seed as do most annual plants, but instead as a flat little rosette of leaves. Immediately in early spring one or a few flowering scapes extend from the rosette, self-pollinate, develop fruit, and finally as the plants die the seeds fall. The seeds soon germinate and, by the end of summer, will have grown into the next generation of over-wintering rosettes.
Callery pear/Bradford pear
Worthington, Ohio, April 5, 2009.
Suddenly the urban roadsides are lit up with brilliant mass flowering displays of a very popular/unpopular tree. Bradford pear, a cultivated variety of Callery pear, Pyrus calleryana (family Rosaceae), is an Asian native that was brought over to a nursery in Massachusetts 101 years ago. It is widely used in landscaping yards, roadsides, parking lots., etc., hence by definition it is popular.
Callery (Bradford) pear trees. April 5, 2009. Worthington Ohio.
But other than admiring its current short-lived prettiness, nobody seems to have much nice to say about Bradford pear. The trees are notoriously brittle and easily wind-blown, thus wreaking havoc on nearby utility lines. Worse, the species is invasive, spreading into open woodlands, competing with the native plants.
Callery (Bradford) pears trees. April 5, 2009. Worthington Ohio.
Worthington is a nice place, but the city generates too much of its revenue issuing speeding tickets to careful safe drivers travelling only slightly above inconspicuosly posted, ridiculously low speed limits. Avoid the place. Grrr.
An anomalous and weedy buttercup.
Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
Columbus, Ohio April 5, 2009.
Many buttercups, i.e., members of the genus Ranunculus (family Ranunculaceae), are also called "crowfoots" because they bear palmately compound leaves that evidently reminded somebody of the terminal portion of a corvid's leg upon which it stands. But it is the totality of characters that help reveal a plant's taxonomic affinity. One or two exceptional features don't rule them out. There is an interesting simple-leaved-with-entire-margins buttercup that is quite the weed in some moist open woods of central Ohio. This is Ranunculus ficaria (lesser celandine, also called "fig buttercup"). It is an aggressive ground-hugging alien that reproduces sexually, and also asexually by means of tubers and bulblets, crowding out native spring wildflowers.
Lesser celandine and a sycamore leaf. Delawanda Park, Columbus, Ohio. April 5, 2009.
The nasty little plant bears a superficial resemblance, in flattened miniature, to a beloved native wildflower also in the buttercup family --cowslip or marsh "marigold," Caltha palustris. Here's a picture of cowslip, taken a few years ago.
Cowslip at Myer's Woods Preserve, Marion County, Ohio. April 21, 2005.