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Two floating-leaved aquatic plants,
and a sea monster (which turned out to be a carp).
July 8 and 10, 2008
Marion and Wyandot Counties, OH
Some aquatic plants are rooted in the mud below the water, have flexuous stems that reach up to the surface, and bear leaves that float like little carpets. Two wholly unrelated floating-leaved plants that have a markedly similar overall aspect are water smartweed (Polygonum coccinium, family Polygonaceae) and pondweed (Potamogeton natans, family Najadaceae).
The smartweed is growing in Bee Run Ditch, a tributary to the Olentangy (Whetstone) River on Nesbit Rd., Caledonia, Marion County, OH.
Water smartweed, July 8, 2008, Bee Run Ditch, Caledonia, Marion County, Ohio.
Smartweeds (genus Polygonum) aren't particularly intelligent. Instead, the name refers to the sharply peppery "smarting" taste of some species (not this one). Several smartweed species produce abundant small seed-like fruits (achenes) that are valuable for wildlife. Other smartweeds are weedy.
Water smartweed, July 8, 2008, Caledonia, Marion County, Ohio.
I don't know whether water smartweed is particularly adapted for fly pollination, but there are several flies, and no other types of insects, on the flowers today.
Water smartweed flowers, July 8, 2008, Caledonia, Ohio.
About 20 miles northwest from the water smartweed, in a large impoundment at the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Wyandot County, a more drab but probably more valuable wildlife food plant is amazingly abundant. It's floating pondweed, Potamgeton natans (family Najadaceae).
Large impoundment at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Wyandot County, Ohio,
where floating pondweed is remarkably abundant, July 10, 2008.
Floating pondweed flowering spikes, July 10, 2008, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Wyandot County, Ohio.
Pondweed flowers are presented on an upright spike, similar to those of the smartweed. Again, there are insects --stoneflies this time -- associated with the flowers that may or may not be important pollinators.
Floating pondweed flowering spike, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, July 10, 2008.
After pollination and ripening of the seed-like fruits (achenes), pondweed spikes lay down, immersing the fruits in the water to effect hydrochory (water dispersal).
Scattered here and there in the impoundment are large-ish (estimated 1-2 feet) creatures noisily chomping cow-like on the pondweed. They are smooth and dark, apparently (but impossibly) lacking either fur or fins. The amorphous head region seems to project well past the eyes. What are these animals? Mini-manatees? Space creatures?
Unidentfied aquatic grazing herbivore, July 10, 2008, Killdeer Plains Wildliife Area, Wyandot County, Ohio.
Today's paper tells us that the smart sensible people who are running our transportion system evacuated a plane because there was a tick on it. And they have no idea how a tick could have gotten onto an airplane.
Below are some ticks found on or near a botanical enthusiast living in Columbus, Ohio, just a few hours after spending some time outdoors on Planet Earth the same day that article appeared. Should he (and all hunters, fishers, hikers, etc.) be placed on the "no-fly list"?
Ticks...I have no idea where they came from!
Sullivant's milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii, family Asclepiadaceae), is an uncommon prairie species. Even though we are at the eastern edge of its range, the species was discovered in Ohio. The discovery was made by William Starling Sullivant, a prominent 19th century American botanist who was mainly into mosses. His was an important family locally. William's father was Lucas Sullivant, a land surveyor and developer who, in 1797, founded Franklinton, the first big settlement in the area (later annexed by Columbus).
At the Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus, here is the Sullivant family burial site, showing the graves of (left to right): father Lucas, William's beloved wife Eliza who was herself an accomplished botanist (she worked alongside her husband and made illustrations for his moss books), and William.
Sullivant family burial site at Greenlawn Cemetery, October, 2004
Eliza's monument is particularly interesting from a botanical perspective. The plant she is festooned by is another Sullivant discovery, one with a doubly commemorative name: the woodland herb Sullivantia sullivantii (family Saxifragaceae).
Left: Eliza Sullivant monument at Greenlawn Cemetery. Right: illustration of Sullivantia sulivantii from Flora of West Virginia (Strausbaugh and Core).
The milkweeds that bear Sullivant's name are flowering profusely. The Killdeer Plains population is Ohio's largest.
Sullivant's milkweed, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, July 4, 2008
Milkweeds are avidly visited by a variety of insects. According to the literature, both butterflies and bees are common as pollinators, but at Killdeer it's honeybees, and to a lesser extent bumblebees, that seem to do it all. Butterflies are scarce and fleeting at Killdeer. (Butterflies just flutter by.)
Sullivant's milkweed visited by honeybee, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, July 5, 2008.
Milkweed flowers are highly modified. The buds are enveloped by the petals. The major pollinator-attractive (and also the reward-providing) portion of the flower is an elaborate set of tubular upward extensions of the petals collectively termed the "corona."
Sullivant's milkweed umbels in the bud stage (except for one flower).
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, July 5, 2008.
While blooming, milkweed petals are spread sharply downwards, concealing the sepals. The individual units of the corona are the "hoods," cup-like structures that serve as nectar basins, providing a tremendous food resource for a variety of insects that come and avidly drink from them.
Fly visiting Sullivant's milkweed, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. July 5, 2008.
Bumblebee drinking milkweed nectar, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, July 5, 2008.
Milkweed flower structure and related pollination are unique. They're famous for standing along with orchids as the only plants that distribute their pollen not as powdery individual grains, but all at once in special adherent packets called "pollinia." Milkweed pollinia are arranged in pairs. The pollinia are tethered together in a wishbone-like paired arangement called a pollinarium that has a sticky apex called a "corpusculum."
Honeybee drinking nectar from Sullivant's milkweed, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, July 5, 2008.
A bee sipping nectar is often forced to position her feet between hoods, and, as she pulls a leg upwards, inadvertently hooks a corpusculum (each corpusculum has a narrow groove that a claw can slip into) and withdraws a polliniarium. It remains attached to her foot until, during a visit to a subsequent flower, if a pollinium is positioned just right (lengthwise to the groove and entering at a certain angle), it slips into the stigmatic chamber, accomplishing pollination. It requires a precise arrangement, and it seems amazing that it ever works, but apparently it does; milkweeds set fruit abundantly.
Roses (genus Rosa in the family Rosaceae) display many of the traits of primitive flowers, i.e., those that most resemble a branch with leaves, because that's basically what a flower is: a short branch with highly modified leaves. Rose flowers have separate, not fused, petals. Also there are numerous stamens and carpels (seed bearing units) arranged in a spiral fashion.
Prairie rose, Killder Plains Wildlife Area, July 4, 2008, Marion County, OH.
Unlike buttercups (family Ranuculaceae) which display all the traits of primitive flowers including being hypogynous, i.e., the sepal, petals and stamens are separately attached below the ovary, roses have one more advanced trait in that they are perigynous. Roses have a hypanthium, also called a "floral cup," which is a cup-like structure formed by the fusion of the the lower portions of the sepals, and stamens. The conspicuous portions of the sepals, petals and stamens rise off the flower at the upper edge of the hypanthium.
Prairie rose flower, July 5, 2008, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Marion County OH.
Mouseover to see the flower:
split and split/labeled
What is traditionally refered to as the rose fruit is an unusual structure called the "rose hip." The hip is actually the expanded and slightly fleshy hypanthium that envelopes the true fruits --numerous one-seeded fruits called "achenes" that are generally thought of as being seeds. Rose hips are noted to be a great source of vitamin C.
Yuccas (genus Yucca, family Liliaceae) are famous for being partners in an elegant mutualism with a moth. The moth, Tegeticula yuccasella and related species, is the sole pollinator of the yucca flowers. But instead of offering the moth a food reward such as nectar (there is none) or pollen (the moth has no use for it), the yucca plant instead provides a nice place for the next generation of moths to begin their lives.
The moths are small, elongate, and ghostly white. They can be seen fluttering about yucca plants at night when they bloom in late June-early July. A female moth that has mated and can thus lay fertile eggs, visits a yucca flower and removes a ball of pollen, holding it in specially modified mouthparts. She flies with the pollen to another flower, ideally on another plant, where she inserts some eggs into the ovary of that new flower, and immediately thereafter pollinates the flower. This is accomplished by stuffing the pollen into a special receptive recess (the stigma) atop the pistil where she has just laid her eggs.
Yucca moths on yucca flower, along railroad tracks, Indianola Avenue, Columbus, OH July 1, 2008.
In the photo above it is possible that the two moths at the base of the flower are ovipositing (laying eggs) in the ovary, and that the one at the top of the flower is inserting pollen. Below is a picture that seems to show a moth gathering pollen (unfortunately she's not quite in focus).
Yucca moth ovipositing, June 23, 2007, Columbus OH.
Yucca moth pollinating, June 23, 2008, Columbus, OH.
The mutualism is perfect! Without the moths doing the pollinating, the yucca could not reproduce. And without the yucca fruits serving as a nursery for the baby moths, the moths could not reproduce. (The moth larvae do inflict some harm by eating a few of the developing seeds, but there are enough left over to maintain the yucca populations.)
American elm is an easy tree to recognise by its silhouette. According to William Harlow in "Trees of the Northeastern United States," elm resembles a wineglass, a feather duster, and/or a colonial lady upside-down. It's also well known for being susceptible to two devastating diseases with very similar effects: Dutch elm disease (DED) and phloem necrosis, so travelers in open country around central Ohio tend to see a lot of shattered wineglasses, feather dusters that bit the dust and colonial ladies rightside-up. Here at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in extreme northern Marion County an elm died recently.
Recently deceased American elm at Killdeer Plains, Marion County, OH, June 30, 2008.
In North America, Dutch elm disease is spread by two bark beetles, one native and one introduced species. In a forest in Delaware County a few winters ago, a downed elm showed nicely the engravings of the smaller European elm bark beetle, Scolytus multistriatus. Four are shown. In each there is a thick central gallery created by a female as she burrowed a tunnel and laid eggs along the way. After hatching, the numerous larvae burrowed at right angles to the egg gallery (notice how the tunnels increase in width as they get farther from the gallery), pupated, and new adults exited though holes in the bark. If "mom" brought DED fungus spores in with her, then the kids carried them out, serving as vectors to infect new trees while feeding on young elm twigs.
Tree-of-heaven can be very aggressive, forming amazingly dense stands arising from root sprouts. Here we see one big dead original tree in the center that evidentally had only its stem portion die. That released a swarm of sprouts from the extensive root system. Some of the sprouts were apparently cleared away, but to no avail; they are rapidly growing back.
Two weeks ago the ultimate weed tree, tree-of-heaven, Ailanthus altissima, was in flower. It was difficult to visualize those blooms developing into the familiar one-seeded winged fruits (samaras). This week the trees are much further along, and it is now plainly evident that they will develop into samaras.
Ailanthus altissima, June 26, 2008, Marion, Ohio.
Ailanthus altissima young fruits, June 26, 2008, Marion, Ohio.