dirty trees
tree flowers
flowers and fruits

Welcome to, the website of Bob Klips, a plant enthusiast living in Columbus, Ohio.
(Additional content at flickr Photostream and YouTube Channel)
If you have botany questions or comments please email BobK . Thanks!
  Be it ever so humble, there's no grass like brome.
Canada brome, Bromus pubescens
June 15, 2010. Wyandot County, Ohio

The grass genus Bromus (variously called "brome," "chess," and "cheat") is a fairly distinctive one, striking by virture of its large, narrow, many-flowered spikelets arranged in lax open panicles. The most common brome grasses are introduced weeds. An annual called cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum, for instance, is one of the most noxious weeds of western pasture land. Therefore it was a special treat to finally meet a native brome growing alongside the Marion-Wyandot County Road, on the Wyandot side. It's Canada brome, Bromus pubescens (formerly called B. purgans) --a tall perennial of moist woods.

Canada brome panicle
Canada brome. June 15, 2010. Wyandot County, Ohio.

As seen here, the spikelets are generally pubescent. Note also the lemmas are awned, as is often the case with brome grasses, although in this species the awns are shorter than in many other bromes, and according to the manuals, the awns may be lacking entirely.

Canada brome spikelets
Canada brome spikelets. June 15, 2010. Wyandot County, Ohio.

An Unusual Moss with Distinctive Gemmae.
Orthotrichum obtusifolium
June 13, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

I was there looking for lichens and also to snap some pics of Anomodon minor (see below). Leaning across a little intermittent tributary stream to the Scioto River running through the rich woodland here, is a leaning hardwood sapling, perhaps an elm.

tree branch with Orthotrichum obtusifolium
Leaning tree, habitat for lichens and mosses.

The lichens turned out to be Phaeophyscia ciliata and Physcia stellaris. They were nice to see, although both species are quite common. It was also clear that, sharing the log with the lichens, there are sterile (i.e., lacking sporophytes) individuals of a common corticolous moss genus: Orthotrichum. There are 10 species of Orthotrichum in Ohio, and identification to species is tough even if you have compete specimens with capsules. But a close look at the Orthotrichum tufts revealed them to be of two types: one with acute leaves that could be any of several annoying species, and others that are distinctly blunt tipped.

foliose lichens and Orthotrichum obtusifolium
Two lichens, and two mosses close together, on a branch.
Phaeophyscia ciliata is the sparse brownish lichen in the lower left.
Physcia stellaris is the abundant lichen, bearing apothecia.
The mosses are Orthotrichum species --one a mystery, the other shown below.

Moreover the blunt-tipped ones looked all porcupiney (yay, no spell-checker!) because the leaves are beset with elongate 4 to 8-celled asexual reproductive structures called "gemmae."

Orthotrichum obtusifolium
Orthotrichum obtusifolium microscope view.
Note blunt leaves and abundant gemmae on the leaf surface.

Orthotrichum obtusifolium is quite an uncommon, or at least uncommonly detected, moss in Ohio. The range map in the Ohio Biological Survey's "Catalogue and Atlas of the Mosses of Ohio" (1996, Andreas and Snider, revised, March 2010) only shows 6 counties. Delaware County, marked  by a weird purple asterisk, is not one of them, yet.

Orthotrichum obtusifolium range map
Range map from "Catalogue and Atlas of the Mosses of Ohio."

Anomodon minor

June 13, 2010.
Delaware County, Ohio.

The moss genus Anomodon is notable for being one of the few mosses for which different species of a single genus can often be seen growing in mixed patches. There is nonetheless some differentiation of habitat. One of our most abundant and distinctive mosses is Anomodon attentuatus, which can often be seen in open woods clothing the bases of hardwood trees like a ragged green ankle sock. Here it is a few years ago at Deep Woods Preserve in Hocking County, Ohio.

Anomodon attenutatus habitat
Anomodon attenuatus at base of tree.
Deep Woods, Hocking Cty. OH. May 7, 2008.

A closer view shows us the basis for the specific epithet attenuatus, as the leaves get smaller towards the branch tips, each somewhat flattened branch tapering nearly to a point. Here what it looks like when wet.

Anomodon attenutatus
Anomodon attentuatus. February 14, 2005. Deep Woods Preserve.

...and here's Anomodon attenuatus dry and somewhat curled up, seen with the dog lichen, Peltigera canina on a sandstone boulder.

Anomodon attenuatus and Peltigera canina
Anomodon attentuatus with dog lichen.
Shade River State Forest. Meigs County, Ohio. September 19, 2009.

Microscopically, the leaves of A. attenuatus are distinctive. They are broadly tongue-shaped.

Anomodon attenuatus leaf
Anomodon attenuatus leaf.

...with tips that are acute, and marked by a few irregular teeth, and cells that are "pluripapillose," i.e., beset with many small bumps.

Anomodon attenutaus leaf tipAnomodon attenuatus leaf cells
Leaf features of Anomodon attenuatus.
Left: serrate tip. Right: papillose cells.

Another common species is Anomodon rostratus. While this may often be seen with its just-described congener at the bases of trees, A. rostratus seems a little more at home on moist partly shaded rock ledges, seemingly without regard for chemistry, occurring both on basic limestone and acidic sandstone. Here it is on limestone along the Scioto River in Franklin County.

Anomodon rostratus habitat
Anomodon rostratus carpets limestone ledge along Scioto River.
Franklin County, Ohio. March 17, 2008.

Close-up, we see a feature of Anomodon rostratus that clearly differentiates it from other members of the genus. The leaves are arrayed regularly around the branches, giving them a tubular appearance, like a cat's tail. The techno-mossy term for that is "julaceous." The yellowish color is distinctive, too.

Anomodon rostratus
Anomodon rostratus. March 17, 2008. Franklin County, Ohio.

Again, the microscope is useful for confirming the identification. The leaves of Anomodon rostratus end in a beak-like hair-point.

Anomodon rostratus leaf
Anomodon rostratus leaf.

The big excitement, and why we're talking about Anomodon today, is that in a rich open woods alongside the Scioto River in Delaware County, there is a another, less common but by no means rare species, Anomodon minor. Fairly robust, having flattened branches, and occurring often on trees, this can be, and probably often is, overlooked because it resembles A. attenuatus. It seems to be more of a high-bark species though.

Anomodon minor habitat
Anomodon minor high on bark of hardwood tree in rich woods.
June 9, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Compared with A. attenuatus, Anomodon minor branches project out more, in a shelf-like fashion.

Anomodon minor
Anomodon minor. June 9, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

...and the branches, while flattened, do not taper.

Anomodon minor
Anomodon minor. June 9, 2010, Delaware County, Ohio.

Through the microscope, the identification is clinched. The tongue-shaped leavdes are very blunt, without any terminal teeth.

Anomodon minor leaves
Anomodon minor leaves.

Along the road near the woods is another plant whose genus begins with "A." and has 4 syllables. This is  woodland thimbleweed, Anemone virginiana  (Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family).

woodland thimbleweed
Woodland thimble-weed.
June 9, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

In typical buttercup fashion, the thimble-weed flowers are radially symmetric, with numerous stamens and numerous pistils, spirally arranged.

Anenome virginiana
Woodland thimble-weed.
June 9, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Bulblet Fern and Orchard Spider
June 9-13, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio

In a lovely wooded area alongside the Scioto River in Delaware County, Ohio is a little limestone cliff covered with cryptogams. One of these is bulblet fern, Cystopteris bulbifera (family Dryopteridaceae, the wood-fern family), seen here with mosses, mainly Anomodon attenuatus and Anomodon rostratus.

clif with bulblet fern
Cliff with bulblet fern. June 9, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

The moist limestone rock habitat is a typical one for this fern. It may be distinguished from afar by the long-attentuate shape of the fronds. Beneath, see that these ferns are producing clusters of sporangia. Very beautiful ...isn't that a sight for sore eyes? Get it, "sore eyes ....sori"? Oh well, anyhow, the sori (11 are shown in the photo below) are clusters of tiny globe-shaped structures within which spores are produced. In Cystopteris, and indeed most fern genera, the developing sori are covered by a flap of tissue called the "indusium." The Cystopteris indusium is hood-shaped. The common name "bladder fern" sometimes used for members of this genus  refers to the indusium shape.

bulblet fern sori
Bulblet fern sori.

In addition to reproducing sexually by spores, bulblet fern has an asexual means of making new plants that are clones of itself. These are pea-sized bulblets produced along the lower midrib.

bulblet fern bulblets
Bulblet fern bulblets

Sharing the cliff with the bulblet ferns is an orchard spider, Leucauge venusta, identified using the wondeful new "Common Spiders of Ohio" field guide by Rich Bradley, published by, and available for free from, the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Bradley tells us that this is a an orb-weaver, but unlike most orb-weavers, it makes a horizontal, not vertical, web (suggesting a relationship to another spider family, the long-jawed spiders). Another unusual feature: the female's legs are green. In real life she looked a lot more silvery that this photo shows.

orchard spider
Orchard spider. June 13, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Another intruguing aspect of the orchard spider is the presence of odd elaborate web-like specialized setae on the base of the hind leg, seen as  approx. 8 very faint curved parallel lines in the center of the zoom-crop image below. Those are a part of her body, not her web; they are believed to be a sensory adaptation.

orchard spider setae
Modified setae on femora of orchard spider. (Look closely.)

June 8, 2010. Dublin, Ohio.

All of the trees visible in this photo are ash (Fraxinus, family Oleaceae, the olive family) trees along Blazer Parkway in Dublin, Ohio. Considering the emarald ash borer, perhaps we should wish the company were named "Oakland."

Ash trees along Blazer Parkway. Dublin, Framklin County, Ohio. June 8, 2010.

Claridon Railroad Prairie
Caledonia, Marion County, Ohio. June 7, 2010

There are three families of "graminoids": grass-like plants with linear leaves and small wind-pollinated flowers These are:  (1) grasses themselves (family Poaceae), (2) sedges (Cyperaceae), (3) rushes (Juncaceae). All were in evidence today at Clarison Railroad Prairie in Caledonia, Marion County, Ohio.

Grasses have their minute flowers eveloped by wee little paired scales: (1) the outward-facing and usually larger lemma and (2) the inner, usually smaller palea. All together, the flower, lemma and palea constitute the "floret." Grass florets are often aggreated into tight little two-ranked spikes, appropriately called "spikelets," that are the actual grass infloresence. Note however that spikelets in many grasses are one-flowered, and also that the spikelets themselves are displayed in a secondary infloresence that gives grasses their distinctive looks from afar, with great variety among the various species. In fowl manna grass, Glyceria striata, the spikelets are 5-8 flowered, and they are disposed in a loosely wide-spreading branched panicle.

fowl manna grass
Fowl manna grass at Claridon Prairie. June 7, 2010.

Here's a zoom-crop of a portion of the manna grass panicle, showing details of the spikelets, in the font that everybody loves to hate, Comics Sans! Note that each spikelet includes, at its base, one additional pair of scale-like appendage, both called "glumes." The lowermost (relative to the growth axis of the plant, also called "proximal" first glume generally the smaller of the two.

manna grass spikelet
Manna grass spikelets.

Sedges too have minute flowers associated with little scales. Sedge scales, however, are not paired as are those of grasses; they come one per flower, and are indeed called "scales." In most sedge genera the florets are arranged spirally in each spikelet. In the big genus Carex and many other sedges the flowers individual flowers are unisexual (either male or female), with both sexes on an individual plant (i.e., they are monoecious), and there is substantial variation in the way they are disposed on the plants. In Buxbaum's sedge, Carex bubaumii, the spikelets are bisexual, with the staminate (male) flowers beneath the pistllate ones. That is evident because, after having released pollen, the male flowers leave little trace and so appear and a constricted part of the spkelet owing to the now empty scales, whereas the female ones are plumply in fruit. I'm really glad the "Kompozer" doesn't have a spell-checker because I think that "plumply" would have a little wiggly line underneath, and I'd have to think of another word. Part of the plumpiness, plumposity, and its plumpaceous nature is due to the presence of a unique Carex feature, the perigynium: a bag-like structure that surrounds the actual fruit, which is a one-seeded achene.
Carex buxbaumii
Carex buxbaumii at Claridon Prairie. June 7, 2010.

Another carex that is prominent here is tussock sedge, Carex stricta. Tussock sedge produces its male flowers in terminal spikelets that are entirely staminate. The pistillate scales are a dark purple-black in the center. Nice. Also, as it happens, one of the diagnostic traits of sedges in this group is a feature of the basal leaf-sheath. Here the sheath is seen to be frayed in a ladderlike fashion (inset).

Carex stricta
Tussock sedge at Claridon Prairie. June 7, 2010.

The third graminoid family is Juncaceae, the rushes. Rushes look like tiny little lilies and it would be nice if they were, but rushes are evidently not especially close to lilies taxonomically. Nonetheless,  radially symmetric flowers with three sepals and three petals that all look alike, 6 stamens and a superior ovary with three chambers (carpels) that develops into a capsule fruit type describes both rushes and lilies pretty well. Here's path rush, Juncus tenuis.

Juncus tenuis
Path rush at Claridon Prairie. June 7, 2010.

Fortunately for insects in search of nectar, not all the plants here are wind-pollinated. Wild garlic, Allium canadense, at least has a few flowers along with the bulblets in its umbel.

wild garlic with fly
Wild garlic at Claridon Prairie.

Iris in the Key of E.
Claridon Railroad Prairie
Caledonia, Marion County, Ohio. June 4, 2010

One of the best prairie remnants in the Sandusky Plains region of central Ohio is a narrow strip of land squeezed between a little-used county road and an active set of railroad tracks in Caledonia, Marion County Ohio. It's called the Claridon Railroad Prairie. A wildflower that is conspicuous today is a blue flag iris that I belive to be northern blue flag, Iris versicolor (Iridaceae, the iris family).  A few years ago I did a vegetation survey of this tract. (A .pdf of the study results is available here.) At that time I gave each species careful scrutiny. This one proved to be quite a puzzler to identify with certainty, distinguishing between northern blue flag and southern blue flag, I. virginica var. shrevei, formerly known as Iris shrevei. I still have some doubts.

Claridon Prairie
Iris at Claridon Prairie, Caledonia, Marion County, Ohio. June 4, 2010.
Based on range maps in E. Lucy Braun's Ohio monocots book, it seems that northern blue flag, indeed more northern, wouldn't be expected this far south, whereas the southern blue flag that ranges across central Ohio is the likely choice.

Iris range maps
Iris range maps.

Looking at the actual plants, here's a closer view of the iris, with a silver-spotted skipper visiting.

blue flag with skipper
Blue flag with skipper at Claridon Prairie. June 4, 2010.

...and here's a shot showing developing fruits, and ants visiting.

bkue flag with ants
Blue flag with ants at Claridon Prairie.

Iris flower structure is a little weird; some details are explained here. The main thing to keep in mind is that the biggest and brightest appendages are the sepals. Here's the relevant couplet in E.'s key (the key of E).

Iris in the key of E
Iris in the key of E.

Looking at the key, and looking at the plant, we see a fairly bright yellow blotch at the base of the blade, hinting towards  I. shreveri/virginica. But close examination of the blotch revealed it to be essentially glabrous, so maybe it's greenish-yellow as well. The measaurements were more in line with versicolor too I seem to recall, as was also something to do with the shape of the base of the style-branches, the significance of which is indicated in this key, from Gleason and Cronquist's Manual of the Vascular Plants...(1991, the New York Botanical Garden).

Iris in the key of B&B
Iris in the key of G&C

All-righty then, case closed. The verdict: northern blue flag: Iris versicolor. Ahh but wait. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I bring as a witness the Iris virginica schrevei page on the excellent and well-informed web site Wetland Wildflowers of Illinois where a flower is illustrated that looks for all the world like our suspect, especially considering the similarity of latitude and habitat --The photograph was taken at a moist remnant prairie along an abandoned railroad near Urbana, Illinois! They call attention to the hairless nature of the yellow blotch, a character that the afformentioned keys associate with the northern one. Perhaps versicolor ranges more widely than is generally believed, or, alternatively, that viginica/schrevei is more variable. Interesting!

southern blue flag on Illinois wildflower site
Iris virginia schrevei page of
Wetland Wildflowers of Illinois. (I added the elliptical annotation.)

Free Parking Weed Walk
OSU Columbus Campus, June 1, 2010

It's probably against the rules, but to avoid paying for parking and also to get a little exercise when I need to do something on the Columbus campus of OSU, I park at a very public satellite facility of OSU that has "visitor parking" about a mile from the building I need to be at. The walk is pleasant and botanical.

Today the walking path is lined by motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca (Lamiaceae, the mint family) in flower. With its square stems, opposite leaves, sympetalous (i.e., having fused petals) bilaterally symmetric flowers clustered together into tight clusters (verticels) in the axils of the leaves, motherwort is instantly recognizable as a "mint."

Motherwort. June 1, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

Motherwort, native to Europe, is a well-known herbal plant that, as the comon name implies, has been used for all conditions uterine --symptoms premenstrual, childbirthey, post-partum, menopausal, and the like, as well as for heart ailments (hence the specific epithet "cardiaca", an old generic name meaning "for the heart") The photo below shows a hypertensive menopausal syrphid fly visiting a blossom.

syrphid fly on motherwort
Syrphid fly visists motherwort in Columbus, Ohio., June 1, 2010.

Nearby, a member of another well-marked family, the mustard family (Brassicaceae). This is, I believe, hedge mustard, Sisymbrium officinale. The genus is an awful lot like Brassica, from which it is distinguished technically, in part, by a minute difference in the way in which the seed leaves (cotyledons) are folded in the seed. Superficially, the hedge mustard flowers are smaller, and the fruits narrower, than those  of Brassica. The specific epithet "officinale" means "of the apothecary" in reference to some medicinal use of the plant. In this case, it has been used as a poison antidote, diuretic, expectorant, tonic, and laxative. Sometimes it almost seems that all herbal medicine consists of using  "___________" (fill in the blank with a plant name, expecially one that ends in "wort") being used as a poison antidote, diuretic, expectorant, tonic, or laxative.

hedge mustard
Hedge mustard in Columbus, Ohio. June 1, 2010.