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"Guvblitz," or "Is it legal to have this much fun?"
Ohio Governor's Residence and Heritage Garden
August 28, 2010. Bexley, Franklin County, Ohio

What a pleasant surprise it was when Rick Gardner asked me if I would participate in a "bio-blitz" at the Ohio Governor's Residence. A bio-blitz is a science cum educational activity where people who enjoy identifying living things congregate at a some special natural area and tally as many species as they can in a set amount of time. Why hold a bio-blitz at the Governor's residence? Although the Governor's residence is somewhat upscale, it's not excessively so. Nor is it on a huge plot of land, occupying 3 acres in a fairly normal, upscale but not excessively so, suburb of Columbus called Bexley.

We were greeted by then-Governor Ted Strickland, and former First Lady Hope Taft. Even though it was the thick of election season, this was a wonderfully non-partisan affair, as these are both super-nice people, relaxed and happy, and it was all about the bio-blitz with the young people there eager to learn about field biology, not politics.

Ted Strickland and Hope Taft
Ted Strickland and Hope Taft greet young naturalists. August 28, 2010.

What's special about the this place nature-wise is the Heritage Garden. Designed to showcase the five principal biogeographic regions in Ohio, this awesome botanical display was established in 2000 under the intitiative of then First Lady Mrs. Hope Taft. Hope is keenly interested in native plants, and is a cheerful and articulate advocate for ecosystem preservation and the use of wildlife-enhancing plants in horticulture. She was on hand this day to lead tours of the Garden to a contingent of interested young people from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, based in northern Ohio.

Hope Taft leads tour at Heritage Garden
Hope Taft leads tour at Heritage Garden during bio-blitz. August 28, 2010.

The five physiographic regions re-created here are: (1) glaciated Allegheny Plateau of northeastern Ohio (including cranberry bog!); (2) Appalachian region (including cedar glade!!), (3) Huron-Erie Lake Plain (including sand dune!!!), (4) Lake Erie Alvar (including limestone slab with glacial grooves!!!!), and (5) Central Lowland Till Plains (prairie!!!!!).

My job was to find and identify mosses. Here are two of them, hanging out with a cranberry in the bog. The large one in the center is some species of Sphagnum that I could only guess at, and on the left is Aulocomnium palustre.

Sphagnum and cranberry
Cranberry and friends at bog in Heritage Garden. August 28, 2010.

At this time of the year, prairie is the most striking plant community. Here it's being inspected by Guy Denny, a retired Chief of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and a co-founder of the Heritage Garden.

Guy Denney at Heritage Garden
Guy Denny at Prairie Heritage Garden. August 28, 2010.

One of the plants featured here is ashy sunflower, Helianthus mollis (Asteraceae). At the northeastern edge of its range, this prairie perennial is known from only a handful of Ohio counties. The combination of dense gray pubescence and clasping leaves is distinctive.

Helianthus mollis
Ashy sunflower at Heritage Garden. August 28, 2010.
Because they are large, spreading, and have a fidelity to undisturbed open areas, the "signature" prairie wildflowers are members of the genus Silphium (rosin-weed, prairie dock, and compass-plant) in the Asteraceae (sunflower family). This one, compass plant, S. laciniatum, is a western species for which there is only one known natural (possibly natural is more accurate) Ohio occurence, in Lawrence County (at the extreme southern tip of the state). Compass-plant does well in cultivation, however, and is a terrific addition to a prairie garden.

Compass-plant at the Heritage Garden. August 28, 2010.

Another conspicuous genus in the Asteraceae with a fidelity to prairies is Liatris, the blazing-stars, of which 5 species occur naturally in Ohio. This one is rough blazing-star, L. aspera.

Rough blazing-star at Heritage Garden. August 28, 2010.

Blazing-star identification can be a bit tricky. It depends, in part, upon a close examination of the phyllaries, i.e., involucral btacts --those little leaf-like appendages that are spirally arranged on the lower portion of each flower head. The bracts of L. aspersa have a broad uneven irregularly lacerate scarious (papery) border. Here's a zoom-crop of a flower head from the photo above, showing the scarious border of the involucral bracts.

Liatris phyllary

The legume (pulse) family, Fabaceae, is also among those most well represented in prairies. Partridge-pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata is a showy annual in the subfamily Caesalpinoideae, a primarily tropical group distinguished from the more typical "papilionoid" legumes (subfamily Faboideae) by having flowers with the upper petal (the "standard") innermost instead of outermost, and the stamens usually separate from one another instead of being fused in some manner.

Partridge-pea in the Heritage Garden. August 28, 2010.

Here's my tally of the bryophytes:

Bryophyte List from the Heritage Gardens Bioblitz
August 28, 2010 (Bob Klips)

Kelly’s Island Garden
Campylium chrysophyllum, Funaria hygrometrica,
and Tortella tortuosa.

Dolomites Rocks (Edge of Appalachia) Garden

Fissidens dubius
and Rhodobyrum ontariense.
Sandstone Boulder near Greenhouse

Bryum capillare, Desmatodon obtusifolius, and Schistidium rivulare.

Allegheny Plateau Garden

Amblystegium varium, Anomodon attenuatus, Desmatodon obtusifolius, Hyophila involuta,
and Plagiomnium cuspidatum.

 Cranberry Bog Garden

Aulacomnium palustre,
and Sphagnum sp.

General Grounds

Amblystegium varium, Bryum argenteum, Bryum lisae
var. cuspidatum, Entodon seductrix, Fissidens taxifolius, Frullania eboracensis, Leptobryum pyriforme, Leskea gracilescens, Orthotrichum pusillum, Physcomitrium pyriforme, Platygyrium repens, Pohlia sp.and Tortula papillosa.

Learn more about the Heritage Gardens HERE.

Insects Forage on American Fireweed
(Erechtites hieracifolia)
August 27, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.

It's harvest time for Team Milkweed --harvesting data, that is, and while tallying fruit-set on the hand-pollinated and open-pollinated control plants at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, it is a pleasure to see some late-summer insects enjoying life among the follicles. This is, I believe, a fork-tailed bush katydid, Scudderia furcata, an orthopteran that can be found in brushy areas across all of the lower 48 states.

This specimen is a female --note the upwardly curved ovipositor. (The forked "tail" in its name refers to the male's bifurcated dorsal processes.)

fork-tailed bush katydid
Fork-tailed bush katydid on Sullivant's Milkweed. August 27, 2010.

American fireweed, Erechtites hieracifolia (Asteraceae, the daisy familu), an is interesting plant that, like its fellow "composites" ragweed and horseweed, is a somewhat weedy native annual deserving of way more respect that it usually gets. (This is not the fireweed that is a showy wildlflower in the evening-primrose family), . The bush katydid seems to like it, too.

American fireweed with bush katydid
American fireweed with bush katydid. August 27, 2010.
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Marion County, Ohio.

This common plant of open areas has a "discoid" capitulum type, i.e., its flower heads are composed only of radially symmetric flowers
. The petal-simulating strap-shaped "ray" flowers that are found at the periphery of the heads of many other members of this family are lacking here. Accordingly, this species gives the appearance of being self-pollinated, and indeed it probably is, at least principally. It is intriguing to see two species of insect merrily nectaring on the pathetic fireweed flower heads.

This is a honeybee.

honeybee on fireweed
Honeybee forages on fireweed at Killdeer. August 27, 2010.

...and this is a delightful day-flying moth, Virginia ctenucha, Ctenucha virginica (Arctiidiae), a common species endemic to eastern North America.

Ctenucid on pilewort
Virginia ctenucha on American fireweed at Killdeer. August 27, 2010.

It's always fun to see different members of a genus co-habiting an area. In this case, they are weedy foxtail grasses. The larger of the two seemd to be giant foxtail, Setaria faberii (Poaceae, the grass family).

giant foxtail grass
Giant foxtail grass at Killdeer Plains. August 27, 2010.

The giant foxtail is larger than other foxtail species, and its spikes droop dramatically. Along with this giant one is a smaller, more erect-spiked species that seems to be yellow foxtail grass, Setaria glauca. Here are the two of them, side-by-side.

Setaria times two
Setaria times two at Killdeer. August 27, 2010.

Another awesome orthopteran is evident in this meadow. Abundant and conspicuous at least via the auditory route as the males are constantly singing with a loud continuous trill, it's black-horned tree cricket, Oecanthus nigricornis. The specimen shown below is a female. (Note the ovipositor.)

Oecanthus nigricornis
Black-horned tree cricket. August 27, 2010.

Almost Androdioecous
Virgin's-bower (Clematis virginiana)
August 21, 2010. Hocking County, Ohio

On our way to a work weekend, or maybe it was a party (is there a difference?) at Deep Woods, a privately owned nature preserve in Hocking County, we were impressed by the beautiful riot of late summer wildflowers along the road.

roadside wildflowers
Roadside wildflowers. August 21, 2010. Hocking County, Ohio.

One of the plants here --the white flowered one in the photo above--is virgin's-bower, Clematis virginiana. Inasmuch as its family, Ranunculaceae (the buttercup fam.) is composed mainly of alternate-leaved herbs with hermaphroditic flowers, this genus is a bit of a standout by virtue of its opposite leaves, woody habit, and mating system that includes unisexual flowers.

These are the flowers on the wholly staminate (male) individuals. Note that there is a fine functional  androecium of  pollen-producing stamens, but no ovule (seed)/carpel (fruit)-producing parts whatsoever. (Side note: the white petal-like appendages, 4 per flower, are actually sepals; these flowers happen to be petel-less.)

male virgin's-bower
Male Clematis virginiana flowers. August 21, 2010. Hocking County, Ohio

Here's another Clematis individual.

Clematis virginiana is a dioecious opposite-leaved woody vine.
August 21, 2010. Hocking County, Ohio.

The plant shown above is female. Here's a close-up of her flowers. In the center of each, see a large number of pollen-receptive styles --the upper part of the female gynoecium --protruding above the other parts. Other parts? What other parts? Yes, those seem to be stamens. If these were functional pollen-producing stamens, then this population would be "andodioecious," i.e., with both hermaphrodites and wholly/solely male individuals. But because the path to dioecy (separate male and female individuals) generally involves male sterility caused by so-called "cytoplasmic" factors, i.e., mitochondrial genes that are passed along only through the female line, the transmission of those genes is enhanced by the total suppression of male sexuality, thereby directing all of a plant's reproductive down the (mitochonria-carrying) female line. Thus androdioecy, wherein females retain some male function, is a spectacularly uncommon sexual condition. Alas, even though it looks like this might be an example of androdioecy, it isn't. According to published descriptions of Clematis sexuality, these stamens are non-functional and these flowers, although they don't look like it, are in fact wholly/solely female.

pistillate virgin's-bower
Not quite hermaphroditic flowers of virgin's-bower. August 21, 2010. Hocking County, Ohio.

These funtionally female plants are conspicuous well into winter, as their abundant clusters of dry one-seeded fruits, each tipped by the feathery persistent style, delightfully festoon roadside shrubbery, reminding everyone of a virgin's bower, whatever the heck that is. An even more odd common names is "devil's darnoing-needle."

virgin's-bower fruits
Virgin's-bower is distinctive in late fall and winter.
December 14, 2008. Delaware County, Ohio.

Also present in the meadow is hollow Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum (Asteraceae). The common name is said to be in attribution to a native American herb doctor so-named, who used a member of this genus to treat typhus.

Joe-pye weed
Hollow Joe Pye Weed in Hocking County, Ohio, August 21, 2010.

Time-traveling Tube Ferns Paleozoic Swamp Forest Mini-Replica
Waldo, Marion County, Ohio
Various summer evenings, mostly during August, 2011

During the (aptly named, because it is when coal-beds were formed) Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era (approx. 350 to 299 million years ago) there were vast swamps. The dominant vegetation in these ancient swamps were "tree" versions of seedless vascular plants that included a few general types that are still with us --ferns and lycopods (clubmosses) --but which today are paltry low-growing remnants of their former selves now that conifers and flowering plants are the superstars of the plant world.

One of the dominant Paleozoic plants was Calamites, a jointed tubular form much like today's Equisetum, only much bigger. When we see dense stands of Equisetum, it's fun to imagine what the coal-swamps must have looked like. There's just such a spot in Waldo, Marion County, Ohio where there's an awesome little replica of a Paleozoic swamp forest.

Here's a picture of how flooded the spot sometimes gets. Usually there is no standing water here at all.

flooded Equisetum-filled lowland
A wet spot in Ohio where Equisetum grows.
March 9, 2011.

...and here's a view from a few years ago, looking up

Equisetum, looking up at
Equisetum stand looking like a Calamites swamp forest.
April 26, 2006. Waldo, Marion County, Ohio.

Traditionally, Equisetum was placed in its very own Division, Equisetophyta, separate from both the ferns (Pterophyta) and the "lycophytes" (clubmosses, spikemosses and quillworts, in the Division Lycophyta). There are two general growth forms in Equisetum. The branched species are generally called "horsetails," and the simple tubular ones like those featured here are called "scouring rush."  However, now that they're classified as pterophytes, a new name is sweeping the land --they're called "TUBE FERNS!!" 

This particular species is Equisetum hyemale, so-named because it is evergreen ("hyemale" means "of the winter"). Here's a picture of it during two extremes of the year.

Equisetum winter and summer
Equisetum hyemale at two seasons.
Left:  February 11, 2011 with ice.
Right: August 17, 2010, with Armadillidium nasatum, an introduced isopod crustacean pillbug

Take an umbrella and glue a dozen jumbo bags of popcorn side-by-side along its six edges, and you've made a giant model of an Equisetum "sporangiophore." The popcorn bags represent sporangia filled with spores. Next, take a few dozen of those umbella contraptions and glue them to a flag-pole, arranged in a tight cone-like spiral, and call it an Equisetum "strobilus." Here's what it looks like in real life (Equisetum, not the crazy umbrella popcorn flag-pole contraption).

Equisetum hyemale strobilus
Equisetum strobilus is a spiral array of peltate sporangiophores.

This summer I got a new piece of macro photography gear: the Canon MT-24 twin flash, that has an excellent feature very helpful for taking pictures at night. Its accessory lamp which casts a little light on the subject to allow composing and focusing is actuated not only by a hard to reach button on the unit, but (yippee!) also by a convenient half-press of the shutter button. That makes hunting for bugs on Equisetum plants great fun. Plus, since the Carboniferous is also famous for having big arthropods, this adds to the "time travel" illusion.  

-----Click to Enlarge-----

  (Warning to arachniphobes...there's scary SPIDERS here!!)

Highslide JS
This is, I believe, a nursery-web spider consuming a leafhopper!
Highslide JS
Shamrock spider, Araneus trifolium.

Highslide JS
Short-winged meadow-katydid, Conocephalus brevipennis
Highslide JS
A slug. I wonder how to identify slugs.
Highslide JS
This, Rabidosa rabida, is called the rapid wolf spider, but it doesn't have rabies.
Highslide JS
This is a robber fly (Order Diptera, fam. Asilidae).
Highslide JS
Sleeping pearl crescent butterfly, Phyciodes tharos.
Highslide JS
Some kind of ground beetle (Order Coleoptera, fam. Carabidae).
Highslide JS
A nursery-web spider, possibly Pisaurina mira, even though it's much paler than the other one??
Highslide JS
Pisaurina mira, a nursery-web spider.
Highslide JS
All I can say is "It's a cricket."
Highslide JS
Female conehead (Neoconocephalus) new molted, and nymphal skin.

Here's a couple other critters that didn't make it into the Equisetum photo gallery because they're on grasses. One of the grasses is Virginia wild-rye, Elymus virginica, a very common native grass of wooded bottomlands that the short-winged meadow katydid seems to like.

Short-winged meadow katydid munches on a wild-rye spikelet.
August 12, 2010. Waldo, Marion County, Ohio.

"Look Ma, no hands!"

Short-winged meadow katydid that wants to run away and join the circus.

Creeping bent grass, Agrostis stolonifera, with a broad-winged tree-cricket, Oecanthus latipennis.

Broad-winged tree-cricket clutching bent grass culm.
August 12, 2010. Waldo, Marion County, Ohio.