The EEOB class took a trip down to southwest Ohio in Hocking county where we explored the Deep Woods territory in search for the elusive Appalachian Gametophyte and other cool flora in the area. The trip may have been a bit treacherous but we all opened our minds to the wonderful plants the area had to offer.
In the article “Linking Geology and Botany: a new approach” by Jane Forsyth she discusses different kinds of plants that are associated with acid sandstone places like the Hocking Hills. I was able to photo document some of these plants:
The american chestnut is a large deciduous tree that is native to North America. Distinguishable by its toothed alternate leaves. We were very lucky to spot this beautiful tree on our way back from exploring the deep woods. Dr. Klips taught us that an american chestnut blight has made it to where chestnut trees are dying off from the invasive asian chetnut tree that was a carrier to a fungus pathogen and has wiped out almost all of the american chestnut trees. There have been preservation projects to preserve this magnificent tree such as the American Chestnut Foundation that “... is dedicated to breeding a blight-resistant American chestnut tree and the reintroduction of this tree to the forests of the Eastern United States.” More information on their project can be found here.
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Eastern hemlock is an evergreen tree that is native to the northeastern part of North America.
This tree is said to resemble a christmas tree and can grow up to 100 feet in height. The fruits that come off of the eastern hemlock are about 1 inch long ovoid cones that hang off the end of the branches almost like small christmas ornaments.
Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
Pink Lady Slipper is a large orchid wildflower native to the northeast part of the United States and North America. IT is identifable with its very unique shape and flashy pink corolla that is often associated with it. It has two basal leaves which is another way one can identify the flower. We stumbled upon this flower by accident after keeping our eyes out for so long. It was a treat finding one near the summit of our hike. The Pink Lady Slipper will sometimes form a symbiotic relationship with a fungus from the Rhizoctonia genus to break open the seeds inside the flower to pass on nutrients to the plant. Then when the orchid is older the fungus will extract nutrients from the roots.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
When we came across this sourwood we were able to capture it in a younger form. Sourwood has an alternate, simple, fine toothed leaves. The name Sourwood is derived from the acrid taste of its leaves. Mountain Climbers will use these tea for leaves as a “thirst quencher”. Pioneers would use the sap of this tree to treat fevers and would use the plant to treat mouth pain by chewing it on the bark. If you are lucky to find it, the honey that bees make from this tree is said to be delicious.
Biotic Threats to Forest Health
Butternut (Juglans cinerea)
Butternut is a species of walnut tree that is native to the eastern part of the united states. Butternut is a species of tree that is endangered because of the Butternut Canker. Butternut Canker is a fungal disease that spreads quickly and can kill a tree within a couple of years. There have been strategies put in place by different organizations by the US department of agriculture to preserve these trees. There have been some evidence that shows that some Butternut trees live a long life which could indicate that the trees are growing resistant to the disease but still it is worth doing our best to preserve a tree that is very important to the ecosystem that it inhabits. We were able to find a photo of a butternut tree in the Deep Woods but we could see many branches are bark falling off so we could easily tell that this tree has been infected.
Like a lot of different wildlife in Ohio and the United States, climate change is an immediate threat that should be taken seriously to protect the flora and naturally habitat of thousands of animals and plant species. Another threat to the Eastern Hemlock is the hemlock woolly adelgid otherwise known as the HWA. HWA is an insect that feeds on the sap from the eastern hemlock and kills the hemlock trees. The HWA was introduced from Japan in the 1950s and since the HWA has no natural enemies there is nothing stopping it from destroying Eastern Hemlock trees across the united states. Another reason why climate change is a big issue for eastern hemlock is because as the northern United States gets warmer the HWA will migrate north where they are more comfortable in warmer climate than colder climate so that will allow them to destroy more eastern Hemlock.
One of the biggest highlights of this adventure was seeing the Appalachian Gametophyte (Vittaria appalachiana). We were lucky enough to encounter this plant inside a sandstone cave underneath a dark and damp are a little deep inside the cave. (picture below) The plant is a fern that resembles a liverwort and only has the fern gametophyte. This plant produces asexually so it does this from propogation of the gammae, The gammae in V.appalachiana produce exact replicas of each other so they are genetically identical to one another. The gammae for the V. appalachiana is very large and because of this they arent great for pollination by wind. Kimmerer and Young suggested that they become dispersed by very small animals such as slugs. Ruldolphi (2009) suggested they could be dispersed by ants.
It has been shown that V. appalachiana can only be found below the glacial divide even though it can survive in glaciated areas. It is hypothesized that the V. appalachiana is keeping its wide range dispersed because it can disperse long distances but this is not the case because of the truncated range in New York. Groot (1991) suggest that V. appalachiana once had the ability to disperse through spores but lost this ability later on in its evolution. According to a research study done by Pinson and Shuettpelz in 2016, they found that V. appalachiana did not arise from hybridization but instead suggest that “… instead points to an origin involving genome duplication and/or divergent speciation. ”
Miscellaneous Other Observations: