Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Zaleski Wetlands

When traveling along Rt. 278 past Lake Hope State Park, you'll encounter a number of wetlands. Most are open marshes with perhaps Buttonbush shrubs throughout. One in particular, with River Birch, Pin Oak, and Sphagnum Moss, caught my attention.
Identifying plants in flower is one thing, but I didn't recognize this post-bloom species. I had seen this plant in Michigan, but never in Ohio. Turns out this is Marsh St. Johnswort. Look for the long perfoliate leaves.

Another common wetland plant is Bur-reed. Difficult to identify to species, you have to look closely at the spiny seed cluster. This is Sparganium androcladum or americanum. Range maps indicate it's probably the latter. These green clusters are white when flowering, and look similar to Buttonbush.

Speaking of which, here is Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. It is one of the first woody shrubs to colonize wetlands.

Arrow-leaved Tearthumb is a common plant of wet soils, but I usually see it with white flowers more so than pink blooms.

Ferns are common in a variety of habitats. Some are more often seen in forests, while others prefer to keep their feet wet. This is Sensitive Fern, recognized by the way the leaves (fronds) form a wing-like main stem.

Another species of wet soils is the Cinnamon Fern. Both these fern species produce separate stalks for their spores rather than on the back of each frond.

One of the nice finds in this swamp was the Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata.

This species of holly is deciduous. It has rather small non-showy flowers.

Much more noticeable are the clusters of bright red berries. Like American Holly, only the female plants will produce fruit. The leaves are serrated, and have small wrinkled cross veins.

When the leaves fall, look for the single bump, or bundle scar inside the leaf scar. Also look at those two sharp objects on either side of the leaf scar.

Upon maturity these pointy black 'stipules' aid in identification, especially in winter. Because the fruit persist into the cold months, Winterberry is often used as a landscape plant.

White to pink tinged, these oddly shaped flowers account for the common name Turtlehead.

You can't walk through a wetland without encountering the orange Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not.

Coming in for a landing. This is a Bee Fly of the genus Lepidophora. Because there is yellow on the 4th abdominal segment, it is probably Lepidophora lutea.

This species looks like a large marsh mosquito. Most bee flies mimic bees in both looks and behavior. These use that long needle-like proboscis for probing flowers. Bee fly larvae are parasites of bees.

This fly has long antennae covered in thick black scales. More typical of flies are short, thin, wire-like antennae like you see at the end of these.

Because of the large round thorax, these flies are often called hunch-back flies.

Where the wetland meets the road I found this Ground-cherry, a common plant in disturbed sites.

This is a Dogbane Leaf Miner. The leaves are rolled up and the caterpillars hide inside while eating only the soft green cells of the plant.

After tearing the leaf open, the caterpillars immediately started grabbing the silk and sewing the leaf shut.

It's late in the season, but this Monarch was still busy eating away at a milkweed. Upon hatching it will start to migrate south.

This is a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar. It is turning dark and sitting on a silken web, evidence it is starting to pupate.

Upon arriving home I was presented with this giant silkworm caterpillar. It is the larvae of the Imperial Moth. The color varies from green to reddish brown, and has 4 horns behind the head, followed by many soft white hairs.

Insects all have 3 body regions, not always easy to distinguish on larval forms. Here the head is obvious. The thorax region has the legs, and in this case, the four horns. The abdominal segments all have light circles on them called spiracles. This is how they breathe.


  1. Great info again. I found some of that clammy ground-cherry up on a ridge at tar hollow while working this summer. I thought it was a great find. Didn't know it was invasive, though.

  2. Great posting, Dennis! Love all the information and I really love that bee fly!

  3. This is super cool thanks for sharing.

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  5. Dennis, which flora/key did you use to ID your Sparganium androcladum?

  6. Thanks for noticing that. It was so long ago, I can't remember where that name came from. I amended the post. According to Lucy Braun in her Monocot book, the two are often confused, with americanum being much more likely for this area.