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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mill Creek Metro Park, Boardman OH.

Mill Creek in Mahoning County is a Hemlock lined gorge that I've tried repeatedly to visit this spring, but you know how the rain was unending. Finally with summer here I'm getting a chance to explore.

I missed all the spring species, but the Rhododendrons are starting to bloom. This is the Great Rhododendron, Rhododendron maximum. The park has an abundance of these planted, and the gardens are full of many varieties. More on the arboretum later.

Driving along the road, a bright red plant caught my eye. This is Red Elderberry. Sambucus racemosa (pubens). While occasionally found in some southern Ohio counties, it's primarily a Northern Hardwoods species of Michigan and Canada. In Ohio it is most common in the North-East counties. The flowers and fruit occur in a panicle form, narrow at top, wider further down, not flat-topped like our purple fruited Common Elderberry. The red fruit is NOT edible.

Already going to fruit is Ostrya virginiana. Called Ironwood, the preferred name is Hop-hornbeam. That is due to the resemblance the fruit has to Common Hops, the plant used to brew beer. Each air filled sac contains a hard nutlet. Green now, they will turn brown come fall. There are hairs on both the fruit and its stem. I have handled planted varieties of this where those hairs act like Stinging Nettle!

Another plant I ran into is this Poison Ivy look-alike. I haven't seen this in quite some time. It's Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica. It has three leaflets like poison ivy, which may be why more people don't approach it. It's a shrub, smaller than the other sumacs of Ohio. The male flowers are in a catkin form, also different than other sumacs. Crush the leaves for a very agreeable odor.

Fragrant Sumac does not have large panicle shaped fruit either. The clusters are round, golf ball to tennis ball sized.

Why it looks like two doves kissing. Walking along the wet areas I came across the Water-Willow, Justica americana. They are common along lake edges, and can form large dense stands. The flowers are irregular and blue and white.

Also found in semi wet areas were these small plants known as Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis scorpioides.

Another very small flower I noticed had me for a minute. The flowers look like a Wood Sorrel, but not with divided, fern like leaves. The long fruit clusters had me thinking Geranium. Turns out it's Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum. Commonly planted in gardens, it's a non-native species.

Speaking of gardens, Mill Creek has a very nice arboretum. I usually don't post species from such areas, but why not. The following are just a few non natives I came across. This one above is Smoketree. Named for how the flowers and fruit billow out in these plumes. Cotinus varieties are commonly used in landscaping, though there is a rare native species in the southern states.

Also common as ornamentals are the many many variations of Acer palmatum, Japanese Maple.

I recently did a post on woody plant blooms where I showed several Magnolia species. This is a gulf coast species known as Sweetbay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana. It can be both deciduous and evergreen.
One of the best ways to separate it from other magnolias is to look for white on the leaf undersides.

Another plant I used to see a lot in the south was Hydrangea quercifolia, an appropriate latin name for a species called Oak-leaf Hydrangea.

By far one of the most mesmerizing plants in the gardens was this Globe Thistle, Echinops ritro. Don't stare at this picture too long, it may do funny things to your eyes.


  1. Oh, my! The photo of the Echinops is magnificent! I'm still drooling.

  2. Wow! I agree, with the previous comment! Awesome picture of the globe thistle! Wonderful post-You are always so informative!