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, August 30, 2011

Mill Creek Farm

Mill Creek Farm is part of the metro park system, and is located outside the town of Canfield Ohio. A working farm, it doesn't have a lot of woods, and is primarily used for its bike paths. No matter how empty a place seems to be, there is always something to photograph. I just thought the Nightshade fruit made an interesting picture.

Being a farm, it's no surprise to see these two plants. If you walk past them too fast, you may mistake them for the same thing. The upper is Cow Vetch, Vicia cracca, and the lower is Alfalfa, Medicago sativa. The vetch has long tubular flowers on a raceme, and the leaves are highly divided, with the stem ending in a tendril. Alfalfa flowers are clustered in a more rounded bunch. The flowers are shorter, broader, and have a larger lip. Both are excellent nitrogen fixers and are highly valued as a hay crop.

Though not nearly as numerous as the eruption of 2010, there were still a fair number of Buckeye butterflies to be seen this year.

Nectaring on Goldenrod was this Feather-legged Fly, Trichopoda pennipes. Although they look and act much like Syrphid Flies, they are actually members of the Tachinid Fly family. The sexes are told apart by the amount of black on the wings and abdomen tip.

They are called Feather-legged Flies because of the row of comb-like hairs found on the back legs.

All flies have but two wings. The back pair is replaced by a set of club-like halters. These are visible in most flies, but seem to be missing here. The brown structures you see are called calypters. They act as a shield, and cover the halters. They lift up during flight so the halters can function in balancing the fly.

If you've been out in open fields right now, you can't miss the most abundant insect there is on Goldenrod. Soldier Beetles, in this case Chauliognathus pensylvanicus. Soldier beetles as a family are elongate and have soft wings. Like Blister Beetles, their bodies contain Cantharidin, an irritating chemical used for defense.

I must have liked shiny objects as a baby. The iridescent green is what I noticed first as this Ground Beetle, Calleida punctata was walking further down on the goldenrod. Those jaws make ground beetles formidable predators, especially on caterpillars.

Growing along the bike path were several varieties of Hawthorn or Haw. This is an early successional plant commonly found in amongst Sumac, Crabapple, and Persimmon, all of which are highly desired by wildlife. You can eat the fruit, and the taste ranges from bland to very sour. The juices have been used to flavor drinks. Because it is edible, historical folklore is rich with stories of its many medicinal properties.

In her book, the Woody Plants of Ohio, E. Lucy Braun once took the time to figure there were 66 species of Hawthorns in Ohio. She was never the same after that. Hawthorn is genetically unstable, and can produce many varieties, forms, and hybrids. Often when you use a hawthorn key, you can key one species to a name, key another plant 6 feet away to something else, and dig up the roots to find they are the same plant. The genus is Crataegus, and leave it at that. Trying to figure out all the hawthorns can lead you to drooling in a rubber room with a straight jacket!

Oh no, not again. Yep, Purple Loosestrife is everywhere. Exotic invasives in metro parks is common. I don't think I've ever been in a metro park system where they weren't a problem. Most of these parks were purchased as abandoned lands and very few were kept in a natural state. Returning them to natives is an ongoing resource management plan for such areas.

Who hasn't experienced the exotic Japanese Beetle as well. Home owners can purchase traps for these beetles, but in the wild it's just not practical. You can see the damage they inflict on leaves.

And this is what your plant looks like when they are done.                                                            

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