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.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wetlands In August

I had a chance to visit a couple wetlands last week, but only for a short time. So I'll just put up a few pics for now. Here are a couple of moist to wet soil plants. Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica, and Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

I made it to a wetland in northern Ohio known as Old Woman Creek. OWC is a freshwater estuary. That means that plant and animal life is affected by lake levels, sand barriers at the entrance, wind and storms, and activities similar to tidal changes we'd expect to see along ocean coasts. I used to tromp this area with my YCC crews back in the day.

My main reason for stopping this day was to see how bad Phragmites had invaded the area, and to photograph this particular plant. These huge two foot leaves belong to the American Lotus, Nelumbo lutea. Similar to water lilies, it's in a separate family. Water Lily leaves have a cut in them, Lotus leaves are perfectly round.

Lotus has large yellowish-white flowers. The stalk will emerge up to two feet above the water before blooming. Solid stands are formed by spreading rhizomes. Though showy, and native, it can be an unwanted invasive in many areas..

After a couple days, the petals and sepals will fall, exposing this shower head seed case.

The seed head will continue to grow and eventually lean to the side. This is so the mature fruit can fall into the water. The seeds will turn brown and resemble acorns. Jim McCormac at Ohio Birds and Biodiversity just posted a nice picture of matured seeds. I remember a speaker talking about her research on this area. She said some of these seeds sit in the water for 100 years, and are still viable. It is said some Lotus species around the world will still grow from 1,000 year old seeds!

Regardless, I still say this thing looks like one of the creatures from Monsters Inc.

While walking around I noticed this little guy called the White-striped Black, Trichodezia albovittata. It's a day flying Inchworm Moth. I mentioned Jim earlier, and this moth is on his hit list to photograph. I was hoping for much better shots, but no matter what plant it landed on, it immediately took wing after one second. There he his, shoot, gone. It landed, shoot, blur. Over and over again.

I guess because I was hot and sweaty, I provided the best place to search out a wet salty meal. Photographing my jeans wasn't my choice, but beggars can't be choosers.

Judging by the topography, you can tell we're not in Huron anymore. This is a local spot. The Ora Anderson wetland is part of the Wayne National Forest.

At the entrance are some nice large clumps of American Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens. I need to come back when they turn bright orange and red. They are quite appealing, and great for making wreaths. When asked what bittersweet tastes like I say, eh, bitter, sweet. Just kidding, don't eat it, it's poisonous.

Speaking of poisonous, Pokeberry, Phytolacca americana, advertises its warning. When Pokeberry or Pokeweed starts growing it is green. You can boil the leaves to make a mushy salad. Once the stalk turns red, it can be deadly. The fruit is also supposed to contain the same toxins, but old time stories talk about their use in pies. I will stay away from that, I'm no 'poke salad Annie'.

They may not be showy, but they make up a portion of the wetland vegetation. This is Green Bulrush, Scirpus atrovirens. You can recognize this plant by thinking of how fireworks go off. Some have an explosion, then another burst further up. That's what Green Bulrush shows in the fruiting body. Not only is it around ponds and marshes, but it's quite common on wet prairie sites.

Always a nice find is the Swamp Rose Mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos. All the leaves on this plant are unlobed. If you find a Swamp Mallow with three lobed leaves, that is Halbred-leaved Mallow. Generally speaking, it is more common in the western half of the state, while Swamp Rose Mallow is found most often in the eastern half of Ohio.

Flowers can range from red-pink, pink, or white. Color variations are just that, and not different species.

On a side note, folks are probably noticing a lot of these lately. This is the Fall Webworm, Hyphantria cunea, one of the Tiger Moths. These are not tentworms, those come out in spring on Cherry trees. These are not Bagworms. Bagworms are solitary caterpillars that sew a bag around themselves. Fall Webworms spin a silken area around the ends of branches. They look more like spider webs.

Here is a nice closeup of the larvae busy feeding inside the web. They may be unsightly when it comes to landscape plants, but because most populations occur later in the summer when the years tree growth has already reached its maximum, the actual damage to forests is slight to non existent.


  1. I just discovered this blog and find it most interesting! I'm attempting to learn the local flora (here in northeast Ohio) and although it is a daunting task it is so exciting going out and knowing what different stuff is. I've barely scratched the surface and am amazed at the info in your blog entries. Wonderful photographs, too!

  2. Thank you for your comments Jared.

  3. I simply love the bright color of the cardinal flower. Isn’t it so nice and pretty?