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, May 30, 2013

Hiking Mahoning County

As a young student I took a class in Nature Interpretation. Our teacher was one of the first ever state park naturalists in Ohio, the late Bill Price. If anyone knows that name, you know I am really dating myself. He would let us wander in the woods looking for things to talk about. When we got back together, we'd ask each other, "you see anything? no, how about you? nope". No birds, snakes, frogs, etc. What were we supposed to talk about?

Bill would just grin, then stand in one spot and discuss our surroundings for the next 45 minutes. Oooooooooh, bow down, we are not worthy! In the nearly 40 years since then, I have realized it simply takes time to learn about a wide variety of subjects. I've also come to find out, there isn't a habitat anywhere that you can't stop and find something interesting to identify, collect, photograph, or interpret.

I didn't post much this past winter, so I'm getting out more and shooting just about anything. The following is just a miscellaneous collection of plants and critters I'm seeing. This is Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia in bloom.

Wild Black Cherry, Prunus serotina.

High-bush Cranberry, Viburnum opulus var. opulus. Unlike the other Viburnum shrubs, this species produces bright red fruit like a Cranberry. The fertile flowers are the small ones in the center. The large outer white portions are infertile. The stipules end in narrow points, and the glands are disc shaped with a hollow center. That makes this the European variety, not the native species.

Dame's Rocket, Hesperis matronalis. This multi-colored plant is common along wood margins throughout the state right now. Their four petaled flowers make them a member of the Mustard family. They are often mistaken for a Phlox from a distance. Phlox flowers have 5 petals.

Tall Buttercup, Ranunculus acris. This is a very common plant in any disturbed open field. Go figure, it's introduced from Europe.

Little Wood Satyr, Megisto cymela. Satyr butterflies are brown and fly low to the ground in fields and woods. There are several species in Ohio, differentiated by the size and arrangement of spots on the wing.

I recently posted a couple other Speedwells, this one is native though. It's called Common Speedwell, Veronica officinalis. It creeps along the ground in fields and woods. The stem and opposite leaves are covered in dense hairs. The ends of the plant curve upward and produce a raceme of purple or lavender striped flowers.

Stitchworts are a type of Chickweed. These are just beginning to bloom, or the notched petals would be even more obvious. Lesser and Long-leaved are the two I see most often, and that look the most alike. The petals on this are just slightly longer than the sepals. But for me, I use the leaves. These have leaves just about an inch long, and wider than Long-leaved, making this the Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea.

Here are a couple shots of Long-leaved Stitchwort, L. longifolia for comparison. Of course it would be better if I shot the leaves of Lesser. These leaves are more than twice as long and much narrower.

Want another challenge? Try tackling the Pondweeds. I once learned about a dozen of these in a day. Of course we know what happens if we don't keep practicing.....  These are important plants in wetland ecology and management. Some are native, others exotic, and can choke certain aquatic systems. More than flowers, both the surface leaves and those underwater are crucial for identification. I'm thinking this is American Pondweed, Potamogeton epihydrus. But that's a guess.

In my previous post I mentioned sneaking up on birds and remaining motionless. While doing so this critter appeared, and wasn't a bit bashful. It probably thought I had a handout for him. This is a small squirrel, identified by the red fur down the back, and the big white eye ring.

American Red Squirrels, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, are often referred to as Pine Squirrels because they are usually found in conifer forests. Squirrels being squirrels, I should have known. Turns out this guy was sneaking fallen bird seed from the feeders above.

Blackberry shrub in bloom. It looks slightly different than the ones I see down here. There are probably a dozen species of Rubus in Ohio. That includes Blackberry, Raspberry, and Dewberry. There is a workshop in Ohio this summer on how to identify all the Rubus species. I thought about going, but balked. It's one thing to know them all, it's another to ask yourself if you'll ever use it. Like Carex sedges, Pondweeds, Ferns, etc., the rule is use it or lose it. I'd probably lose it.

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