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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gallagher Fen

Unlike Beaver Creek, this is a better representative of a less disturbed fen. The limey muddy marl coats the surface along these narrow streams that originate from underground seeps. Gallagher has recently been opened up to the public. We noticed someone had been there just before us. Turns out Bob and Deb from TrekOhio website beat us by 24 hours. To see flowers from all seasons, check out their site, (and their photos are far superior to mine).

In August, the dominant plant of this fen is Cut-leaved Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum var. pinnatifidum.

What gives it the variety name is the appearance of the leaves. Rather than being a single broad leaf, it is cut or dissected into many parts. Some leave it as a variety, while others elevate it to a distinct species.

Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida. Some people call this a type of Black-eyed Susan, as they do with many species of Rudbeckia. I don't like using the same common name over again, so I stick with Orange. The flowers are never really orange, but yellow orange. Some varieties show more orange around the center disc.

The key feature to look for are the leaves. Black-eyed Susan R. hirta, has elongate leaves that are very soft or fuzzy. Orange Coneflower has shorter, more rounded leaves, and feel more rough or sandpapery. Black-eyed Susan tends to be a spring to early summer bloomer.

This particular fen variety is sullivantii. Thanks to Andrew Gibson for that addition. Andy was going to be our guide for the day, but he got called away to another location. Because of that, we decided to skip Prairie Road Fen, which is accessible by permit only.

Though not in bloom yet, these short clasping leaves make Stiff GoldenrodOligoneuron rigidum, easy to identify. Riddell's Goldenrod, Ohio Goldenrod, Nodding Wild Onion, Tall Larkspur, and the plants above are more typical of drier sites. Gallagher is technically known as a prairie-fen. To paraphrase Guy Denny, the water is so cold and calcareous, the plants don't really derive any nutrients from it. So it's like they were living on a dry prairie anyway.

As I mentioned, we were just a bit early for the Goldenrod blooms. Most of those ready to come out had the spreading plume-like inflorescence. This one plant, blooming in a narrow spike, looks like Solidago uliginosa, the Bog Goldenrod. They are a wetland species, and it also occurs in the three counties around this site.

Another fen indicator is this small blue flower, Kalm's Lobelia, Lobelia kalmii. It looks similar to Spiked and other species, but many of the lobelias are habitat specific.

While walking the boardwalk, there were a lot of these damselflies. I was confused as to which species it was.

Most damselflies that are that bright blue in the front, usually have blue or some other colorful spots on the abdomen. That's true with the males at least, and that's where the problem comes in. This is a brightly colored female. Most female damselflies are rather dull. Turns out this is a Blue-tipped Dancer, Argia tibialis.

Two things to look for. The broad black shoulder stripe splits near the wings and forms a blue triangle. Secondly, the very last abdominal segment is light brown, not black.

The trail leading back to the fen is a wooded area full of Oak and Hackberry. It came as no surprise to see plenty of the Hackberry Butterflies, Asterocamps celtis.

Along that same trail was this Beggar-tick in full bloom. No bright yellow rays like the ones you see in ditches. I'm always on the lookout for species in this group. It's Bidens vulgata, recognized by the 15 leafy bracts behind the center disc. They average 13-18 bracts. The other non-rayed species have far fewer.

Back on the fen, I noticed this little caterpillar chewing away on the willows. When they are in an early instar like this, it's hard to tell what species it is. The humped back, saddle pattern, and two tentacles protruding from the rear, make it one of the Prominent moths.

Looking on other willows, I found a more mature one. These humpbacked caterpillars with the tentacles in the back are either Furcula or Cerura moths. I believe it's the Black-etched Prominent, Cerura scitiscripta. The markings on the back can be purple, green, or brownish-orange.

Here's a picture of it rearing up its head in a defensive manner, trying to look intimidating with those false black eyes.

Like a blanket of snow in the middle of August. In the meadow between the forest and fen edge was a large patch of Thoroughwort or Boneset.

Those two common names are applied to a lot of closely related species that have these white flower tops. You have to look at the leaves to differentiate between them.

The leaves have no petiole, so they are sessile. The leaves are not perfoliate on the center stem either. They are elongate and coarsely toothed. That 'leaves' Upland Thoroughwort, Eupatorium sessilifolium. While not a fen associate, any new species to my list is worth noting. I hope between Cedar Bog, Beaver Creek, and Gallagher, you can see the importance of preserving fen habitats. Visit them in spring, summer, and fall to capture their real diversity.

This is sort of a P.S. I threw in. Growing among the thoroughwort was a plant I took for a Gentian, but the fruit is all wrong. That led me to the Horse-gentian group Triosteum. Question, does this fruit turn orange? If so, does one consider these leaves truly perfoliate? That would make it Tinker's-weed. If those leaves do not qualify as perfoliate, then it's T. aurantiacum, Wild Coffee. The leaves are at least clasping. Somebody make up my mind.


  1. I'll opine wild coffee, T. aurantiacum ...
    Others? Speak up!

    Ron Gamble

    1. After viewing the perfoliate leaves in the photograph of the large-flowered Bellwort, I'm of similar mind as you -- wild coffee.

      PS. After initially reading these posts last Friday night, I hopped in my truck and took a visit to Herrick Fen in Portage County this past Sunday.
      Thank you Dennis for the inspiration!