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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hiking Wahkeena

I recently had the opportunity to get out in the field with Rick Gardner to survey the Carex Sedges of Wahkeena Nature Preserve. In a couple hours we found 33 species, and my brain turned to mush! I have 50 different ones photographed now, more than enough for a post. It seems like a lot, but that's not even one third of all the Ohio species. That sedge post will have to wait awhile. Not wait till I get more, but to figure out how to tell them all apart!!

On the way to Wahkeena, I wanted to stop and get some shots from a patch of Bristly Locust, Robinia hispida. Sometimes called Rose Acacia, it is native to the southern states. It looks similar to our Black Locust, R. pseudoacacia, but the flowers are pink, the twigs are covered in red hairs, and the plant is a shrub.

Bristly Locust is planted as an ornamental in Ohio. It has a tendency to spread rapidly in open areas, and could become invasive. One way to prevent that is to graft the branches to the root stock of Black Locust.

Arrowwood, Viburnum dentatum, one of the most common plants seen along the Wahkeena boardwalk.

A giant Ichneumon Wasp boring into the base of a Beech tree. As I tried to get closer, it immediately removed the ovipositor and flew away. I hate when I get only one shot. This is probably Megarhyssa greenei. M. macrurus looks identical to this species, except that one has more dark markings in the wings.

Also not sitting still for more than one shot was this red and black insect that at first looked like another Ichneumon Wasp. Turns out it is a giant Crane Fly, Ctenophora dorsalis. Even in this blurry picture, you can see it only has two wings. The red thorax is just one of many color forms for this species.

While hiking around I was able to put this black Click Beetle into someones hands, and watch it somersault right side up. Judging by the size, you'd think I could get a species name on this, but I've had no luck. The punctured elytra makes me think it survived a recent attack by something.

Moneywort,  Lysimachia nummularia. Essentially it's a prostrate growing species of Loosestrife. It is non native, and was brought over for its medicinal properties. Look for it in wetlands.

Some unusual Red Maple leaves, Acer rubrum. White leaves can be caused by a number of things. Herbicide use can kill chlorophyl, but there has been no spraying here. Iron deficiency can result in leaves like this, but then why are all the others fine? Hard to say what caused it, but if they can't photosynthesize, they'll soon fall off.

The best find of the day was this dragonfly. I had never seen one in the wild. This is the Gray Petaltail, Tachopteryx thoreyi.

Petaltails are some of the oldest and most primitive of dragonflies. Its only other family relative is found on the west coast. While this was shot on the last day of May, most records in Ohio peak in June and July. So far they've only been located in about 25% of Ohio counties. They are large, and our only black and gray dragonfly. Look how it blends in with the tree bark. The eyes are widely separated in this species.

The Gray Petaltail, especially males, prefer openings in the canopy of mature forests. Here they can patrol a territory and seek out females. This species of dragonfly doesn't need rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes. It lays its eggs in mud or wet soils where springs and seeps can be found. If you wear light colored clothing, don't be surprised to see one land on you.

And what would a trip to Wahkeena be without adding another Orchid. Large Twayblade, Liparis liliifolia, is one of those orchids you can easily miss if you are walking too fast. The two broad basal leaves may be noticed before the flowers. The flower stems are bright purple, and the sepals are green. The thin purple threads are the side petals. The main wide lip can vary from brown to purple.

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