If you’ve spent enough time in the central Ohio area, you’ve probably been to the Park of Roses/Whetstone Park, or at the very least…heard of it. But what about Overbrook Ravine Park? I’ve lived in Clintonville for more than 8 years now and I’m ashamed to say that I had never set foot in Overbrook Ravine Park until I selected it as the site for my Botanical Survey.

Overbrook Ravine Park. Isn’t it shady and peaceful? Do you see any young mammals in this picture?

And what’s a botanical survey, you wonder? It’s essentially an inventory or catalog of all the plants in a particular area. How much fun does that sound like? A lot, right? Actually, I’m not not excited to see what’s been growing so close to my home all this time.

Okay, more about this park. Overbrook Ravine Park is Columbus Recreation and Parks Department park that is located between Indianola Avenue and High Street along Overbrook Drive. There is a small stream running through it called Adena Brook, which adds an interesting element to the plant life in the park. As you can see from the map below, it’s not exactly a strait shot as far as driving through, but there are plenty of small pull offs if you want to get out and have a look around. Or, you know, survey all the plants in the park.

Overbrook Ravine Park. I conveniently cut off the major roadways that would’ve made this map better, but you can see the edge of High Street on the left edge and the edge of Indianola Avenue on the right. Top is north and bottom is south.

So in an effort not to send you running for the hills, I’m not going to present every single plant growing in Overbrook Ravine Park on this page. To start off, I’m going to choose two trees, two flowers or fruits and two shrubs or woody vines that I found on my survey scouting trip. I’m also going to show you what poison ivy looks like and how to recognize it so you can tromp though the woods to look at plants without getting the itchies, if you so choose. Vamanos!

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

I feel like a nice person would start with the itchy plant, so if you get nothing else from this page, you’ll get this.

Poison Ivy. Burn its image into your brain!

Okay. Here’s the Poison. Some people are genuinely deathly allergic to this plant and others can roll around in it and rub it all over their skin and have no reaction whatsoever. I have horrendous allergies to every other part of the outdoors, but am not allergic to Poison Ivy in the least. Can’t explain it, but I’ll take it!

As you can see from the picture, each little Poison Ivy-let has three leaves. The two leaves at the bottom are directly across from each other and the central leaf has a longer stem. This is very characteristic of Poison Ivy. The leaves in the photo are notched on the sides, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the leaves are just smooth along the edges.  Also note the reddish color of the stems. It’s important to know that Poison Ivy can grow like this along the ground, or on a (sometimes) hefty vine that is frequently found on tree trunks. The vines almost look “hairy”(those are the roots) and are present on tree trunks even when the leaves are absent.

It’s the oils contained in the Poison Ivy plant that give people trouble. According to Midwest Naturalist, though, it doesn’t affect other animals like it affects people. Poison Ivy, not surprisingly, has a flower and a fruit and all kinds of birds, insects and mammals partake with no problem at all. Some mammals (such as deer) even eat the leaves!

American Sycamore ( Platanus occidentalis)

Moving right into the trees, then!

The American Sycamore is one of my favorite trees of all time. From their height, to the diameter of their trunks, to their individual leaves, these trees are just larger than life. As you can see in the photo below, the leaves can look a little Maple-y, but the size should be a good indication that you aren’t looking at a Maple. The white inner bark of the older trees is also a dead giveaway. Sycamores don’t mind their roots getting a little wet, so you’ll often find them near water. This one was found along the Adena Brook.

American Sycamore at Overbrook Ravine.

Because American Sycamores grow to be so large, they are very important for a couple of different groups of birds. First up, bald eagles! If you’ve ever seen a bald eagle nest, you know that they can be…substantial. What could support such a substantial nest but an equally substantial tree? Couple that with the fact that bald eagles like to nest along rivers, and Sycamores and eagles are a match made in ecological heaven!

In addition to eagles, cavity nesting birds are also big Sycamore fans. Wood ducks and barred owls are just a couple of the cavity nesters I’ve seen take advantage of massive Sycamore cavities.

Boxelder Maple (Acer negundo)

Here’s an odd fella: the Boxelder Maple. Boxelder Maples are pretty unlike most of the other Maples. They have an opposite leaf arrangement like a Maple, but the leaves are pinnately compound. That’s right! A Maple with compound leaves! Usually, you’ll find between three and five leaflets, but there can be up to 9 according to the Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide. Yikes. I think including them in a Weed Guide is a little harsh! Boxelder Maples like this one prefer what the Weed Guide calls “wet lowlands”. I don’t think you can get much more wet or lowland than at the bottom of a ravine by a creek. Every single thing I’ve read about these guys, Weed Guide included, notes that they grow really fast but don’t live particularly long.

Boxelder Maple at Overbrook Ravine.

I hate to do this to you, but take a look at those leaves (of three). Do they remind you of anything? Little sapling Boxelder Maples can be confused with Poison Ivy if they are of the three leaflet variety. An easy way to tell the difference is that Boxelder Maple leaves are arranged oppositely and Poison Ivy leaves are arranged alternately. Thanks Weed Guide!

Here’s another interesting fact. While Boxelders are sometimes considered weedy and undesirable by people, they are super important to moths and butterflies. According to the Urban Ecology Center, more than 285 species of moths and butterflies depend on Boxelder leaves as caterpillars. Just something to consider before you try to remove one from your yard.

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

From the trees, we’ll move on to the “shrubs or woody vine” category.

Pictured below, we have a young Virginia Creeper vine. I wouldn’t call this particular little guy a woody vine just yet, but he definitely has the potential to become one. Virginia Creeper, like Poison Ivy, can either crawl along the ground or it can climb. It usually has five leaflets on each of its compound leaves, but it also sometimes has three, as you can see in the photo. Apparently, there is a children’s rhyme to help kids distinguish between Virgina Creeper and Poison Ivy that goes “Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of five, let it thrive”. I hadn’t heard that one myself, but the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Database said it, so it must be legit! And I guess either way, the kids are leaving the plants alone so it works.

Young Virginia Creeper vine.

Many species of birds enjoy Virginia Creeper berries, but they are toxic to humans. The leaves can also irritate peoples’ skin, but are generally found to be less irritating than Poison Ivy. Finally, another good Lady Bird Johnson factoid, Virginia Creeper is the host plant for several species of sphinx moths! Host plant, when referring to moths and butterflies, means that their larvae eat the plant. In a lot of cases, larvae will only eat one type of plant, so you can’t just give a caterpillar any old leaf and expect it to chow down.

Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)

Amur Honeysuckle is an interesting shrub ecologically. It’s probably not one you want to have around as it is incredibly invasive and once it establishes itself, it’s very difficult to get rid of. As you can see in the photo, the leaves of this particular variety of Honeysuckle are opposite each other and if you were to touch them, they’re rough to the touch. The bark of Amur Honeysuckle is often described as “streaky” and I think that is a good descriptor for it. The very young stems are not as obviously streaky as the older stems, just as a note. This shrub is not particularly picky about where it grows and that’s one a couple of reasons why it’s so invasive.

Amur Honeysuckle shrub that appears to have rejected someone’s attempt to remove it.

So what’s ecologically interesting about Amur Honeysuckle? Let’s relate it to birds, if you don’t mind. As a bush Honeysuckle, Amur Honeysuckle has several traits that birds find attractive. For example, it leafs out early in the spring, which provides concealment for nesting birds. Great, right? Unfortunately, Amur Honeysuckle is something of an ecological trap. The birds rush to nest in it, but as it is not a high quality habitat item, these Honeysuckle nests frequently result in decreased fitness for the adult birds and their offspring. Same story with the red berries it produces. Birds love to eat them, but they are not especially nutritious for birds, as it turns out. While we’re on the subject of birds eating the berries, want to guess how Amur Honeysuckle spreads? That’s right. Birds eat the seeds and then…disperse them.

There was not a whole lot of Amur Honeysuckle in the Overbrook Ravine, thankfully. I suspect that there has been an extensive effort by the City or the local community to keep it from taking over the park.

Broadleaf Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)

Finally, the flowers and fruits! This first flower is called either a Zigzag Goldenrod or a Broadleaf Goldenrod. It’s a member of the Aster Family, which I talked a little bit about on my Flowers page, if you’re interested in reading more. It’s called a Zigzag Goldenrod because the stems can appear to sort of zig-zag, according to Lady Bird Johnson. This isn’t a great photo to demonstrate that characteristic. You can see, though, that the leaves are very obviously toothed and are relatively…broad…for Goldenrod leaves. This particular flower was found right on the bank of the Adena Brook. It is not uncommon in that sort of habitat and is also one of the few Goldenrod species that doesn’t mind the shade of woodlands.

Broadleaf, or Zigzag, Goldenrod at Overbrook Ravine.

Here’s an interesting note about Goldenrods in general from the Missouri Botanical Garden! Apparently, a lot of people blame Goldenrods for their late summer allergy issues because they bloom at the same time as the much more likely culprit: ragweed. Ragweed has small pollen grain that can be blown by the wind, while Goldenrod pollen is much larger and less…blow-able. Goldenrods are actually a very important source of late summer and early fall pollen and nectar for lots of different pollinators, so make sure if you want to pull ragweed, you aren’t accidentally pulling Goldenrod instead!

American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

Last, but certainly not least, is the Poke! We missed the flowers on this interesting plant, but we caught it before the fruits all got made off with. If you’ve ever seen one of these plants grow, you know that they can get quite large. They almost look like small trees, although they are herbaceous and not woody. As someone who tried to remove one before I knew what it was, I can personally attest to the massive size of the taproot that these guys put down. The Ohio Weed Guide describes the vegetation of the Poke as “smooth succulent red-purple stems and large lance-shaped leaves” but most people will recognize this plant by the little grape-like fruits it produces around this time of year. As you can see by the missing fruits in the picture, they are highly coveted by birds once they ripen. This Poke was found in some gravelly soil along the side of Overbrook Drive.

American Pokeweed fruit.

Unless you plan to use the berries to make dye like the Indigenous People did (Ohio Weed Guide), I would go ahead and avoid trying to make use of this plant. Poke is actually very toxic to people, pets and livestock (but not birds, apparently). While there are theoretically safe ways to prepare different parts of it to eat, unless you’re in a Walking Dead situation and you’ve already taken all the food from all the local grocery stores, probably just don’t try to prepare Poke. The little berries are also very tempting for children so keep that in mind if you have this plant in your yard and also have small kids.

Okay friends! That’s a wrap on our inaugural trip to Overbrook Ravine Park. We learned how to identify Poison Ivy, and while I didn’t see any in the park itself, I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. We also learned about two trees, two shrubs or woody vines and two flowers or fruits and there is PLENTY more where that came from. Stay tuned!


Overbrook Update! Part 1

Happy Autumn, Plant Lovers! The scenery is beginning to change in the Overbrook Ravine now that the days are getting shorter. Did you know that photoperiod (the length of the day) is one of the main drivers of leaf color change every year?

Chlorophyll-challenged Sugar Maple Leaf.

So what do I have for you in the way of updates? Well, I’ve finished cataloging plants for my Botanical Survey! I had to race to locate all the remaining herbaceous plants because they are disappearing FAST now that things are cooling down. But now that we know what sorts of plants prevail in the Overbrook Ravine, we can use them to essentially determine the floristic quality of the Park. That sounds fancy and hard, but it’s actually not too bad. Allow me to explain!

So to determine the floristic quality of a particular area, the Ohio EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) uses what it calls the Floristic Quality Assessment Index, or the FQAI. The FQAI serves as a way to standardize the assessment of the flora found in a particular area and to “reduce subjectivity and create an objective standard of quality that can be used by anyone with adequate botanical skills”, according to Ohio EPA.

To determine the FQAI score for an area, each individual plant is first given its own C of C (coefficient of conservatism) score. The C of C is a number from zero to ten and basically, these numbers tell us how tolerant or intolerant the plant is of different ecological conditions. A plant with a C of C of zero, for example, can live almost anywhere. These guys don’t mind disturbance and zero is also the number given to invasive and non-native plants. Plants with C of Cs of ten, on the other hand, can only live in very specific conditions. Frequently (but not always), rare plants tend to have higher C of C numbers assigned to them. Plants with C of Cs between 6 and 8 are living their best lives, so to speak. They are said to “typify stable or near climax conditions”.

Once each plant is given its own C of C, the numbers are entered into a formula like this:  I’ = Σ(CCi)/√(Nall  species) wherein the I’ = the modified FQAI score, the CCi = the coefficient of conservatism of plant species i, and Nall  species = the total number of native and non-native species for the chosen area. There are several variations of this formula, each with slight differences that could make them more or less useful at a given site. I selected this one in order to be able to include non-native species, as well as natives. Using the above formula, the FQAI for Overbrook Ravine is 22.4, n=46.

So now that that mathy, boring part is out of the way, let’s look at some actual plants and their C of Cs. Below are the herbaceous plants I catalogued at Overbrook Ravine Park, alongside their scientific names and their Coefficients of Conservatism. As you can see, with the exception of Wild Ginger, none of these guys have very high C of Cs and honestly, this is not unexpected. While this Park is fabulous , it is not a pristine, undisturbed wilderness filled with rare, specific plants. And that’s okay!

So if it isn’t the herbaceous plants, which plants in Overbrook Ravine Park are the ones living their best lives? It’s mostly the trees, actually, but I was able to select one plant from each of our categories (trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants). There were a lot of sixes, so I used a little bit of discretion.

Below is the American Sycamore or Platanus Occidentalis . We talked about this tree on our inaugural visit to Overbrook, but it just so happens that the Sycamore has the highest C of C of any plant in the Park with a 7/10! These trees get extremely large and as they age, their trademark white inner bark becomes more visible and apparent. Sycamores like to have their “feet” wet, so finding this tree at the bottom of a ravine near a creek was not a surprise. They belong to the family Platanaceae which is believed to be one of the oldest tree families in the world, with known members dating back as many as 100 million years, according to the Weekly Villager’s Nearby Nature column.

American Sycamore in Overbrook Ravine Park.

Next up, we have the American Bladdernut, or Staphylea trifolia. The Bladdernut has a C of C of 6/10 and is classified as a shrub. As you can see, the leaves are compound and there is one terminal (end) leaflet and two lateral (side) leaflets, each with tiny little serrations. The most fun thing about Bladdernuts, though, is the seed capsule. They look like little paper lanterns with three lobes. The seeds are very edible and are said to taste like pistachios. The internet really wants me to tell you that they can be used in place of walnuts when making chocolate chip cookies, so there you have it! If you try this and it’s terrible, take it up with the NC State Extension!

Bladdernut, minus the nuts, at Overbrook Ravine Park.

I can’t have a Tulip Tree with a 6/10 C of C and not tell you about it again. You know how I love my Tulips. Liriodendron tulipifera has alternate leaves with those distinctive lobes and the ones below are about to turn vibrant yellow or gold. In the spring, Tulip trees produce flowers that look like…daisies! Just kidding. They look like tulips. These guys grow to be one of the largest trees in the eastern US (we’re talking like 120 feet tall) and usually have super straight trunks with no low branches. Tulip Trees also happen to be the host plant for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars, who spend the first few days of their lives trying to pass for bird droppings. Nature is crazy!

Tulip Tree losing a little more chlorophyll every day.

Okay. Our final C of C of 6/10 belongs to this Wild GingerAsarum canadense is an herbaceous plant that loves the shade. It spreads along the ground much like the Virginia Creeper you can see in the picture with it. Just to make sure we’re all tracking, the Wild Ginger is the one with the big heart shaped leaves. These guys actually do produce a flower in early spring, which the NC State Extension taught me just today. The flowers are brownish purple, have three petals and almost look hairy. Check here for pictures! Odd little fellas, aren’t they? Fun fact: since the flowers occur near the ground, Wild Ginger researchers are pretty sure that they are pollinated mostly by ants.

Wild Ginger with a (Virginia) creepy friend.

Now, not everyone can have a high C of C and that’s okay. Like I said up above, the C of C has nothing to do with  how valuable or rare the plants are…just how tolerant they are of different ecological conditions. So here are four friends with among the lowest C of Cs at Overbrook. I think you’ll agree that that low number is just a number, as one of these guys is among the most important plants in America right now (in my humble opinion).

First up, we have Canada Goldenrod, or Solidago canadensis. Canada Goldenrod has a C of C of 1/10. This time of year, it’s a pretty easy plant to pick out because it is yellow and it is EVERYWHERE. It can be distinguished from other goldenrods by its pyramid shaped flower clusters. The Ohio State Weed Guide describes the leaves as “lance-shaped, tapered at both ends, hairless on the upper surface, hairy underneath, and sharply toothed on the edge”. Goldenrods like this one are *critical* late season food sources for pollinators so it’s a good thing there are so many of them!

Canada Goldenrod.

Next, we have everyone’s favorite fall allergen, the Common Ragweed or Ambrosia artemisiifolia. These actually have a C of C of 0/10. Yikes. Common Ragweed leaves are deeply lobed, as you can see in the picture below, and the flowers grow in spikes. This plant was growing about 3 inches away from the road that runs through Overbrook Ravine Park and that’s why it has such a low C of C. It is super tolerant of disturbance! Fun fact about Common Ragweed: each individual ragweed plant is capable of producing over one BILLION grains of pollen and this fun pollen can travel up to 400 miles in the air. It is especially bad for us in central Ohio because the wind typically blows from west to east and to the west of us is a whole lot of flat. How perfect for ragweed pollen dissemination!

Common Ragweed: the Allergic Person’s Worst Nightmare.

On to my favorite plant on earth and the most important plant in America right now, the Common Milkweed or Asclepias syriaca. Common Milkweeds have a C of C of 1/10 because they will grow ANYWHERE. They seem to be especially fond of the sides of highways. The leaves are alternate and fairly thick, as far as leaves go. The flowers look like pink-ish purple balls, with each ball containing many small flowers. Now why are milkweeds the most important plant in America? Because they are the sole host plant for the rapidly declining Monarch Butterfly. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweeds and absolutely nowhere else. The caterpillars eat exclusively milkweed. There are many kinds of milkweed, but Common Milkweed is especially important because of that low C of C. It’ll grow anywhere and that’s just what we need it to do. Plant milkweed to save monarchs!

Common Milkweed. Weedy but SO important.

Last but not least is an adorable flower that I never knew existed until I took Ohio Plants. Which is ironic because it is decidedly not an Ohio plant. This is the Common or Asiatic Dayflower, or Commelina communis. These guys have a C of C of 0/10 because they are not native to the United States. Instead, Common Dayflowers are native to east Asia. It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but the flowers have two blue petals and one smaller white petal. The plants stay low to the ground and the leaves look like they sort of wrap around the stem. Little guys like the Common Dayflower often leave me conflicted because they are absolutely beautiful…but are also a weedy invasive. Hum. Fun fact: these are often nicknamed mouse flowers because the petal arrangement looks a bit like a little mouse head!

Common or Asiatic Dayflower.

And there you have it! The Botanical Survey update, complete with FQAIs and C of Cs. Keep reading for Invasives and Geobotany!

Part 2: The Invaders

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves describes invasive plant species as “…usually characterized by fast growth rates, high fruit production, rapid vegetative spread and efficient seed dispersal and germination. Since these plants are not native to Ohio, they lack the natural predators and diseases which would naturally control them in their native habitats”.

I think this definition is excellent as it gets at all of the many problems caused by these plants. As a person who removed invasives for several years as a resource management intern, no one knows better than I do what can happen if these guys are left to their own devices. Get them out as soon as you start to see them. Trust me!

I have selected four local invasives that have made it onto the Ohio Invasive Plant’s Council’s list of invasive plants, two from Overbrook Ravine Park and two from my very own yard. I can’t speak to the ones in Overbrook, but the ones in my yard have been removed many times and continue to return. It’s a battle, for sure, but keeping the landscape free of invasives so that our native plants can thrive is extremely important!

Meet our first invader, the Callery Pear or Pyrus calleryana. You may have also heard this tree called the Bradford Pear. The Callery Pear has simple, alternate leaves with finely serrated margins and as you can see in the picture, they are very shiny and smooth. The bottom of the leaf is shiny as well, which is very helpful for identification. These guys produce lovely flowers in the spring, which makes them a desirable landscaping tree. Its frequent, frequent use in landscaping combined with the fruits it produces (which are happily dispersed by birds) make this tree an absolute nightmare to control. This particular specimen in the photograph grows on the side of my house and I remove it every year. And it comes back every year. Fun fact about Callery Pears: while the flowers are admittedly pretty, they happen to smell like rotting fish. So let that be a deterrent to you if you are thinking about putting one in your yard.

Close look at some Callery Pear leaves. So shiny!

Next up is another common landscaping plant gone wrong. Actually, that’s what most of these are, now that I think about it. Plant good natives, people! Anyway, this is English Ivy or Hedera helix. Note the lobed leaves and the lighter colored veins. People like English Ivy because it spreads and spreads and climbs and climbs like the vine that it is. Many seem to like the idea of it growing up the sides of their houses so they can feel like they’re in an English country estate, I suppose. The bad news is that the little rootlets will eventually worm their way into the masonry or under the siding and cause…problems. This particular English Ivy likely came out of someone’s yard who lives near Overbrook Ravine Park and has made its way into the woods. Not good! Fun fact about English Ivy: it contains glycosides which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and neurological conditions. So don’t plant English Ivy or you might die.

English Ivy (and Wintercreeper)(and Virginia Creeper).

Back to my yard for this next treat of a plant. This is White Mulberry or Morus alba and I really strongly dislike this plant. Mulberries have very unique leaves, as there are several different shapes of leaf on the same plant, much like the Sassafras. Some of the leaves are unlobed and some have between two and five fairly uneven looking lobes. The one in the picture has never produced fruit and will never produce fruit as I will continue to cut it down every year like I have for the last several years, but if it did, the fruit would be white or pink and would look slightly raspberry/blackberry-esque. Fun fact about White Mulberry: the leaves are favorites of silkworms, so if you don’t want more worms in your yard, don’t plant White Mulberry.

Mulberry blob.

For the last invader, we’ll travel back down to Overbrook Ravine. This plant is called Wintercreeper or Euonymus fortunei and it absolutely COVERS the forest floor in the park. Its leaves are opposite and kind of oval shaped, and it has the light colored veins like its friend the English Ivy. Again, this plant started off out as an ornamental groundcover but it escaped and now it just goes around establishing monocultures. It also produces a fruit that birds and small mammals eat and disperse, so that doesn’t help anything. Fun fact about Wintercreeper: it is native to China, Japan and Korea. Man, plants from southeast Asia really do well in Ohio, don’t they?


So that’s just a few of the many, many plants you do not want to see in your yard or in your favorite park. If you’re interesting in learning more, head over to the Ohio Invasive Plants Council‘s website. Also, if you find any in your yard and would like suggestions on how to remove them, the Ohio Woodland Stewards website has some good information.

Part Three: The Substrate Associated

In her article “Linking Geology and Botany…a New Approach“, Jane Forsyth details how interconnected plant species are with their associated substrates. She first describes the basic geology of Ohio and then goes on to make several lists of plants and the types of substrates they frequently find themselves planted in. There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of the time, there is an obvious correlation between substrate type and the plant species you’ll find growing in it.

Ohio can be divided into two parts: the glaciated western portion and the unglaciated eastern portion. The west is underlain primarily by limestone and the east is underlain primarily by sandstone and shale. Columbus and Overbrook Ravine Park are in the western, glaciated portion of the state so we expect to find soil rich in lime and clay and plants that thrive in that kind of soil.

I have selected, for your learning pleasure, four trees from Overbrook Ravine Park that Dr. Forsyth categorized as “having a distribution generally limited to limestone or limey substrates” or “present on the high-lime, clay-rich substrates”. I was also lucky enough to find the Master’s Thesis of Mr. Edmund Ingman, who happened to use Overbrook Ravine Park as one of the field sites for his Amur Honeysuckle project in 2009. Mr. Ingman tested the soil and found that it was a type called Alexandria Silt Loam which just so happens to be…moderately limey!

So without further ado…our first lime lover! This is the Hackberry, or Celtis occidentalis. Hackberry leaves are arrow-shaped with serrate margins and are rough to the touch. The bark of the older trees is oddly warty. Dr. Forsyth says that Hackberry “is more common along floodplains in most of Ohio” and wouldn’t you know it, that’s where I found this one! Survey says…Dr. Forsyth was correct! Fun fact about the Hackberry: it makes a decent Bonsai tree!

Hackberry at Overbrook Ravine Park.

Next up we have the Eastern Redbud, or Cercis canadensis. Redbuds have these nice, easy-to-identify heart shaped leaves that are frequently referred to as “papery”. Interestingly, Dr. Forsyth notes that Redbuds “generally seem to occur on higher, drier sites where limestone is present at only very shallow depths”. Considering that this one was found on a floodplain, I would have say that this is one of those exceptions I mentioned above. Fun fact about the Eastern Redbud: most other members of the Redbud’s family (Fabaceae) are known to grow a nitrogen fixing bacteria, but the Eastern Redbud doesn’t grow it.

Eastern Redbud at Overbrook Ravine Park.

Next, the Shagbark Hickory, or Carya ovata. Shagbark Hickory is known for the shaggy bark found on the older trees. Its leaves are pinnately compound and have between five and seven leaflets per leaf. Dr. Forsyth tells us that the Shagbark Hickory is among the trees which “characteristically are present on the high-lime, clay-rich substrates developed in the thick till of the western Ohio plains”. The Alexandria Silt Loam of Overbrook is only moderately limey but I’m still going to give Dr. F the win on this one. Fun fact about the Shagbark Hickory: the wood of this tree is excellent for burning and is very efficient. One cord of hickory wood is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by a whole ton of anthracite.

Shagbark Hickory at Overbrook Ravine Park. So shaggy.

Last but not least comes the familiar Sugar Maple, or Acer saccharum. Sugar Maple leaves have five lobes and are “U” shaped between the lobes. Just as with the Shagbark Hickory, Dr. Forsyth tells us that these guys should be found in “high-lime, clay-rich substrates”. Just as with the Shagbark Hickory, we’re going to give her the win even though Overbrook’s substrate is only moderately limey. Limey is limey, right? Fun fact about the Sugar Maple: this is the tree that maple syrup is made from. Just kidding, that’s boring! It’s true, but boring. Real fun fact: Sugar Maple wood is commonly used to make bowling alleys!

Sugar Maple at Overbrook Ravine Park.

And that, my friends, is all she wrote! Turns out Dr. Jane Forsyth knew exactly what she was talking about when she associated certain species of trees with certain substrates.

If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to reward you for all of your attentive reading with this most dear deer. She invites you to please visit her at Overbrook Ravine Park any time!

White-tailed Deer at Overbrook Ravine Park.

Now get out there and find yourself some plants!