Prairie

The first stop on my trip to Cedar Bog (that isn’t a bog) was the adjacent tallgrass prairie. It is several acres in size, with a few mowed paths for prospective prairie pedestrians and their pooches (figure 1). The Cedar Bog Nature Preserve organization planted Indian Grass here in 2009, and its growth has been successful (figure 2). Since then, wildflowers have been planted and have colonized the area, making for a diverse and heterogeneous home for birds, insects, and mammals. Keeping the Indian Grass company are herbaceous plants like Dense Blazing Star and various types of Goldenrod (figure 3). A popular woody plant I noticed was Black Raspberry (figure 4), though I saw none in fruit. Amur Honeysuckle, an invasive woody plant, was the dominant weed on the perimeter of the prairie (figure 5).

Figure 1. The Killer in the tallgrass prairie

Figure 2. Another path along the prairie with Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans seen to the left

Figure 3. Goldenrod Solidago spp.

Figure 4. Black Raspberry Rubus occidentalis

Figure 5. Amur Honeysuckle Lonicera maackii

Cedar Bog (that isn’t a bog)

My second objective was to cruise the boardwalk of Cedar Bog. Along the way, I noticed some ferns alongside native wildflowers (figure 6), a cool but lonely caterpillar (figure 7), and the eponymous Northern White-cedar (figure 8). I made my way to the end of the boardwalk to the old agriculture drainage ditch fed by surrounding streamlets (figure 9), then passed open areas of sedges and seemingly still and clear groundwater (figures 10 and 11). I saw another notable plant, Wahoo, bearing it distinguishable fruit (figure 12), more cedars (figure 13), and finally found myself in a swampy forest of large Cottonwood trees (figure 14). I was then blessed with an astonishing sunset (figures 15 and 16), and was bid farewell by an audacious juvenile goldfinch (figure 17).

Figure 6. Ferns and wildflowers

Figure 7. A caterpillar

Figure 8. Norther White-cedar Thuja occidentalis

Figure 9. Small stream fed by smaller streamets

Figure 10. Clear groundwater surrounded by sedges

Figure 11. More groundwater and sedges

Figure 12. Wahoo Euonymus atropurpureus

Figure 13. More cedars… and ME!

Figure 14. Cottonwood Populus spp.

 

The topography of what visitors see at Cedar Bog is the result of the last glaciation period, which ended around 14,000 years ago. As the glacier retreated, it deposited glacial till in the form of moraines made of sand and limestone gravel. The park is in a valley of these moraines. Beneath the valley is a massive aquifer which holds groundwater above the limestone bedrock. Water flows throughout this aquafer and is supplied by precipitation and groundwater from higher elevations. The water of Cedar Bog rises from this underground network. These factors combine to contribute to the unique ecology that visitors of Cedar Bog enjoy today.

So, is Cedar Bog actually a bog or another type of wetland? A simple explanation is given at the visitor center and says that “bogs clog and fens flush.” In a real bog, precipitation is the main source of surface water, and it does not flow out but is only evaporated. It is clogged. In a fen, the surface water is tied to the groundwater network. It’s a dynamic system than flushes. Other distinguishing features separate bogs and fens, and interpretive signage explains a few. First, bogs have stained water from the underlying decaying peat layers. Fens have spring water which is clearer. Second, bogs display a “floating carpet” of sphagnum moss when fens have sedges that grown between streamlets. Because Cedar Bog is connected to the groundwater and grows sedges between its clear spring water streamlets, it should be called Cedar Fen. Both have nice rings to them.

Figure 15. Early dawn with a glowing moon

Figure 16. The sky on fire

Figure 17. My Cedar Bog friend, a juvenile American Goldfinch Spinus tristis

 

Blackhand Gorge

For the second part of my field trip experience, I went with my dear mother to Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve in Licking County. This park lies along the Licking River in the sandstone-rich region once held sacred by the Hopewell native Americans (among others). Unlike Cedar Bog (that isn’t a bog), this are was not subjected to the most recent period of glaciation. Figure 18 shows that the Wisconsinan glacier did not deposit till in the form of moraines. The ancient soil is therefore less limey and more acidic. This accounts for a different community of plants than I saw a Cedar Bog, as well as the rest of western Ohio.

Figure 18. The red dot shows Blackhand Gorge, which lies east of the Wisconsinan glacier region.

Figure 19. A plant that I have not seen before, that could be a fan of acidic soils. I believe is small-flowered leafcup Polymnia canadensis

Figure 20. My dog, The Killer, admiring the water of the Licking River from the moss-covered sandstone bank

Figure 21. This tree definitely loves sandstone! I could not get close enough to identify it, but it could be the mountain maple Acer spiceatum described by Jane Forsyth in her tell-all article about geology and botany 

 

Figure 22. Some ferns and mosses growing on the lovely sandstone formations along the trail

Figure 23. Another plant that I have never seen. After scouring through Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, the shape of the leaves and venation lead me to think it’s wild yamroot Dioscorea villosa

Figure 24. Another acid-loving plant (hopefully) a hemlock Tsuga canadensis!

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, one of the dominant species in the area is mountain laurel Kalmia latifolia. This is worth noting because it is listed by Forsyth as common in unglaciated, sandstone-rich regions. Unfortunately, I did not see any.