On the north side of the University District, lies Iuka Park. This 4-acre area between 4th Street and Indianola Avenue consists of a mowed area with picnic tables and seemingly natural woodlands. A few brick streets and paths cut through the area as well (figure 2). Columbus designated the area as a park 1892, which makes it one of the oldest parks in the city. Like many people in the neighborhood, I walk my dog through this park regularly (figure 3). The plant community offers habitat for several types of birds, racoons, opossums (figure 4), and a slew of rodents. I often hear frogs and even saw a salamander once (figure 5). The Killer once got in a fight with an audacious snake in front of the sign pictured in figure 1 (figure 6).
Figure 1. The entrance to the park from 4th St
Figure 2. A view of the ravine and Iuka Avenue from the Summit Street bridge
Figure 3. A walking path through the center of the park
Figure 4. A large hollow sycamore, where some animals could live. Folks from around the neighborhood have been knitting things and decorating the park with color
Figure 5. A red-backed salamander I saw crawling along one of the brick roads of Iuka Park in April
Figure 6. A garter snake that did not want to be tread upon
Below are two (somewhat custom-made) maps showing the location of Iuka Park in the city (figures 7 and 8). The ravine is also a common parking area (figure 9).
Figure 7. Iuka Park within the University District of Columbus, OH
Figure 8. The surrounding area of Columbus overlain by a satellite image of the park
Figure 9. The park experiences incidental visitors that just want a safe and convenient place to park
Beware Toxicodendron radicans, better known as poison ivy. As the sign that does not actually exist says, it grows throughout Iuka Park. It can be seen on the grown or growing as a hairy vine. It is usually green, but can be yellow, orange, or brown later in the year. it bears compound leaves with 3 leaflets and white round fruit. The margin can be entire, or slightly lobed or toothed. Poison ivy has some variety in its appearance, so if you’re not sure, just avoid it!
Although it is only 4 acres, Iuka Park hosts a variety of trees.
Figure 10. American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana
Figure 11. The American hornbeam is noted for its distinctive “muscled” bark. This particular tree has a large branch that wants to reach out for more sunlight. Hornbeams have very hard wood, which has given them the nickname “ironwood”
Figure 12. Boxelder maple Acer negundo
Figure 13. Although it bears a striking resemblance to poison ivy, this plant is a member of the maple family Aceraceae. It is mostly harmless unless you’re a horse! This tree is associated with seasonal pasture myopathy, a neurological disease affecting the mobility of horses
Shrubs and Woody Vines
Along with trees, other woody vegetation thrives in Iuka Park.
Figure 14. Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Like other vines, Virginia creeper grows quickly and adheres to most surfaces. It is sometimes used ornamentally to cover walls. It is also known to outcompete slower-growing plants by creeping into their space and stealing their sunlight
Figure 15. A new favorite of mine, moonseed Menispermum canadense, grows sparsely in Iuka Park. It should not be confused with grape vines, because its fruits are poisonous. Moonseed is aptly named for its crescent-shaped seed, where grape seeds are round
Figure 16. A few pokeweed Phytolacca Americana grow in Iuka Park. This lone plant is showing what’s left of its fruiting abilities
Figure 17. Spotted jewelweed Impatiens capensis. A swath of this plant grows at the convergence of the two streets by the Summit St bridge. Pictured is its zygomorphic flower and famous exploding seed pod
Coefficients of Conservatism
Figure 18. Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis. CC=8. This is the state tree of Pennsylvaia. Hemlocks are more common in eastern Ohio, and this is the only individual of this species that I saw in Iuka Park. For these reasons it is thought that this tree has been introduced to its home by the surrounding urban landscaping.
Figure 19. Cup-plant Silphium perfoliatum. CC=6. This member of the aster family prefers to grow in moist bottomlands, such as Iuka Park! It is sold at specialty nurseries throughout the US and Canada. It is high and protein, and considered valuable feed for dairy cows.
Figure 20. Canada wild rye Elymus canadensis. CC=6. This grass is very common throughout the great plains, but can also thrive in riparian woodlands. Like many tallgrasses, it has a nodding spike inflorescence. It reproduces mainly by self-pollination. I’ve been walking through this area for years, but have not noticed many tall grasses.
Figure 21. Sweet goldenrod Solidago odora. Iuka Park has many goldenrods, but I think this one was S. odora based on its leaves. The shape and venation of any of Newcomb’s goldenrods most closely resemble this plant, sweet goldenrod. It is also named “aniscented goldenrod” for its distinctive odor. According to the USDA, it is rarely used by animals for cover or as a food source.
Figure 22. Calico aster Aster lateriflorus. CC=2. This member of the aster family, along with the goldenrods, represents the most abundant flowering plant in Iuka Park this time of year (early October). A few other similar plants grow in the park, indicating that the park provides good conditions for this type of flowering plant.
Figure 23. Spanish-needles Bidens alba. CC=2. Also known as beggarticks, this plant likes sunny areas and can grow in limey soils or sandy soils. The seeds are spiny like needles, and it can grow up to 5 feet tall.
Figure 24. Redbud Cercis canadensis. CC=3. Our old friend the redbud! Although it is a member of the nitrogen-fixing pea family, redbuds are known to be less capable of growing the appropriate root nodules used in this process. Few birds eat these seeds, but some people enjoy its flowers in salads. The blossoms, rather than the buds, are reddish.
Figure 25. Frosted hawthorn Crataegus pruinose. CC=2. . Tree of these species are difficult to identify to species, with few botanists specializing in this genus. The thorns, shoots, and branching pattern are dense and make good homes for nesting songbirds. Some bear fruit that remains throughout the winter.