Skip to main content

Micro-rarities of the Sand

I found myself in the Oak Openings the other day, right in the epicenter of Ohio's rare plant Utopia. Lucas County - county seat, Toledo - contains nearly all of what's left of this amazing ecosystem, which is defined by sand. The origins of this giant sandbox stem to the days of pre-glacial Lake Warren, which was Lake Erie in a much larger tub. The old beach ridges and dunes still remain, far from today's lake, and form an odd habitat that is home to an awesome number of rarities.
Lucas County has had more rare plants documented within its relatively small boundaries than any other Ohio county. If you know plants, in some places you can literally toss a stick, and then go find a half-dozen state-listed plants within 20 feet of it.
I visited a recent acquisition by Toledo Metroparks, which owns the lion's share of outstanding Oak Openings remnants. And there, I was excited to find a few interesting plants - not things that you'll see just anywhere.
No pansy, this one. It's Spathulate-leaved Sundew, Drosera intermedia, which is threatened in Ohio and almost completely confined to the Oak Openings. Gotta look close for it; a single rosette could be covered by a quarter. The plants can be quite easy to pass by, but a keen eye will key in on their habitat. This sundew requires open, moist sand with little to no other competing vegetation. They typically grow in moist swales.
A closer look at the leaves. They appear to be tipped in drops of dew, which would no doubt be a tempting sight to the gnat with a big thirst on a hot summer's day. Big mistake, Mr. Bug. Those "dew drops" are the botanical equivalent of Elmer's Glue, and the insect that seeks them out will be snared and held fast. Slowly, the leaf will enwrap the victim, thus bringing more of the viscous setae in contact with the meal. And that's what our bug has become - a snack. Fairly quickly the soft parts of the bug will be broken down and digested into the plant tissue, thus giving the sundew a shot of protein and nitrogen.

I actually discovered these sundews here last year. In a fit of Drosera rapture, it took me a few minutes to notice what was growing with them - the odd-looking lime-green fern trailing about the upper part of the photo. It turned out to be Northern Appressed Clubmoss, Lycopodiella subappressa. This was only the second or third site so far recorded for this endangered species, which has an extremely limited range.

Range of Northern Appressed Clubmoss. Not much to it. At the time this map was constructed, we hadn't yet found it in Ohio. I don't think they've found it in Indiana; the only other state where it is known is Michigan and there isn't much there.

This day, I was on my hands and knees photographing these micro-rarities, and noticed this sedge. This thing is truly tiny; one plant could sit comfortably on a nickel. It's the aptly named Dwarf Bulrush, Lipocarpha micrantha. Threatened in Ohio, it is a notorious seed banker. That is, the plants will sit dormant as seeds in the soil for long periods, awaiting the proper conditions to appear and induce germination. I didn't see it here last year.
About as close as I can get without unearthing the plant. Those little chestnut-colored glomerules are the fruit, which look somewhat like tiny pineapples. Each fruit, which contains a number of seeds, is about the size of a match head. Probably not a plant that most would be overwhelmed with, but like so many things, upon close inspection they are quite interesting and showy in their own way.


Anonymous said…
I'll start learning my sedges one of these days Jim. I am interested in them, just have too many hobbies right now. I enjoy your photos and IDs of the wierd sedges, they keep pushing me a little farther toward tackling them.

Tom said…
Lipocarpha went crazy last summer at Irwin Prairie after we burned the previous off season. It was completely absent this summer. Such a neat little plant.


Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…