Hitler Pond 2008. Several acres of plants that make a botanist quake in his boots and tremble with excitement. This is the sight that greeted Dan on arrival, and I'm sure he quickly rushed in to settle the score with some longlost plants. And he did make some good finds.
An acre or so of this beauty!This is an arrowhead relative, endangered in Ohio, known by the geeky name of Bur-head, or Echinodorus berteroi if you will. Thousands of plants; the biggest site for it in the state, I suspect. Bur-head is conspicuous, it surely hasn't been above ground here in a long time.
Dan also quickly rediscovered the missing Rocky Mountain Bulrush; it had been here along, just dormant in the seedbank. Sedges like this have tiny seeds known as achenes, which are hard and bony. The plant's strategy is to come up in droves when conditions are favorable, produce bumper crops of millions of these minute achenes, which then permeate the soil. In habitats such as this, drought, overgrowth by larger plants, or other factors might mean that plants like the Bur-head and bulrush have but a few good growing years before being displaced. But their banks accounts are filled, so to speak. Those achenes can lie dormant in the seedbank for decades, probably centuries in some cases. Then, something stimulates favorable conditions, and BOOM! Everything is back with a vengeance. The Rocky Mountain Bulrush, pictured above, covered a big swath of the wetland. Inestimable thousands of its achenes will be produced this summer, refilling the dirt bank account.I dropped in to Hitler Pond last Saturday, July 26, to see the spectacle, to which Dan had kindly tipped me off about. The Bur-head was obvious from the car. Didn't take long to spot the less conspicuous Rocky Mountain Bulrush. But as I waded out, one of the first things that caught my eye was this sea of spikerush. It looks a lot like the very common Blunt Spikerush, Eleocharis obtusa, but the very elongate cylindrical brown spikelets grabbed my eye. I collected a bunch, and took it back for later inspection. As confirmed independently by ODNR botanist Rick Gardner the next day, it is a major rarity: Engelmann's Spikerush, Eleocharis engelmannii. Prior to this find, this endangered plant was known from only one modern record in Ohio, up near Lake Erie. Now, we have a sea of it covering a large swath of Hitler Pond. Someone will need to go back and look at Bartley's collections of Blunt Spikerush. I suspect they'll find an Eleocharis engelmannii amongst them, collected long ago at Hitler Pond. If so, can't really blame Floyd for not recognizing it - these spikerushes aren't easy. If I had a good enough macro lens, I'd share a photo of one of the tiny achenes, the characters of which clinch the ID.
Not coincidentally, this wetland is perhaps two miles or so from the now famous Black Rail nesting site at Charlie's Pond. This has been a good year for Ohio's former prairies and the flora and fauna that once occupied them. The Bellevue sloughs and the nesting Black-necked Stilts are another example of some prairies doing well in a wet year.
Thanks to Dan Boone for checking in on a long-lost prairie slough and bringing these amazing finds to light.