After spending an enjoyable Sunday morning in the Oak Openings with lots of attendees from the Ohio Ornithological Society conference, I had the opportunity to mine a botanical treasure trove. Eric Durbin, naturalist and Oak Openings authority, agreed to take me to see two of the rarest plants in the state. I was sworn to secrecy and threatened with severe flogging if I revealed any locational data, so I won’t. But I did my best to document the plants with photos, and I hope you enjoy them. And I very much appreciate Eric taking me to see them, and for sharing some of his wealth of knowledge about the Oak Openings.
Tiny – really tiny – but incomparable. This is Fringed Milkwort, Polygala paucifolia, an endangered species known from but a few Ohio locales. It forms small colonies, and this patch covered only a few square inches. The plants grow low and flat, basically hugging the ground, and it’d be easy to pass by.
We have forty-six native orchids in Ohio, and most are not overtly showy as are many of the tropical, cultivated species. Still, our plain janes have their charms – to some of us, these more obscure northern orchids are more charismatic than some of their gaudy brethren.
Long-bracted Orchid has an expansive range throughout northern North America and Eurasia. It is not rare in the core of its range. Like the milkwort, Ohio is at the southern limits of its distribution. Northern species such as this bear watching. Warming climate and subsequent increases in mean average soil temperatures would, theoretically, cause these species to retreat northward.
Thanks again to Eric for sharing these jewels.