Irwin Prairie near Toledo, one of Ohio's rarest habitats
March 4, 2018
The fourth-largest Great Lake, Erie, forms Ohio’s northern border. This grand inland sea brings a wealth of flora and fauna, some of it unique to the state.
Boreal habitats normally found far to the north provide a glimpse into our recent glacial history. The ecological footprints of a frigid history can be found in relict bogs, fens and hemlock ravines.
The majesty of the Appalachian Mountains sweeps into Ohio from the east, impressing with rugged forested terrain. Spectacular rock formations and deep gorges harbor a beauty that contradicts outsiders’ superficial impression of this “rust belt” area.
Four hundred and fifty one miles of the Ohio River, one of America’s mightiest streams, delineates
our southern boundary. The river’s broad valley brings a taste of the south. Southern plants such as mistletoe, cross vine, and purple passionflower reach their northern limits on the Ohio side of the stream.
During the hotter, drier xerothermic period, about 5,000 years ago, Great Plains prairies expanded east. These rich grasslands largely petered out in what is now Ohio, and at the time of European settlement, prairie covered nearly 5 percent of the state.
On Aug. 31, 1970, the Ohio legislature established the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves as part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Its mission: identify and protect the best of Ohio’s remaining habitats.