Sunday, March 11, 2018


Yesterday, I made my first trip of spring to the wonderland that is Adams County, Ohio. Spring arrives much earlier down there than it does even 100 miles to the north, in Columbus where I live. I was looking forward to the opportunity to get a much-needed botanical fix, following a long largely chlorophyll-free winter.

There was another purpose to the trip. The Mothapalooza planning committee was convening to sketch out Mothapalooza 2019. Which we did and it should, this 6th Mothapalooza, be another fantastic affair. But as we weren't meeting until 3 pm, there was plenty of time beforehand to commune with Nature. I got down there not long after sunrise, then later that morning joined up with Mary Ann Barnett, Kim Banks, Judy Ganance, and Colleen Sharkey, fellow committee members all.

Following is a brief selection of some of yesterday's finds.

The headwaters of Scioto Brush Creek slice through interesting limestone cliffs in Adams County, at the Arc of Appalachia's Chalet Nivale preserve. Scioto Brush Creek is one of the highest-quality streams in the state, and this particular locale harbors many rare or unusual plant species.

This is a snow trillium, Trillium nivale, which occurs at the above site by the thousands.  The plant's specific epithet, nivale, accounts for part of the preserve's name. Nivale means "snowy", and probably refers to the coloration of the petals. However, this species flowers so early that plants are frequently covered with early spring snows. While no snow dusted the plants during this visit, it was only 29 F when I made this image.

The trillium is growing on a gorgeous moss-cloaked limestone slump block that supported a vigorous colony of one of our strangest pteridophytes, the walking fern, Asplenium rhizophyllum. Those odd straplike leaves are the fern's fronds. The tips become greatly elongate, and eventually arch over and reconnect with the soil. New leaves sprout and "walk" to new points from these rooted tips.

One of the coolest but most easily overlooked flowers of spring, the female blooms of hazelnut, Corylus americana. This shrub would easily be missed at this season, were it not for the conspicuous yellowish dangling catkins of male flowers. If you see those, go inspect closely. The tiny maroon female flowers will be protruding from buds nearby.

As always happens when I'm around a stream, water striders drew my eye. Sluggish of pools of Scioto Brush Creek harbored many of these curious hemipteran insects, and some were in the process of making striderlets, as are the two in the photo. I believe these are the common water strider, Aquarius remigis (what a fantastic genus name!). I'll have an upcoming post dedicated to these fascinating creatures.

We made our way to the Ohio Star Retreat Center around 3 pm, to meet with John Howard and the rest of planning committee to talk Mothapalooza. By the way, this retreat was just founded by John and his wife, Tina. If you are looking for an inexpensive but outstanding base station for exploring the many wonders of Adams County, such as the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, this is your place. CLICK HERE for more details.

John, as he often does, had brought along some interesting creatures for us to study and photograph. This is a fairy shrimp in the genus Eubranchipus. This is a female, and the dark sac-like structure in the center holds the eggs. Fairy shrimp can be common denizens of vernal pools in spring, and John got this animal from a nearby pool.

John also brought this little beast, a larval marbled salamander, Ambystoma opacum. They have an interesting reproductive strategy, making their way to vernal pools in fall. Once there, they breed and thus get a jumpstart on the rest of the spring-breeding salamanders. I wrote a bit about this strange salamander RIGHT HERE.

Although the temperatures weren't exactly toasty yesterday, it was the first excursion that I've made that truly smacked of spring, and offered the first native plant species I've seen this year. The botanical floodgates are ajar, and soon will burst open unleashing a deluge of spring wildflowers.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

On March 12 as I was getting on I270 east at Cleveland Ave. I saw a couple of buzzards on the ground. Do they stay in our area or do they migrate further north.

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