Resurrection! Spring is a time of rebirth and new life so what better time for The Buckeye Botanist to awaken from his blogging coma. I miss posting on here. I sincerely do. But life always seems to find a way to prevent that perfect combination of free time and energy to actually sit down and catch up on the 101 different posts I'd like to do. C'est la vie...
In the three years since I last published on here not too much has changed. Which the older I get, the more I like being able to say. My wife and I did buy a house in a small village outside the concrete jungle of Columbus in summer 2020. It fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine to have a yard to call my own and paint with native plants. That's a project forever in progress but it's been very fun and rewarding thus far. Maybe one day I'll be able to do a yard tour themed post on here? We now have two adorable feline children: Leela - a black cat with one eye, and Lily - an adorable tripaw (she's missing her front left leg). I guess we just like cats that aren't physically 100% complete haha. We unexpectedly lost our beloved tuxedo kitty Arya in August 2019 and the loss still pains us to this day but we're so enamored with and thankful to have Leela and Lily in our home. I'm still a field botanist and ecologist with the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and am very much looking forward to another field season spent in the depths of Ohio's wilderness. Busy is the theme here: always busy. And as already mentioned this blog was the first thing to be lost in the shuffle. Especially since I do regularly post my adventures and botanical highlights on Instagram or Facebook.
That all being said let's start catching up by doing the countdown of my top ten life plants from 2019. It's only going on three years later but better late than never, eh? Plus it's a fun way to reminisce on pre-pandemic life and the "before times". This annual post was always the one I managed to get out each year and I have three years to make up for.
2019 was a botanically exciting year for me. Field work all over the Buckeye state produced some memorable discoveries and lifers. Likewise, family vacations to northern Michigan in July and coastal North Carolina in August produced plenty of action. Finally experiencing the famed Green Swamp and its plethora of orchids, sedges, and carnivorous plants was a treat! As always, I'd love to highlight those trips in blog form someday. Alas...no promises there. I still have trips to Wyoming (2015), Colorado (2016), Lake Superior (2018), Florida (2018/2021), and Michigan's UP (2017/2021) to name a handful that I need to document. Sigh. So without any further delay lets dive into the top ten life plants I encountered during the 2019 growing season.
#10 Pennsylvania Catchfly (Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica)
|Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica bearing more pink-colored flowers
Life plant #10 takes us the shale region of eastern Ohio in late May. I was in the area doing rare plant monitoring with the Pennsylvania catchfly (Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica) being one of my main targets. It's a very attractive wildflower with its pale pink to white colored flowers and sticky stems and calyces. Also known as Pennsylvania wild pink, it's a state threatened species here in Ohio with most extant populations clustered in Columbiana and Jefferson counties.
|Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica on a roadside shale bank
I managed to relocate a number of populations that day and took great pleasure in finally seeing this plant that I'd long wanted to. We also have its equally rare kin, Wherry's catchfly (S. caroliniana ssp. wherryi) in Ohio but it has much darker pink flowers, non-glandular hairs on its calyces, and is restricted to south-central Ohio. I've shared that species on here before so feel free to use the "search this blog" tool on the right to check it out.
#9 Coville's Scorpion-weed (Phacelia covillei)
|Phacelia covillei in flower
I love the rare, unusual, and inconspicuous in the plant world. 2019 life plant #9 is most certainly all three. In fact, it's so rare, unusual, and inconspicuous, I'll bet few people reading this post have ever even heard of Coville's scorpion-weed (Phacelia covillei) before. It's a globally rare [G3] annual species of the borage family that flowers early in spring before senescing and disappearing by early summer. In fact, my visit to this site in early May had almost all the plants already in fruit and some even beginning to yellow and wither away.
|Phacelia covillei in fruit
In Ohio, Coville's scorpion-weed is only known from a few sites in Lawrence Co. where it grows in mesic valley woodlands, low slopes, and stream terraces. Globally it's only known from about 20 counties in 8 Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. It's possible this species is overlooked but it's rather unique and unlikely to be overlooked by botanists. Curiously, while rare overall it can be extremely common at a given site. One of the Ohio's populations occupies over a mile of stream valley with millions of plants! At least during a boom year for the site. Coville's scorpion-weed was once synonymous with Phacelia ranunculacea, but research has shown the latter to be a Midwest endemic with genetic/morphological/geographical differences. That's all probably more than you needed or wanted to know about such an unshowy plant but I live for stuff like this. Very cool to finally see this oddity and rarity!
|Astragalus neglectus in flower
|Astragalus neglectus in fruit
|Dryopteris clintoniana growing in a white cedar swamp
We're hitting the midpoint on this countdown of my top ten life plants of 2019 with #6. We finally move out of Ohio for one of the most surprising and serendipitous finds of the year. I'd been on the hunt for Clinton's wood fern (Dryopteris clintoniana) for the better part of a decade with nothing to show for it. It's an endangered species in Ohio but considerably more common up in Michigan, where I encountered some in a mosquito-filled cedar swamp. It's a fern of hybrid origin between crested wood fern (D. cristata) and Goldie's wood fern (D. goldiana) and definitely looks like an intermediate between the two.
|Dryopteris clintoniana frond underside and its spore-containing sori
|Platanthera conspicua in a wet longleaf pine savanna
|Platanthera conspicua in picture perfect flower
|Arabis patens in its typical limestone ravine habitat
Coming in at #4 is the globally rare spreading rock cress (Arabis patens). This ever-disappearing wildflower is an endangered species here in Ohio, where it's only known from a precious few limestone ravines along a small stretch of the Scioto River. Spreading rock cress has special ties to the Buckeye state as it was first discovered and described to science from Ohio plants by William Starling Sullivant back in 1842. This mustard has an affinity for sheer limestone rock faces and walls where human disturbance and invasive species are wrecking havoc and causing its decline.
|Arabis patens in flower
|Aconitum noveboracense in its seepy sandstone ledge habitat
|Aconitum noveboracense in peak flower in early August
|Platanthera integra flowering in a pristine longleaf pine savanna
|A trio of Platanthera integra under the longleaf pines
|Asplenium resiliens growing out of some exposed limestone bedrock
|Fresh and new fronds of Asplenium resiliens