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(Scouring-rush, Equisetum hyemale)
July 28 and August 2, 2009 -Waldo, Marion County, Ohio
The plant kingdom is divided into a number of divisions, a category that is equivalent to phylum in the animal kingdom. Taxonomy is a dynamic science, especially as molecular data are being used to reveal relationships that might not be apparent based on morphology alone. Primitive (seedless) vascular plants that occur in Ohio are a case in point. Several years ago, scouring-rushes and horsetails, both of which are in the genus Equisetum, were placed in their own division, the Equisetophyta (also called "Sphenophyta"), separate from the ferns (Division Pteridophyta). Both divisions were likewise separate from the clubmoss/spikemoss/quillwort group, Division Lycopodophyta.
A more modern view, however, places the ferns and horsetails together (along with the whisk ferns, a group that doesn't occur in Ohio), separate from the Lycophytes. Here's a diagram from a modern college textbook, the lawyers for which will interpret my including it here as promotion of the text, not copyright infringement, right? Please? Pretty please?
Accordingly there is a popular movement afoot to rename members of the genus Equisetum "Tube Ferns." The more widely known common name "scouring rush" relates to the fact that their stems are stiff owing to the presence of silicon dioxide (the chemical that gives glass its hardness). These are relicts of a glorious past, as late in the Paleozoic Era, approxmately 300 million years ago during the aptly named Carboniferous Period (meaning "carbon-bearing" in reference to the coal that was formed then) great swamp forests included tree-like horsetail/scouring rush plants, placed in the genus Calamites.
Plant kingdom phylogeny from very excellent biology textbook.
(Biology: Concepts and Connections, 6th ed.
Campbell / Reece / Taylor / Simon / Dickey)
Here's a picture of the spore-bearing terminal portion of a scouring-rush. It was taken in a low-lying woodland in Waldo, Ohio. What is the location of Waldo? It's near Marion. Where's Marion?
Tube-fern (scouring-rush) strobilus.
Waldo, Marion County, Ohio. July 28, 2009.
The spore-bearing portion of the plant is a terminal cone called a "strobilus." The spores themselves are produced in sac-like containers called "sporangia." To understand the overall arrangement, imagine a six-sided umbrella, from near the edge of which are attached dangling grocery bages filled with popcorn. The popcorn is the spores, the bags are sporangia, and the umbrella is a peltate (centrally attached) sporangiophore. Now imagine rougly one hundred of these umbrellas attached to a thick post, arranged in a tight spiral. That, in a nutshell, is the cone-like strobilus. Wait...what part is the nutshell? No..."nutshell" is just a figure of speech; there is no nutshell.
A close-up taken at night shows this better. This is a portion of the strobilus. The dark hexagons are the tops of the sporangiophores, from near the edges of which white bag-like sporangia are attached.
Portion of Equisetum strobilus. Waldo, Marion County, Ohio. August 2, 2009.
Some intriguing creatures, suggestive of the giant arthopods that inhabited Carboniferous swamp forests, were present at the Equisetum stand tonight.
Creatures on Equisetum hyemale at night. August 2, 2009. Waldo, Marion County, Ohio.
Left: sowbug. Right: tree-cricket.
The sowbug is noteworthy because it is a terrestrial, not aquatic, crustacean. Sowbugs (with tail-like structures at rear end, cannot roll up into ball) and pillbugs (lacking tail-like structures at rear end, can roll up into ball) are our only terrestrial crustaceans. A crayfish (crawdad) is a typical aquatic crustacean.
Wild "petunia" and the scroph-like family Acanthaceae.
Stage's Pond State Nature Preserve
Pickaway County, Ohio. July 24, 2009.
A striking wildflower that shows up now, when there are few others so conspicuous, wild petunia, Ruellia strepens, occurs in moist woods from New Jersey to Indiana, south to S. Carolina, Alabama, and Texas. Here it occurs alongside a boardwalk in a low-lying wooded portion of Stage's Pond State Nature Preserve in Pickaway County, Ohio.Two too terrible teasels.
Wild petunia at Stage's Pond State Nature Preserve. Pickaway County, Ohio. July 23, 2009.
The common name "petunia" is just so-so with respect to information content. The true petunia (genus Petunia) is in a different, but closely related family, the Solanaceae (nightshade fam.), and while there is a southeastern native Petunia, it doesn't occur this far north.
Ruellia is in the Acanthaceae (Acanthus family), a family with only 4 northeastern U.S. genera, only two of which occur in Ohio. The family is much more numerous in tropical regions. It is very similar, and closely related to, a family that is prominent here, the Scrophulariaceae (figwort family). Are you curious about the differences between the mainly tropical Acanthaceae and our temperate Scrophs? Me too! A very useful reference for sorting these things out is "Vascular Plant Families" 1977. Payne, J.P., Mad River Press).
Table comparing several similar plant families.
This table makes things very clear. Members of the Acanthaceae typically have 2 stamens, two of which are different somehow from the other two (hence the "2+2" designation), but they may in rare instances have two stamens, or five stamens. By contrast, the scrophs typically have 2 stamens, two of which are different somehow from the other two (the "2+2" designation), but they may rarely have two stamens, or five stamens. A further distinction is offered by the number of chambers (locules) of the ovary. Members of the Acanthaceae have 2 locules. whereas scrophs have 2 locules. A final difference is in the placentation type, i.e., to what portion of the interior of the ovary the seeds are attached. Acanths (is that a word?) have their seeds attached along the inner portion where the locules are fused; this is called "axillary" placentation, and it clearly separates them from Scrophulariaceae, the members of which have axillary placentation (i.e., attached along the inner portion where the locules are fused). I'm glad we got that figured out!
We didn't? Oh right...they're the same insofar as stamens, locules and placentation are concerned (and a host of other characters). Is "showy bracts" really important? It doesn't seem like the type of fundamental thing that would be used for distinguishing a plant family, but at least it is evident in the picture below, taken in late June at a restored prairie approx. 80 mile north of Stage's Pond.
Wild petunia. Note leaf-like showy (?) bracts. Marion County, Ohio. June 23, 2009.
Evidentally there are further, even more techinical features that do separate the scrops from the acanths. Here is a portion of the plant families key in the best book ever written --The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, H.A. Gleason (1952). Evidentally the capsules of Ruellia are elastically dehiscent and their seeds are borne on hooked projections. This requires further study.
Details separating Scrophulariaceae and Acanthaceae in "The New Britton and Brown" (1952).
[Note: "Vascular Plant Families" really is a terrific book. These things are hard to simplify, and pointing out this scrop/acanth confusion is just light-hearted kidding. J P. Smith, Jr. does a great job explaining plant taxonomy, and the illustrations by Kathryn Simpson are excellent! Buy this book!]
Meanwhile, a so-called "pollen bee," i.e., a non-colonial one that provisions her nest with pollen that she gathers from flowers but which does not store copious amounts of nectar (honey), assiduously removes pollen grains from a wild petunia flower at Stage's Pond.
Pollen bee foraging on wild petunia (Ruellia strepens).
Stage's Pond State Nature Preserve, Pickaway County, Ohio. July 24, 2009.
Incidentally, our other Ohio genus in the Acanthaceae is Justicia, water-willow. It is an emergent aquatic plant, occurring in mud and shallow water. Our species, J. americana is extremely abundant along the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers in Columbus. Here is water-willow along the Scioto, just s. of the Fissinger Rd. Bridge (photo taken 2007).
Water-willow along the Scioto River, Columbus, Ohio. June 23, 2007.
...here is an individual water-willow plant. Note the opposite leaves and head-like flower spikes.
Water-willow. June 23, 2007. Columbus, Ohio.
...and a closeup of the flower cluster. Note strongly bilaterally symmetric flowers each with only 2 stamens.
Water-willow flowers. June 23, 2007. Columbus, Ohio.
...and apparently the honeybees like them.
Honeybee visiting water-willow. June 23, 2007. Columbus, Ohio.
(Dipsacus laciniatus and D. fullonum)
July 21-23, 2009. Delaware, Ohio.
There is a weed spreading south along Rte. 23 so fast I'm surprised the police haven't pulled it over for speeding. Perhaps they're busy issuing a ticket to the emerald ash borer. The weed is cut-leaved teasel, Dipsacus laciniatus (family Dipsacaceae). This species has changed its status markedly since mid- (last)-century when, in the best book ever written --The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, H.A. Gleason (1952) described it as "rarely adventive, native of Europe.
Cut-leaved teasel along Rte. 23 in Delaware Ohio. July 21, 2009.
There's another, much more well known teasel that is also an aggressive weed, Fuller's teasel (D. fullonum).
This week, the annual Anti-apartheid Leaders Invasive Plants Conference was held in Columbus. I was asked to lead a couple of tours, and to be sure to point out both Dipsacus species. In the morning I showed the plants to a group of visitors that included Nelson Mandela but not Desmond the former Archbishop. Desmond came on the afternoon tour, however. When I was asked by the conference organizer whether Desmond had a chance to see them as did Nelson, I replied "I took Tutu too to two too terrible teasels."
That story isn't true. But there are truly two too terrible teasels. The "new" one, cut-leaved teasel, is extremely abundant across much of the grassland at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in Wyandot and Marion Counties. The managers there are valiantly battling it with mowers and herbicides.
Dipsacus fullonum, the "old" teasel, is a problem in some prairie restorations as well as being a common roadside weed. Nomenclatural note: it was until recently referred to as common teasel, with the scientfic name Dipsacus sylvestris, at which time the name "fuller's teasel" (scientific name: D. fullonum) was reserved for a variety with especially stiff, hooked awns. This feature makes the heads useful for fulling, i.e., fluffing up, the surface of cloth.
Here are both teasels, mingled along Delaware, Ohio roadsides.
Two too terrible teasels in Delaware, Ohio. July 21, 2009.
Left: fuller's (common) teasel D. fullonum. Right: cut-leaved teasel D. laciniatus.
Two differences between the species are on display in the photo above. On the left, D. fullonum has flowering branches (peduncles) that diverge widely (like the letter "Y"), and the flowers are pink. On the right, D. laciniatus has much more erect peducles (like someone pointed a gun at it and said "stick 'em up!"), at the ends of which are heads of white flowers.
Here are some single-species shot of the two species. First, D. fullonum.
Fuller's (common) teasel. Delaware, Ohio. July 23, 2009.
Now, D. laciniatus.
Cut-leaved teasel. Delaware, Ohio. July 23, 2009.
The other striking diff between the spp. is the leaves. Cut-leaved is cut-leaved. The other isn't.
Two too terrible teasels in Delaware, Ohio. July 21, 2009.
Left: fuller's (common) teasel D. fullonum. Right: cut-leaved teasel D. laciniatus.
Bumblebee foraging on fuller's teasel. July 21, 2009.
Here's a video that shows a good side of fuller's teasel: bumblebees like it. The bee seems oblivious to the traffic rushing by.
("Daddy-long-legs" on goldenseal)
Delaware County, Ohio July 17, 2009
In a rich undisturbed woodland in northern Delaware County there is a nice colony of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, family Ranunculaceae). Its knotty yellow rhizomes are reputed to have medicinal properties, thus, like black cohosh and ginseng, over-collection for the herb trade has nearly exterminated the plant in some areas. Goldenseal is a perennial herb with basal and alternate leaves and a solitary terminal flower. Like many other members of the buttercup family, its flowers have an "apocarpous gynoecium," i.e., each flower has several-many stigma-style-ovary units (carpels) that are separate from one another. Thus a single flower (or better yet a married one) (or at least one in a committed long-term relationship) can develop into several-many fruits. If they are clustered together, as they are in goldenseal, the cluster, simulating an individual fruit, is termed an "aggegrate fruit." Goldenseal produces an aggregate of small berries that is reminiscent of a raspberry or a blackberry. (Raspberries and blackberries are not berries or even aggregates of them; they are aggregates of tiny cherry-like fruits called "drupelets.") Here's goldenseal.
Goldenseal plants in fruit in Delaware County, Ohio. July 17, 2009.
Harvestmen, also called "daddy long-legs" comprise a type (Order Phalangida) of arachnid that is not a spider (Order Araneida) even though it it is long-legged and somewhat resembles a spider. The body is oval and compact, and there isn't the sharp demarcation between body segments that is seen in spiders.
Harvestman on goldenseal leaf. July 17, 2009.
Here's an thrilling movie about a harvestman on a goldenseal leaf. I obtained a copy of the screenplay. In the opening scene Harvestman stands on the leaf. In the second act, Harvestman stands there some more. In the third act Harvestman preens his foot. In the action-packed finale, a couple other harvestpeople appear and they all walk away. The end. Stephen Spielberg, eat your heart out!
Harvestman, the Motion Picture.
A reason for seeking out the goldenseal fruits is that earlier this year I saw the same plants in flower and snapped some pics. Here's what goldenseal looked like then:
Goldenseal flowering. April 28, 2009. Delaware County, Ohio.
Goldenseal flowers have 3 sepals that fall as the flower opens (and thus are not visible here). The flowers lack petals entirely, and the job of being conspicuous to attract pollinators is assumed by the stamens!
Here's a late-stage flowering plant, showing the stamens beginning to fall. Note the apocarpous gynoecium.
Goldenseal, old flower shedding spent stamens.
April 28, 2009. Delaware County, Ohio.