Battelle Darby Metro Park and Geobotany of Ohio

Geobotany of Ohio

Great Division: East Vs. West

There is two major geologic parts to Ohio with the Western part being majorly limestone which is not very durable leading to it becoming quite flat over the many years of water erosion. Where the Eastern part of Ohio has much more sandstone which is much harder to erode leaving hills and cliffs of sandstone overlooking where shale once was. How layers of earth formed in Ohio was limestone, then covered by shale with a sandstone cherry on top. This was changed by the pressures that brought up the ground to form the Appalachians in the east of the state and uncovered the older limestone in the west of the state. This limestone in the west as already stated eroded faster and the sandstone caps in the east were broken but not removed leaving caps that formed the cliffs of valleys and hills and eroded away where the shale got exposed leaving the landscape we know and love today.

Glacial Event: 100% Humidity

The Plesiostein Glacier invasion was able to easily crush through the rather weak limestone and part of the shale but the durable and steel sandstone hills slowed the glacier invasion to a halt in south-eastern Ohio (Image Below!). The glacial till has three major areas West, East and the West-East Border. The West where the glacier-covered is rich in lime and clay. from the mixture of things carried by the glacier and left at the melt and retreat. This lime and clay-rich soil are fairly water-impermeable leaving no water in the soil for droughts and flooding in heavy rain as well as lacking aeration. In the East where the glacier did not reach is lime and clay poor due to it. The West’s poor nutrient and high sandstone soil with areas of shale is highly permeable and leaves the substrate at a low (acidic) pH with low nutrient value, but where the shale is more prevalent it will cause drought being impermeable to water as well as being acidic. At the East-West Border, there is a lime and clay area that is richer than the rest of the Eastern part.

Plants of the Tills

Limey Substrate Plants

  1. Red-Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
  2. Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
  3. Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata)
  4. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  5. Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

Limey and Clay-ie Substrate Plants

  1. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  2. Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  3. Red Oak (Quercus borealis)
  4. Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
  5. White Oak (Quercus alba)

Sandstone-y and Low (Acidic) pH Substrate Plants

  1. Pink Ladies’ Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
  2. Huckleberry-Blueberry (Vaccinium ssp.)
  3. Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
  4. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
  5. Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)

Plant Spotlight

Sweet Buckeye: This plant is found only on the unglaciated lands to the East. It has now crossed the boundary and no solid reason is stated other than the possibility it is not able to repopulate in the high lime and clay soils in Western Ohio.

Hemlock: This plant is found majorly in the unglaciated lands of the East but, has been found going north to Lake Erie which seems to not be hindered by high lime and clay substrates as the Sweet Buckeye, but also the cooler valleys in the north seem to be hospitable to this plant as it is in the sandstone valleys of the East.

Rhododendron: These plants are locked into the old area they migrated to during the ancient Teays River to the southern tip of Ohio and after the glacial event that destroyed the river valley system the plant did not come back because the migration had already occured.

Battelle-Darby Metro Park Trip

Graminoids (Grass-like Monocots) in Wetland

Rushes (Juncaceae):  Look like long grasses and have a few basal leaves.

Sedge (Cyperaceae): Grasslike monocot that had leaves coming off in 3’s and keep the triangle forming 3 ‘edges’.

Grass (Poaceae): These have jointed stems and the leaves come off radially.

Plant-Animal Interactions (Bespoke Assignment)

Woodland Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)

The Wood Poppy has hairs (not well seen in image) are used by ants for food and dragged by them. This dispurses the seeds and the ants get some food.

Common Prickly-Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)

This plant plays host for many species of Swallowtail Butterfly larva as a food source.


(Plant information in this section is courtesy of Wikipedia)

Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

The Common Hackberry shows asymmetric and simple leaves with serration. The plant is spread around the US Midwest, parts of Eastern US and parts of southern Canada. It is also cultivated as a street urban tree due to its resiliency.

Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata)

These trees have squared twigs with winged corners. This ash like others has been under attack by the emerald ash borer but are more resilient compared to other ash types. Their range spans from Missouri up around to Illinois through Indiana and Ohio and down to Kentucky and stopping at Tennesse.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

The Redbud has characteristic heart-shaped leaves but, this one was rather immature and not flowering. It is requiring of rain so it cannot go further west than midway through Kansas down through some of Mexico and furthest north of parts of Michigan’s southern peninsula. Its flowers are edible and have been used with twigs as meat seasoning by humans and are still important for many animals such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Red-Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

This gymnosperm has small and tightly pressed-together leaves. It is very important ecologically not obvious in this photo but it acts as a pioneer species being one of the first trees that repopulate after the land is damaged. With high CO2 levels increasing growth, they can become an invasive and destructive pest in grasslands being taken care of by prescribed burnings.


Most information not referenced in the section was provided verbally in teachings by Dr. Klips.