Often times over the years, visitors will make a comment like, ” Wow, this must be the greatest job.” or something to that effect. Well, there are many aspects to being a naturalist here at Wahkeena. Doing fun educational programs and helping increase visitors’ understanding of Ohio’s natural history is only a part of the job. There are quite a few “other duties as required.” One of these is the never ending control of invasive plant species, like garlic mustard and winged euonymus. Winged euonymus is also known as wahoo or burning bush. Autumn is often the best time to attack euonymus as it turns a pastel pink color, making it easy to locate in the woodlands. The name burning bush refers to cultivated varieties that turn red in the fall.
However there can be unexpected benefits to pulling out thousands of invasive plants that are occupying space that would otherwise be filled by more valuable native species. Back in October, while pulling euonymus, I came across some interesting discoveries:
This is the last fern to appear each year in the autumn, cut-leaf grape fern, Botrichium dissectum.
Below is a more dissected form of cut-leaf grape fern. Notice the bronze color that occurs once frost has affected the plant.
Several of our native orchids produce new leaves in the autumn to take advantage of the increase in sunlight energy available, due to the falling leaves on deciduous trees. The food energy manufactured in the orchid leaves is then stored in the root system. By the time these flowers bloom in spring and summer the leaves have almost always totally disintegrated. All of the plant’s energy is now directed to supporting the flower (if one is produced) and the subsequent seeds.
The two orchids at Wahkeena that preform this appearing and disappearing act are shown below.
|Cranefly Orchid – underside of leaf|
Puttyoot, Aplectrum hyemale, has a much larger leaf with obvious white, parallel veins. Puttyroot usually blooms mid to later part of May.
This next orchid, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Goodyera pubescens, is evergreen, but really stands out in the autumn/winter woods. It is a summer bloomer as well.
|Downy Rattlesnake Plantain|
So even if you are out in the woods pulling invasives, nature will reward you with a few surprises!
Posted by Tom