Delawanda park is located right on the Olentangy River. It could be considered a riparian zone as it buffers the river and other habitats. Having this riparian zone has many benefits to the local communities because it acts as a natural filter for the water that makes its way into the river. Another aspect of letting vegetation grow on riverbanks is that it helps stop erosion of the banks by slowing the river’s velocity and by holding the soil tightly. Vegetation along the riverbank can also keep the river’s water temperature cooler and that helps keep the ecosystem in balance and functioning properly. Delawanda certainly is contributing to the health of the soil and the river. When I went there, I found a lot of moisture loving plants like sycamore and boxelder both being very abundant.
The boxelder is in the maple family and distinguishes itself with its pinnately compound leaves, having 3 to 7 leaflets. Delawanda Park has an abundance of boxelder trees, being one of the most common species I found there. It makes sense I found them there because of their preference to grow in areas near rivers and streams. The bark is brownish gray and it can look scaly, it also often has sprouts growing from the lower truck. Boxelder is a dieocious tree with female and male flowers growing on separate individuals. Indigenous people would use boxelder wood to make instruments like flutes and drums. They play an important ecological role by helping maintain river banks and slow erosion.
The American Elm has alternate, simple leaves that are toothed and oval in shape. The bark, in my opinion, is what makes it stand out; the bark is light brown and has deep furrows, the furrows are springy to the touch like they are layered. The Dutch Elm disease has destroyed the American elm population, trees once reaching 200 years old barley make it past 30 now. Fortunately, there are scientists who are trying to propagate some rarer American elm individuals with a gene that makes them tolerant of the disease. There is hope that this can lead to sustainable populations in the future.
Riverbank grape has this heart shape to its toothed leaves. The leaves are quite large and can be just as wide as it is long. The fruits are an important source of food for the wildlife. The fruits are sour until after a frost. Along the wood line it can become very dominant and create dense mats covering small trees and other shrubs however, when it must compete for light in a forest it has a more controlled growth.
Black raspberry has leaves composed of three leaflets, and the leaves tend to have an egg like shape. The vine makes an arch from the ground and it is a light green color. They are also covered with thorns. They have aggregate fruit that contains compounds that help fight cancer, they also have three times the antioxidants of blueberries. The USDA used to use dye made from black raspberries to stamp food grade levels of beef on the meat, since it was food safe. Black raspberry was never successful when people tried to grow them commercial.
Common fleabane is a native plant found in open fields and along wood lines, this individual was found right at the edge of the park, they can tolerant dry conditions. The flowers are made of up to 100 petals around a yellow center disk. They have alternate lanceolate (they get smaller going up the stem) leaves. Common fleabane is one of the first plants to return to a disturbed area and can even out compete non- native weeds.
Chicory is often found in disturbed areas like along the road and unmaintained lawns. The leaves range from lobed to deeply lobed and sort of look like those of a dandelion. The flowers are a bluesish color and only bloom for a day with hotter days only seeing the bloom in the mornings. The roots and buds have been used medically for centuries and the leaves can be eaten raw, though they are bitter. It is suggested that these plants help rid internal parasite and are used as a foraging plant for livestock to help reduce worms
To identify poison ivy knowing that it has three leaflets is a good place to start. Some other indicators are the middle leaflet will be slightly longer the outside ones, also the leaves are alternate. The margin of the leaflets can be smooth and/or toothed. You can find these on the ground, like this example here, or as a vine growing on a shrub or tree. The fruits are drupes and cluster on the plant, this one here does not have any fruit. Poison ivy produces a resin that helps deter predators.