Deep Woods, the Appalachian Gametophyte, and Ohio Geobotany

Substrate-associated Plants

For this section  we will be talking about  plants that we saw  at the Deep Woods Preserve that are associated with acidic sandstone places.

Catchfly (Silene virginica) Silene virginica, the fire pink, is a wildflower in the pink family, Caryophyllaceae. It is known for its distinct brilliant red flowers. Each flower is approximately five centimeters in diameter and composed of five notched, brilliant red petals which extend into a long tube. The fire pink plant was used for worm medication and to help with nerve disorders by herb doctors.

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) is a very interesting specimen as its roots are used in treatment of jaundice mainly, the fronds can be used to help heal wounds as well. The leaves are turned into a compress for cuts and wounds where it can be directly applied and surprising it is very effective. It seems you can even use this to have a glowing skin!


Wild Bluberry Plant-  Blueberry plants need their acidic soil to be able to survive, they thrive in a pH of anywhere between 4.5-4.8 but if  you get them outside of that range they won’t do any good. The use of this plants is that we humans can eat the fruit as well as animals, isn’t that awesome?! Unfortunately we did not see any fruit this time.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)– This tree is most commonly found in the Appalachian mountain territory, where sandstone is very abundant. The leaves can be chewed to relieve a dry mouth and consumption of the leaves would produce a laxative effect. Nectar, honey, and jelly are all useful byproducts from the plant.

Biotic Threats to Forest Health

American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) is a large deciduous tree of the beech family native to eastern North America. The American chestnut was one of the most important forest trees throughout its range and was considered the finest chestnut tree in the world.they are awesome trees that thrive in the acid sandstone soil that the Deep Woods Preserve had available for it, this tree is also a huge contributor to wildlife and human resources. Its lumber is rot-resistant which makes it very sought after though it is not as readily available as it once was, the wildlife and humans both enjoy its edible nuts. It was nice to see this tree because it seems that they have almost virtually gone extinct in Ohio because of Chestnut blight.

Butternut (Juglans cinerea) 

Butternut canker is the primary disease that butternut trees face. There are two fungi that are responsible for primary and secondary infections of the tree, which ultimately lead to its downfall. However the fungi can spread from tree-to-tree via wide range of vectors. Because of that, it makes the tree even more difficult to protect. This butter canker was imported from a Japanese walnut tree. Native Americans, settlers, and farmers, as well as wildlife, have enjoyed butternuts, and butternut bark was used for medicine and as a dye.

Appalachian Gametophyte

  • Among fern species with long-lived gametophytes, perhaps none is as peculiar as Vittaria appalachiana. Set forth its common name and describe the manner in which it is so remarkable-   *The Appalachian gametophyte (Vittaria appalachiana) is a very cool plant. What makes the Appalachian gametophyte so interesting is that it is only a gamete producing plant. This characteristic is not so common as the sporophyte is largely the dominant life form of ferns. There are only two other ferns that are similar in nature in that the sporophyte is not presented.
  • Fern gemmae are differently sized than spores. Describe the consequence of that size difference in relation to dispersal. State three possible agents of gemmae dispersal. A 1995 publication by Kimmerer and Young is cited as evidence for one of the modes. What is that evidence?-  *Appalachian gametophyte only reproduces asexually through gemmae. The gemmae have different sizes compared to spores. Fern gemmae are much larger than spores and because of their larger size, they are dispersed over shorter distances by wind, water, or even animals, in comparison to the long distances that wind can carry spores.This was tested by Kimmerer and Young, 1995, where slugs were responsible for transporting bryophytes gammae over short distances.


  • The notion of limited dispersal capability in V. applachiana is also supported by consideration of a combination of the geologic history of area, and the current distribution of the plant. Explain this evidence and how it supports a particular time frame for its loss of the ability to produce mature, functioning sporophytes. A shorter dispersal range for the Appalachian Gametophyte is  supported by the fact that it is not found in regions north of the last glacial maximum. A transplant study by Stevens and Emery, 2015, determined that the Appalachian Gametophyte could be supported by ecosystems in said region.


  • Could the current populations of the Appalachian gametophyte be being sustained by long-distance dispersal from some tropical sporophyte source? Support your answer. What is the most likely explanation for the wide range of V. applachiana? – * No.  The current Appalachian gametophyte populations could not be sustained from long-dispersal from tropical sporophytes. This is supported by studies done on Appalachian gametophyte have shown that these plants can no longer produce sexually. The most likely explanation of the long range of V. appalachiana is that there was once a sporophyte associated with this fern that allowed for dispersal but then went extinct sometime before the last ice age. If this species would have produced sporophytes after the ice age the range would have been much farther north. 


Miscellaneous Other Observations

Osmundastrum cinnamomeum, commonly called cinnamon fern, is a Missouri native fern which occurs in moist, boggy ground along streams and on shaded ledges and bluffs, primarily in the eastern Ozark region of the State. I literally loved this plant! It was so beautiful!!

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum):This species of sassafras is native to eastern North American and eastern Asia. This plant is an example of what we referred to as a “scratch-n-sniff” plant. Due to its aromatic properties, all parts of the plant (including roots, stems, twig leaves, bark, flowers, and fruit) have been used for culinary, medicinal, and aromatic purposes.

American Cancer Root (Conopholis americana): American cancer root is a fully parasitic plant. It can not obtain nutrients from other means, like photosynthesis, but only from attaching to the roots of oak trees.

Snakewort Conocephalum salebrosum
This plant is a liverwort which is a nonvascular plant. This plant prefers moist and damp environments and will grow on trees or on rock walls. This liverwort has a nickname which is great smelling liverwort and this comes from the fact that like the name says this liverwort has a pleasant odor.