We returned to the Beech maple woods to take a look at the plants growing in the understory. A mix of native and invasive species were identified. Native species included violets, ferns and white snakeroot. Winter creeper and garlic mustard (both invasive) were in high frequency. One way to track changes in vegetation is to take pictures (photopoints) of an area repeatedly. Here is an example:
Greenacres has several types of forests on the property including Beech-Maple and Oak-Hickory. We are through time. The frequency of invasive species such as Amur honeysuckle, Oriental bittersweet and Lesser Celandine will be documented.
Today, transects were established in the Beech-Maple forest and tree data collected. As expected, a large number of maple saplings were growing there. There are some very large beech trees growing, one approximately 146 years of age. This is an estimate using the diameter of the tree multiplied by a growth factor (see this site to learn more). interested in knowing the types and sizes of trees as well as what is growing in the understory. Our plan is to monitor the forests over the next decade (or more) and look at changes
It’s official! Greenacres has purchased property in Lewis Township, OH located in Brown County – about an hour southeast of our Indian Hill property. The property is 413 acres, approximately 120 of which have been continuous no-till soy beans for over a decade. We’re looking forward to collecting some baseline soil data for the property. My guess, based on initial observations and by the way the fields have been managed in the past (not in accordance to the Five Principles of Soil Health, which are talked about here, and enthusiastically here), is that the results will be less than desirable. However, this will be a great opportunity to track the impact generative agricultural practices can have on soil health (and also how quickly the change(s) occur).
The Lewis Township property is a great opportunity for both Greenacres and the surrounding communities for a multitude of reasons. One of those reasons is the ability to dedicate a large parcel of land specifically to research – and the timing could not have been better. As part of our collaboration with University of Tennessee’s Center for Native Grassland Management we will be setting aside 10-acres at Greenacres Lewis Township to establish treatment and control plots for our project The Improved Establishment of Native Grass Forages. The large size of the plots will allow us to collect statistically significant data, thus strengthening our end results.
The darkness of the forest seems quite alluring on these hot and humid days. The fresh growth of large green leaves brings welcomed relief from the beating sun. It’s here in the shaded area that you can find American Squawroot (Conopholis americana). Most plants along the forest floor are competing for limited sunlight in the slow motion battle of ‘who can grow faster towards the gap in the canopy’. However, rather than undergoing photosynthesis, this parasitic plant uses specialized roots (haustoria) to feed itself from the roots of oak trees. I know most of us hear “parasite” and think of leeches and ticks. Did you know that plants can suck the nutrients from other plants? Rather than using energy on chlorophyll, it surreptitiously absorbs nutrients underground for four years until it finally pushes its stems above ground. The odd looking scaled stems pop up in clusters above the plundered oak root. Because of its unique look, squawroot is often mistaken as a fungus in any of its above ground stages. Squawroot produces flowers in the spring, creating what looks like a cream-colored pine cone village for the local fairies (pic 1). Pollinators such as flies and bees feed from the flowers, forming a seed capsule with multiple seeds in each scale (pic 2). The plants become more and more brown with time, and if you find them in the winter, you would think the poor fairies’ village had been burnt to a crisp. Some squawroot will reseed themselves, while other seeds are dispersed to new locations by foraging deer and other mammals. Another parasitic plant found in the area is beechdrop (Epifagus virginiana). Like squawroot, it is in the Orobanchaceae family, but it parasitizes beech trees rather than oaks (pic here). Squawroot may steal energy from the oak trees it parasitizes, but is not considered to be detrimental. It could only cause serious harm if the oak had a preexisting disease or illness. I encourage you to enjoy a hike in the forest shade and try to find these unique plants!