Saturday, August 30, 2014

Two Rarities From Hitler Pond

I'm still alive. Promise. I know it's been awhile since I last posted; life has simply gotten a little hectic. I have like 6 posts somewhere between started and half finished, but none obviously done. It's been especially crazy this week because I moved back to Ohio University last weekend and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. I'll be a sophomore this year in Wildlife and Conservation Biology. I'm hoping to add a minor in Environmental and Plant Biology too as plants have sort of become a recent obsession of mine...

Hitler Pond
So, speaking of plants, let's move on to the subject of this short, rushed post. A few weeks ago I finally traveled out to Hitler Pond in Pickaway County. Yes, Hitler Pond. Pickaway Co. has a history of Hitlers, but they are not related to the infamous Adolf. You can read more about the family here. Anyway, Hitler Pond is actually on the site of a new preserve-in-making, the Floyd Bartley Preserve (more info here.) Hitler Pond is a prairie pothole that is an ephemeral wetland (meaning it doesn't contain water all year). Prairie potholes are depressions that have been made by glaciers. This particular one was made by the Wisconsian Glacier, the last major glacier period in a series of glacial periods. So why go here? Well, fellow nature blogger Andrew Gibson, of The National Treasures of Ohio, traveled out a few weeks ago and made a post on the rare plants found there. So, I decided to check it out myself. If you want to learn more about the history of Hitler Pond, and the other plants found there, I highly suggest you head on over to Andrew Gibson's post on Hitler Pond. My post is more of a "I'm still alive" post, and not a comprehensive overview of the area like his post is.

Engelmann's Spike Rush, Eleocharis engelmannii
The first of two rare plants I want to go over is Engelmann's Spike Rush, Eleocharis engelmannii. This state-listed Endangered species is quite the rarity here in Ohio. It's only been recorded in 4 counties here, but only 2 of those counties have post-1980 records. One of those counties, as you can guess, is Pickaway. In fact, Hitler Pond is one of the last remaining locations where this plant grows, and let me tell you, it is not scarce by any means there. It's basically everywhere in the pothole, so it's kind of crazy to learn it's endangered. But alas, while it is common in this one locale, it is far from common anywhere else in Ohio. This species is very similar to the related Blunt Spike Rush, E. obtusa, but has a few differing features. These features, however, are quite technical, so I suggest you read Andrew Gibson's post on telling the two apart if you haven't already. One of the features that I could easily grasp onto was that E. engelmannii generally has longer spikelets than E. obtusa, although there's always variation. 

Rocky Mountain Bulrush, Schoenoplectus saximontanus
This second rarity is the most strange and significant one of the site, and one of the most significant ones of the region. This tiny, insignificant looking sedge is the state-endangered Rocky Mountain Bulrush, Schoenoplectus saximontanus. So, what's so special about this plant? Well, this is the only place in Ohio where it has been found. Actually, this is the only place east of the Mississippi that this species has been recorded. Rocky Mountain Bulrush is a sedge species mainly of the Great Plains, although it's not even that common there either. So why is it found in this random depression surrounded by soybeans across the street from some corn outside of Circleville? Well, the exact reasoning is unknown, but there are a few theories. The main one, and the one that is generally accepted as true, is that migrating waterfowl are to blame. It is believed that some individual picked up some of the seeds on its legs and inadvertently transported the seeds to this wetland when it chose to rest here. The seeds fell off, took root, reproduced, and then a new population was born.

Hitler Pond Plants
At Hitler Pond, both endangered species can be found right next to each other in many cases, as shown above. Hitler Pond is an incredible place, and I am so glad it has been set aside for preservation. Right now the "preserve" is still a soybean field and not really a place you can visit, but within a few years, and a lot of hard work later, Hitler Pond will be a part of a restored Burr Oak savanna. Once work on the preserve gets started sometime in late 2015, I'm guessing Hitler Pond should be visitable by 2016 or 2017; however, that is just a guess.

Expect more posts coming up. I need to actually make the time to sit down and write. Thanks for reading!