I decided to write this after visiting Jackson Bog State Nature Preserve and reading all the informative signs there… except they weren’t all that informative for me because I didn’t know my swamps from my bogs. So when I came home I decided to learn a few wetland basics.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. In North America a wetland that has trees growing in it is called a swamp. That’s why Dawes Arboretum referred to the following grove of trees as “Cypress Swamp”.
This is the time of year that many northern areas of the United States are seeing their first robins, a sign that spring has finally arrived… unless you live in Ohio. Our robins have decided that migrating south is too much hassle.
Most of Ohio was deforested for agricultural purposes during the 18th and 19th centuries. However there are a handful of virgin forests that were left alone, and one of these is found within the confines of Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve (previously known as Graber Woods). Although I usually don’t get off the freeway when I’m traveling between central and northeast Ohio, I decided it was worth making a side trip to see this primeval forest.
There are trees in Johnson Woods that are over 400 years old. The largest of these old growth trees are primarily red and white oak, as well as hickories. Some are as tall as 120 feet. However, these trees are reaching the end of their natural life cycle, so many of the big trees are falling. When I learned this I asked myself, “Hey, won’t they be replaced by the 350 year old oak and hickory trees?” Well, it turns out they won’t be. Oak and hickory saplings are not shade-tolerant enough to flourish under the canopy of these great, old trees. So Johnson Woods 2.0 will be largely sugar maples and American beech trees.
As you can see below, you tour the forest via a boardwalk.
The squirrels that I see in our yard and in municipal parks are so accustomed to people that they don’t pay us much mind. But when we venture into more remote settings, squirrels soon remind us that we are big, scary creatures.
While my daughter and I were exploring Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve, we caught the attention of the squirrel below. When he had first noticed us, he tried scurrying up the trunk and clinging to the tree. However after holding that position briefly he apparently felt that he was too noticeable, so he dropped to the base of the tree.
My husband and I began our afternoon here by parking off Hazel Dell Road near the waterfall. It is a relatively small, but charming falls, about 25 feet in height. The surrounding region has many sandstone cliffs and bouldering (climbing) is allowed.
An article entitled, Ohio’s Frog and Toad Species, states that there are 15 species in our state. To help me to learn to identify these species, I wanted to see photos of all 15 on one page. I selected a representative photo, but be aware that there can be a lot of variation in color for frogs of the same species. Below each photo, I note the range of colors that are possible for that species.
The “True” Toads
Eastern American Toad (Bufo americanus americanus)
The Eastern American toad does vary in color. It may be reddish, gray, or tan.
I always associated the bald-cypress pictured above with the bayous of the deep south. Imagine my surprise to learn that we have some growing in Central Ohio. It turns out that the mature bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum) is actually cold tolerant. You may be wondering why we aren’t seeing them all over the place. Well, they can’t reproduce naturally in this climate because the immature seedlings are susceptible to ice damage. But if you nurture the little seedlings in a greenhouse, then transplant them outdoors when they’re older, they’ll survive and flourish here. Now I’m thinking of transplanting one into a wet spot in our backyard.
Seymour Woods State Nature Preserve is a 115-acre preserve in Delaware County. It is named after James O. Seymour who donated the property to the state in 1972. His family’s cabin, though boarded up, remains within the preserve. The preserve also contains the foundation of a settler’s home that was built in 1830; it’s known as the Avery Powers Homestead. While hiking the loop trail that winds around the property, I also noticed the remains of a concrete silo off in the distance.