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What I've Learned So Far in Rewilding: Appalachian Ohio

 
D Tucholske
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1) In a lot of wildlife restoration efforts, I see a lot of people only planting an area of either native oak or pine. Turns out, in it's native state, the Appalachian Plateau was primarily dominated by miles of specific forest types known as Pine & Oak forests, which we have disturbed. The hope is that planting one species & giving them time to grow in & fully establish will allow for other plants to move in (although, I doubt we have time to wait for pine forests to fully mature, given the circumstances, but there is admittedly less of it around than oak).

2) The specific area I live in is horribly disturbed. Half of the plants from this region are not present to the point where I've never seen them before, let alone heard of them, & half of what is here is invasive-- specifically where I am now, Trees of Heaven, Japanese Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, Buckthorn, Chinese Burning Bush, Sweet Pea & a ton of invasive wildflowers & grasses. We even have invasive grape vines trying to strangle everything. Since they're one of the few things that will grow alongside the Trees of Heaven, I've half a mind to let the two fight to the death & hope the much easier to kill grapes win. But, the bastards also attacked the endangered Butternut trees, so all bets are off there.

3) Invasive Earthworms brought to America for fishing have slowly destroyed a lot of our forests. Turns out, during the last Ice Age, the Glaciers swept clean the top layers of Earth from northern North America, taking away all our worms with it &, for whatever reason, they never came back. They were gone so long, ecosystems re-evolved without them. Several forest plants cannot sprout, or have difficulty thriving without that thick detritus that the earthworms ate. Surprisingly, one of the patches of wood near my home is worm free & still has its soil, but not a lot of its endangered species, save the one dead giveaway that I could do a lot with that particular spot-- rare Bellwort flowers in the spring, everywhere. Still, an easy way around this for some of these plants would be growing them in a controlled, indoor or greenhouse environment, then transplanting them in the woods-- Bellworts, Serviceberry Trees, Basswood Trees, Smooth Solomon's Seals, an endangered Spikenard species & a type of Starflower. Virtually all of these are easily accessible via different seed repositories across the country. (In case you're wondering, Native Americans apparently used the native leeches- vegetarian leeches, at that, which may be why most people have never heard of or seen then-- for fishing bait.)

4) when certain seeds are recommended to "press lightly into the soil" what is meant is for you to just throw the seed on the ground & not bury it at all. This is most common for wildflowers. Nature will take care of the rest, albeit you're leaving things entirely to chance as to whether they will be eaten before they can sprout. The specific germination instruction was given under the assumption that you are a trained botonist or garden specialist & are growing these plants in a controlled environment &/ or for transplanting/ resale.

5) I managed to devise a trick for avoiding animals digging up & stealing seeds before they sprout, which I've now proven to myself works. Dig entirely with a random stick you find on the ground & do not physically touch the dirt or the end of the stick you're digging with at all, if you can help it. You can also leave a stick to mark the spot, but off center it from where you actually buried your seed by a couple inches. The animals can smell your scent & will be curious, but will either try & fail to find the seed(s) & give up, or will sate their curiosity after examining the stick & leave. It's harder to get around the squirrels, but I suppose that's one of the reasons that sowing wild seed is usually recommended to be done between November- late January, here, when the damned things are hibernating.

6) Ohio does very little in the wildlife department & even less where I live. 90%+ of Ohio's land is privately owned, either by citizens or companies & it's one of the 5 most densely populated states in the US. The Ohio Wildlife Dept. has very little authority to do much of anything for anyone that they won't do for themselves. I also live in a giant swamp-valley & virtually all of the state controlled, protected land here is wetland. Environments include a mix of grassland, forest & swamp. The state is also swamped trying to fix 300 years of environmental damage & just spent the last few decades making all the once horribly toxic local rivers safe to physically touch, which was only guaranteed a few years ago. Beyond that, they tried planting wildflowers in fields years ago without any clue as to what they were doing & almost immediately gave up (I don't think their agents are given the proper amount of time to devote to such a thing, anyway, but they run little experiments like that now & again. It's just, they always plant stuff in wetland, whether it's supposed to be there or not, because that's almost exclusively what they have to work with) & have been reintroducing key animal species. Also, given the circumstances, Ohio is extremely lax about declaring invasive plant species a threat, moreso than most other states around it, because it would seemingly be a wasted effort to try to control. Individual citizens have to do a lot more for themselves, here, than in other places. A lot of the conservation interest here was also put on the prairie land, which is the complete opposite side of the state from me.
 
Michael Allen
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Lots of interesting and useful info!
Thanks for sharing.
 
Heather Sharpe
pollinator
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Location: Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
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We even have invasive grape vines trying to strangle everything. Since they're one of the few things that will grow alongside the Trees of Heaven, I've half a mind to let the two fight to the death & hope the much easier to kill grapes win. But, the bastards also attacked the endangered Butternut trees, so all bets are off there.


I have observed the grapes here in Indiana taking out the invasive bush honeysuckle in similar fashion. So I've left them to do the work for me, which seems to be working great so far. The ones covered in grape don't manage to flower or fruit and continue to provide some habitat to the birds (albeit sub-par, for reasons you may know). If you've got enough time to keep the grapes off the trees you do want, I'd highly recommend this strategy.

I managed to devise a trick for avoiding animals digging up & stealing seeds before they sprout, which I've now proven to myself works. Dig entirely with a random stick you find on the ground & do not physically touch the dirt or the end of the stick you're digging with at all, if you can help it. You can also leave a stick to mark the spot, but off center it from where you actually buried your seed by a couple inches. The animals can smell your scent & will be curious, but will either try & fail to find the seed(s) & give up, or will sate their curiosity after examining the stick & leave. It's harder to get around the squirrels, but I suppose that's one of the reasons that sowing wild seed is usually recommended to be done between November- late January, here, when the damned things are hibernating.


Thank you for sharing this interesting trick! I have planted far fewer wild plant seeds than I would like due to the amount of digging by critters and birds, so this is great!  My usual strategy is encircling seeds with sticks stuck in the ground with pointy ends up, but having to cut and use fewer sticks would be nice. Or maybe I'll try combining methods.

 
D Tucholske
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Ok, so we seem to be in a heat wave, so I figured I'd check to see if anything sprouted. Since they were seedlings, I was using an app to identify. It is a bit problematic, since it's not always able to identify a plant in every stage of its life cycle, but there are a few possible identifications & one I am going to call a yes.

The one I am positive on is American Wintergreen. It didn't look like what I was expecting & I have been waiting a while & hadn't seen any signs that any of them had survived & sprouted this far, but I found one single patch of ground cover plants & Wintergreen was the first hit that popped up. I'm calling it because I tried chewing one of the leaves to make sure & the flavor was grass, with the tiniest little hint of Wintergreen as an aftertaste. Very happy about that one & looking forward to the teaberries later.

The possible hits were: American Spikenard, Red Puccoon & Illinois Rose-- the last of which the app was having difficulty with. It kept bringing up roses & rose-like plants, none of which being my Illinois Climbing Rose, but it is in the area where I threw half a pack of seed out & I know I got them from a reputable seed conservatory, so it may be what I think it is.

The Red Puccoon have shown me some minor flaws in what I tried to do this past winter. They pretty much all popped up in an oddly specific spot, where I didn't put them (these were ones which I buried) & there are no signs of them in the places I did, but there were signs of digging in those places. What I think went wrong with my seed burying trick was I didn't account for squirrel stashes. I buried other things in the same places, which I will count as losses. I assume squirrels accidentally found them, didn't like the Red Puccoons, which are poisonous to just about everything & threw them out of its/ their tree, so they all accumulated in roughly the same spot. The trick itself works-- when I put them in a more open area, where I know full well there are rabbits, raccoons & gophers, I came back a couple weeks over, dug up the seeds & found them all unharmed, despite animals clearly digging at one of the locations & stopped checking once I was satisfied that it was working out.

Another mistake I made was not realizing that so many of the seeds I was attempting to plant weren't supposed to buried sooner. But, lessons learned for next year.

Some other things I found that I had nothing to do with were a grove of native witch hazel trees (so I can cross that off my list of plants to acquire for next year) & a native fern that I wasn't aware existed (if you saw my other post, today.)

The grape vines in the area I was checking today were a LOT worse than they were in the other area, which I have been attacking, but there are thicker woods in this second area & the trees are bigger & stronger. This one once used to be residential, as there are remains of roads, houses & sewers, but at some point long enough ago that there is barely any evidence left, the place was designated for factories & this spot just happened to have gone to seed & returned to wild instead. I've also found invasive barberries there & one commercial rose bush among the trees too. I don't know. Since the barberries are edible, I'm torn about killing them, but these grapes are a horrible environmental hazard.

Something else I discovered about killing domesticated grapes-- a lot of articles say to attack them in late fall & winter. This turns out to be a bad idea. Domesticated grapes need to be pruned, or they become too unwieldy to sustain themselves & die & they've evolved into a pattern of LIKING to be pruned in winter. Its actually healthier for those plants to do it then & part of its natural life cycle. If you prune it in spring or summer, it is more likely to do irreversible damage to the vines & increase likelihood of fungal infection & disease, so I'm trying that now instead.

I've also been poking & prodding at the trees of heaven to see what they do when I try certain things. What I've discovered on that front is that:
A) depending on age of the plant & soil conditions, you can rip the young ones right out of the ground without much of a problem, unless they are right up on a bigger tree, in which case they are growing out of the same root.
B) part of how the tree is so resiliant is related to the fact that it can easily sacrifice limbs & regenerate elsewhere. It being evolved for this also makes younger trees & smaller branches very fragile-- you can literally bend them over & break them off. Of course, this won't kill them on its own, but it's a step in understanding the trees better.
C) I attempted skinning one of the trees & applying poison. That on its own did nothing.
D) They do seem to be susceptible to weakening from parasitic vines. The grapes are not the only kind attacking them & the trees being strangled by the two both seem to be not in as good of shape as the others.

I am hoping that, in the long run, I can wear the trees down through continued, incessant attack & potentially replace areas where I eradicate the younger members of colonies with native plants that will phase them out.

Here's hoping to more of the things I planted doing well. So far, my clear victories in this were ONE single cherry tree, ONE single American Holly Bush & a patch of American Wintergreen. I also planted, over the past year, Red Puccoon, Illinois Climbing Rose, Smooth Solomon's Seal, American Spikenard, Yellow Buckeye, Beech, Spicebush Laurel, Buttonbush, Indian Paintbrush, Scarlet Bergamot, Wapato, Atlantic Camas, Scarlet Pink, Elderberry, Eastern Red Columbine, Eastern Redbud, Fringed Bleeding Heart, Blueberry & Carolina Allspice-- that's about all I can think of, but I'm bad at lists & frankly a bit surprised that I remembered all that that well.
 
D Tucholske
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Sorry, Fire Pink, not Scarlet Pink.

Also, Great White Trillium & American Cranberrybush Viburnum. Lol
 
D Tucholske
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Ok, so we may have some elderberries coming in now.

In this particular area, I put out Trilliums, Solomon's Seal, Elderberry, one American Cranberrybush, Spikenard, Eastern Red Columbine, a couple Honey Locust, Illinois Climbing Rose & at least one Fringed Bleeding Heart.

It looks like, other than Elderberry, I have nothing confirmed. But, the Spikenards are still a possibility. There are little sprouts with thick heads of purple & white buds I wasn't sure of the identity of that *might* be what I'm hoping they are.

The exact place I remember putting the bleeding heart, it looks like about five medium sized trees all managed to fall directly on the same one spot. Yay.
 
D Tucholske
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No pics, but yesterday I found what I believe to be an endangered Mississauga Rattlesnake, but a very young one. My area is just outside of where they're technically supposed to be, but it wouldn't be the first time one had been reported in my county, so maybe we have a small breeding population. I'm much more used to seeing a different poisonous snake that I've always referred to as a Water Moccasin & thought this was the same thing as it was the only poisonous snake I'd ever seen & everyone calls them something different (also heard diamondback & cottonmouth), but the snake I'm used to is a water snake, never gets very big & is brown with darker brown diamonds. Mississauga Rattlesnakes are tan with brown spots/ splotches & can seemingly get a bit bigger. This snake, though, did not have a rattle. I don't know if they are supposed to, or they get one later.

I attempted to strip the bark off of a few Trees of Heaven to see what it would do. Like, a lot of the bark. It does seem to have damaged one, but not the other two. The one that it hurt is an adult, but not a particularly old one & is in full sun. The other two were smaller-- thinner around than my wrist & couldn't be more than 10-15 ft high-- part of a colony made by a very big, very old tree & were somewhat shaded. So, I'm not entirely sure which factors attributed to the results in question.

Also, just started ordering seeds for next year. Got some Celandine Poppy, New Jersey Tea, Wild Kidney Bean, Chokeberry & Fire Pink. I wanted to get some Hog peanut & Star flower from a site I saw that was shipping from California, but they wouldn't send to US. I ended up realizing they were actually from western Canada. I guess, given Canada's remoteness & the slowness of their mail system, they decided on no American shipping because they couldn't guarantee certain seeds would survive the transit, which I understand, but, man, was I looking forward to those ones, dang it!
 
D Tucholske
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So, in the one good area that I've been looking through, we have tons of little Spicebush Laurels growing through. I don't think I had anything to do with these, but there's enough of them that I can cross them off my list.

I also found what I think is an American Hophornbeam tree, which I hope I'm right about. I wanted some of these because them & Basswoods are rare in my area. This is the only tree like this I've found, though, & it's not in the greatest spot to achieve full size. Basically, it started growing on the far side of a split truck tree, then veered all the way backwards, through the split to take advantage of more light on the path, so it's essentially bow-shaped.

Third, we have a bunch of baby sycamores coming in from some seeds I gathered & cast out a year or so ago. They came from some beautiful trees on the other side of town-- actually, right across the street from the church where I sourced the Beech nuts I planted. Glad to see they're doing well.

The last one I have to show I was having the most trouble identifying. The top 2 results on my app were Labrador Tea or Ground Hemlock. From pictures, I'm leaning towards the second one, but I'm not sure what it is.

Other updates, I found a second growth of Wintergreen in another area, one Blueberry bush & a few of what I think are my plums. The app kept flip-flopping on whether they were plums or cherries & I can't imagine where cherries would be coming from. I also found some kind of orchid growing. No flowers yet & there's only one. I would've hunted it back down for a picture, but it's snowing today & I didn't want to mess with it, since orchids are supposed to be so fragile.
IMG_20210401_124528.jpg
Labrador Tea, or Ground Hemlock
Labrador Tea, or Ground Hemlock
IMG_20210401_124203.jpg
Sycamore seedlings
Sycamore seedlings
IMG_20210401_123924.jpg
Hophornbeam possible
Hophornbeam possible
IMG_20210401_123843.jpg
Spicebushes
Spicebushes
 
D Tucholske
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Two edible editions I just found that I wasn't expecting-- Cutleaf Toothwort & Mayapple. We actually have a lot of both.

While I've heard of a Twoleaf Toothwort, which natives used the root of as a condiment, I'd never heard of this one. You can use it all the same way. I tried one of the leaves & it has a grass-like taste with a bit of a slight black pepper kick. Traditionally, they would not have been eaten raw, though. I don't know how different they would be cooked. I'm actually considering trying to make the condiment, if I can find out when the best time is to harvest the roots. Allegedly, they taste similar to Wasabi, but I don't know for sure.

The Mayapple, which I don't have good pics of today, I'm a bit wary of, but am considering trying the fruit, once it comes in.

IMG_20210408_090033.jpg
Toothwort 1
Toothwort 1
IMG_20210408_085916.jpg
Toothwort 2
Toothwort 2
 
Trill Hesperia
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Hey! Also in Appalachian Ohio here, happy to read your journal!

If you did indeed see a rattlesnake and you're more in the south/southeast part of the state, it would be much more likely to be a timber rattler--timber rattlesnakes are endangered here, but there are reintroduction efforts. If you're more east/northeast though, you might be right on massanauga. If it was young, it might not have had much of a rattle yet-- the rattle forms layers each time they shed a skin. There are also other snakes (like black snakes) that fake rattling at you to scare you off, even though they aren't venomous snakes.

Mayapples I hear you have to get just right at perfect ripeness (lasts a day or two), or they will upset your stomach. I haven't tried them. But I hear box turtles like them and I've seen them hanging out in mayapple patches!

I've never heard of eating toothwort leaf, but the root does have a nice flavor. It can be hard to reach the tuber-y part because it's at the end of a long thing root and often breaks off when you dig it up. It's so tiny that I don't really eat it much except to introduce people to the plant, because you'd have to dig up a lot of them to make a meal, and spring ephermerals like that tend to have slow, long life cycles.

Is the evergreen a young eastern hemlock? Those persist in cool ravines like the Hocking Hills. Or could it be a cultivated tree from nearby? I've never heard of labrador tea growing around here, it doesn't look like what we called labrador tea way up north.

Good luck on the tree of heaven, you are truly doing god's work if you get rid of that patch!
 
D Tucholske
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I'm in the northeast.

With the Labrador Tea, from the range maps I saw, I think I'm a little bit outside of it. That's why I was leaning towards the ground cedar. I think, if it is, it produces fruits (non edible) which will be obvious, when the time comes. If it's a tree, I guess it'll start going up.

And thanks! Lol
 
D Tucholske
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Ok, so I went & did another check. I think I've found my Spikenards, though my app thought they were the endangered one instead of the species I planted.

Also found some small chokecherries in the woods, though these ones I had thought were Poison Sumac. I did some further comparisons with flowers & leaves after it said that & they do actually appear more likely to be Chokecherry than Poison Sumac.

Also hoping a few of these guys there may be my Fringed Bleeding Heart & a single Solomon's Seal.

Two things I found that threw me off were some possible False Solomon's Seal (Both young sprouts. I didn't put these out there & have no clue where they came from, but they do look about right so far.) & a new plant I wasn't expecting which was some species of coralroot orchid. There are several said to be native, so I don't know which kind they are & probably won't until they flower. But, there we are, for today.

IMG_20210418_113711.jpg
False Solomon's Seal Sprout
False Solomon's Seal Sprout
IMG_20210418_112012.jpg
Coralroot shoot
Coralroot shoot
IMG_20210418_101513.jpg
Mayapples
Mayapples
IMG_20210418_094057.jpg
Chokecherries
Chokecherries
IMG_20210418_094751.jpg
hopefully Bleeding Heart
hopefully Bleeding Heart
IMG_20210418_100630.jpg
Spikenards
Spikenards
 
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