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Twenty-one discoveries made across the state by professional and amateur botanists

Gattinger's Foxglove

White wood-sorrel
COLUMBUS, OH -- A salt-loving seaside bulrush and a tiny, shade-seeking fern were among the 21 rare and unusual plants discovered in Ohio this year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
“It's been a very productive year for finding unusual plants in Ohio,” said Nancy Strayer, acting chief of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas & Preserves.

The discoveries are attributed to Ohio's growing legion of professional and amateur botanists who are on the lookout for endangered plants.

ODNR botanist Jim McCormac said these plants were out there, but for various reasons went undetected. He noted increased efforts to educate and promote rare plant conservation by ODNR and other organizations have aided the discoveries.

McCormac himself spotted two small colonies of Olney's three-square bulrush in September at Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge in Lucas County. Normally found only in salt water, the tall, reed-like plant is rare anywhere in the Great Lakes region. This year marked its first recorded appearance in Ohio. The bulrush stands about 3 feet high, with a pod of flowers and seeds perched atop a leafless stem. McCormac describes it as "distinctive and pretty."

Professor Warren Hauk and a group of students from Denison University struck botanical gold in the Hocking Hills region in May with the discovery of triangle grape fern growing in deep shade near Cantwell Cliffs. Seen only one other time in Ohio in recent decades, the spindly green fern grows just a few inches high and has only one tiny leaf. The obscure little plant is easily overlooked and best spotted in spring and summer when it bears clusters of luminescent yellow spores that appear to glow in shaded areas.

Two endangered wetland annuals were found flourishing on a 15-acre site near a new Wal-Mart store in Chillicothe. McCormac theorized that excavation for a retention pond at the construction site disturbed long-dormant seedbeds that sprang to life when exposed to sun and moisture.

Mark Dilley, an environmental consultant, found more than 10,000 bur-head growing in the area. The plant, which migrated north along Ohio's major rivers, is known to grow in only two other places in the state. Dilley also discovered endangered pale umbrella-sedge at the site. The plant was previously known at only three other locations.

Now the local park district is taking steps to preserve the area with the help of Wal-Mart.

A population of one of Ohio's rarest sedges - swaying bulrush - turned up at Singer Lake in Summit County where botanist Rick Gardner noted its location. The tall, lanky water-lover was previously known to grow only at Mud Lake State Nature Preserve in Williams County.

Kevin Bradbury, manager of Shawnee State Park in Scioto County, along with naturalist Jenny Richards and McCormac, found about 110 specimens of twisted yellow-eyed grass growing along Roosevelt Lake in the park in July. Standing about 8 inches high, the plant features a bright yellow bloom that makes it easy to spot in mid summer. The only other populations are in Lucas County, along Lake Erie.

Bradbury was also responsible for discovering a stand of endangered Spanish oak trees elsewhere in Scioto County. More than 30 mature trees, some up to 100 feet high, were found growing in a small woodland. Generally found only in the South, Spanish oaks are at the extreme northern edge of their range in Ohio. The only other known sites are in Lawrence County on the Ohio River.

Additional discoveries of endangered botanicals in Ohio last year included:

Two-seeded copperleaf - an endangered spurge rediscovered in 2001. Denis Conover, a professor of botany at the University of Cincinnati, found the plant growing at several new sites in Hamilton County during 2002.

Cuspidate dodder - a parasitic morning glory-like plant that was discovered for the first time in Ohio in 2000. A group of botanists found it flourishing on rare catchfly grass along the St. Marys River in Mercer County in September.

Gattinger's foxglove - extirpated since 1929, the plant was rediscovered in Delaware County during 2000. Botanists found a second population of the plant in Darke County in September.

White wood-sorrel and long-flowered alumroot, two species of native wild plants not seen in the state in more than 20 years, were reported by botanists earlier this year.

These botanical treasures flourish as Ohio works to protect and maintain high-quality plant habitat. Donations to the Ohio income tax checkoff program and revenues from sales of Scenic Rivers license plates help the ODNR Division of Natural Areas & Preserves protect endangered species. Some of these monies are spent to acquire land and preserve habitats where rare plants such as these are found. Checking the refund box for “nature preserves, scenic rivers, and endangered species protection” helps to protect Ohio’s biodiversity. This is line 17 on the IT-1040 EZ form, and line 25 on the IT-1040 2002 return.

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Very interesting Steve. Thanks for sharing.;)
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