Recently a small team of Holden F&G explorers traveled to visit and explore a strange new area to seek out new life. This may sound like a sci-fi show based among the stars, but it was not space, and it wasn’t even new to the people who work there. It was only new to some of us, but we did make some fun discoveries along the way.
The Myrtle S. Holden Wildflower Garden is filled with plants collected from populations within the state of Ohio. Along with displaying beautiful plants from around the state, the garden helps to preserve the Ohio genes. The cooperation we receive to acquire some of these plants sometimes needs to be returned. Holden keeps detailed records on the origins of all of our plants and has been able to propagate and return plants to several populations that have crashed, and people have worked to help the species make a comeback.
Our team, including members from Horticulture, Conservation, and Collections Departments, visited Cassell Reservation – part of the Lorain County Metroparks in Vermillion. The site is home to wetland and flood plain habitats and held a bevy of wetland plants that thrive in them. As often happens with plant explorations, at one point the group stopped to look at a population of plants they had just walked through and figured out it was a rare species within the state. Small pale-yellow snapdragon-like flowers dotted the tiny plants of Melampyrum lineare, also known as cow-wheat. Although beautiful, they would have been easy to miss if we had not walked through them. Pieces of the plants that had been stepped on and accidentally broken off were collected and taken back to make cuttings to hopefully grow some of the state-listed threatened species to add to the garden collection.
We continued our journey and gathered cuttings of swamp dewberry, blueberries, and huckleberries along with a few more potential rare plants. We found a Baptisia that grew up in an area that had been treated to remove the very invasive Japanese stilt grass. It appears to be Baptisia tinctoria which is a listed threatened species in Ohio, but we will try to root a few cuttings to be sure of its identification when it actually blooms. We also took a few cuttings of what a very rare species of smartweed might be, but like the others, we will hopefully get to identify that after it gets roots.
We are very aware and try not to do lasting harm to any native populations. If we take seeds, we only take a small percentage of the population so it can still reproduce. If we take cuttings, they are just pieces of a stem, and the main plant should continue to grow and not really be affected long-term. If we take plants, we try to aim for plants that may be in jeopardy anyway. We took a few small plants of a rare violet, Viola lanceolata. Violets have explosive seed pods, and their seeds can shoot quite a distance. Because of this, seeds can germinate and start to grow in places that might be a little out of place. A few plants were collected from shadier areas on the edge of the population that might have had a hard time surviving. We will give them a new home in a wet sunny spot and hopefully, they will live on.
We would like to thank our connections at the Lorain County Metroparks and will share with them any identification information we figure out so we can all learn from this experience and so they know that at least a small part of their population of plants is also sharing the Wildflower Garden at Holden Arboretum.
Dawn Gerlica has worked at HF&G in varying capacities since 1987. She has worked under various titles, including: Seasonal, Field Botanist, and now, Horticulturist, responsible for the grounds at Lantern Court. Dawn attended Hiram College where she minored in Environmental Studies while earning a degree in Biology.