23 July 2010

Goose Pond Flora Highlights

In my previous post, I provided a bit of background about the Goose Pond Biodiversity Survey, which took place on 16-17 July 2010. In this post, I will point out some of the highlights of our vascular plant inventory during the two-day event.

As I couldn't resist mentioning in my previous post, one of our highlight plants was Purple Fringeless Orchid (Platanthera peramoena), shown below. So common is this orchid in the southern part of Indiana that it is often found on roadsides with Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), which possesses a similar habit and flower color. Like several other orchid species, Purple Fringeless Orchid seems to do well in situations with some disturbance. This colony of 18 individuals was growing along a forest edge with Tall Fescue (Schedonorus phoenix). Purple Fringeless Orchid is known to occur through much of the southern 3/4 of the eastern United States.

Many of you have probably heard the phrase "sedges have edges," a rhyme generally used by students to distinguish the often triangular stemmed members of the sedge family (Cyperaceae) from the round or flattened stems of plants in the grass (Poaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) families. The sedge below takes "sedges have edges" to the extreme, as it has not just three edges, but four! Ben Hess (of Ben and Joy) found this population and quickly alerted us to come and see what he found. We were thrilled to see that Ben had found Squarestem Spikerush (Eleocharis quadrangulata), shown below. Until Kirk Roth, working on the butterfly survey crew, showed us Purple Fringeless Orchid, this was our highlight, and it still ranks a very close second. Squarestem Spikerush has an interesting North American range, found from the East Coast to Texas and Ontario, and also in a few counties in California and Oregon. Its Indiana distribution is nearly as odd, as it is known from shallow water wetlands in scattered counties in the northern and southern thirds of the state, but not from the central third. We found one additional population of this species at Goose Pond, and I believe that our collection represents a first record of this unique spikerush for Greene County, Indiana.

As if one crazy sedge was not enough for a weekend, my survey crew was lucky enough to see yet another. As one member of my team pointed out, the inflorescence of the sedge below looks a bit like that of Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), prompting him to state that the Latin name of this plant should be Cyperus eryngiumyuccifolioides. Luckily we don't have to deal with that tongue-twister, as this plant was simply named for its spiny spikes and was given the Latin name Cyperus echinatus and the common name Globe Flatsedge. This was a lifer for me, but it was one of those unmistakable plants that I'd read about and knew as soon as I saw it. In Sedges of Indiana and the Adjacent States: The Non-Carex Species, Rothrock points out that the entire spikelets fall from this plant as intact units, a trait unusual to members of the genus Cyperus. Another likely county record, Clustered Umbrella Sedge, as this species is also known, has been observed in scattered counties in the southern third of Indiana; its North American distribution ranges from New Mexico to Wisconsin east to the East Coast.

Another unique species that I don't recall seeing before the Goose Pond survey but that I recognized at first glance was Roundleaf Water-hyssop (Bacopa rotundifolia), shown below. This species is considered Threatened in Indiana, and represents yet another first record for Greene County, Indiana. With a distribution in the United States from coast-to-coast and country border-to-country border, Roundleaf Water-hyssop grows in shallow water and mudflats, including in and around streams, lakes, ponds, sloughs, swamps, and ditches.

The last flora highlight that I will point out in this post is shown below.

If you're like 95% of the people who have a casual to decent understanding of Indiana's flora, you are wondering why I'm showing a photo of Broadleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) and considering it a highlight. However, if you were part of the Vascular Plant Team at the Goose Pond Biodiversity Survey, you are keen enough to know that there are several species of arrowhead in Indiana. The most common species of arrowhead that we came across was actually Shortbeak Arrowhead (Sagittaria brevirostra), but the species shown above and below is neither Broadleaf Arrowhead nor Shortbeak Arrowhead. Instead, this is Hooded Arrowhead (Sagittaria calycina var. calycina), a species found in the southern 1/3 of Indiana and in much of the United States.

In the photograph below, you can see the identifying characteristics of Hooded Arrowhead. You have to look closely, but you will notice that the flowers are perfect (they have male and female parts). This, in addition to the fruit on recurved stalks and the appressed sepals when in fruit, are the identifying characteristics of the widespread Hooded Arrowhead, which is often found along rivers and lakes and in mudflats, and which probably often goes undetected.

Our total species list for the site will end up north of 375; not bad for a two-day survey of a wetland restoration and prairie planting.


Justin Thomas said...

Great post, Scott! So packed with tasty facts that it will take me awhile to digest it all.

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks Justin. You probably see some of these species more commonly than I do, being a bit further south and more in their collective range.