Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hunter Prairie

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a unique habitat in the Captina watershed with biologist Ron Preston.  Hunter prairie is one of only two documented limestone prairies or "cedar glades" that occur in eastern Ohio.  Other limestone prairies exist in Ohio but most are in the Edge of Appalachia region of Adams county, far to the southwest of Captina Creek.  Limestone prairies develop on south facing slopes where limestone bedrock is exposed at the surface making soils shallow, well-drained and alkaline.  These poor soil conditions allow for the growth of herbaceous and woody plant species not normally found in the eastern deciduous forest habitat.

Hunter prairie.  Note the grassland merged with evergreen growth.
Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana), located in the foreground, are
one of the dominant woody plants of this community hence the name
cedar glade.  A few white pines (Pinus strobus) have also taken
residence on this slope.  Note also the dominance of the grass Little
Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) which is similar to Broomsage but has
a thinner, darker stalk and does not grow in clumps.  **See last week's post
on broomsage for a pictorial comparison of the two grasses.

Further up the ridge the grasses become more sparse and
deciduous trees mix with the evergreens.  More on the diversity of
deciduous trees found here later.

A rocky limestone outcrop.  This limestone is Pennsylvanian in age
and is part of the Conemaugh formation.  Note the lack of deep top-
soil and herbaceous growth.

A white pine sapling rooted in limestone gravel substrate.  Again,
the lack of any topsoil is rare for the watershed area.

A medium-sized eastern red cedar about 25 feet
in height.  Pleasantly aromatic in the autumn breeze.

An understory growth of Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)
with distinctive purple berries.  These shrubs were numerous
throughout the prairie.

More to come on Hunter Prairie tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a unique habitat in the Captina watershed with biologist Ron Preston.flowering shrubs