Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

Natural History Notes: Ohio Botany Symposium 2011

On Friday, March 25, 2011, I attended the Ohio Botany Symposium at a conference center in Ohio’s state capital of Columbus.  Botany refers to the study of plants.  It includes everything from the cellular functions of plants (great for all of you bio nerds) to how to  protect individual and groups of plants, or plant communities. Open to the public, this day-long conference invites numerous guest speakers from around Ohio to discuss issues and projects related to plant conservation across the Buckeye State.

The following presents my lecture notes that  I took during the conference.  So, no, this blog post may not be all that exciting for most people, but I would still encourage you to read over my notes and thoughts to get an inside look at what scientists get all worried about.


Ohio Botanical Symposium

Columbus, Ohio.


Lecture 1:  Climate Change and Plants

-Global temperature has gone up O.8°C since 1900 (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Global Temperature variation.

-Solar intensity is going down, as recorded from 1978-2008.

-Trend line going down on solar energy output.

-Ohio’s average temperature has increased 0.6-1ºC since 1950!

-In 2010, Ohio was 3°C above normal average temperature.

-There is no reported change in global amounts of precipitation.

-However, severe storms have increased.  They have increased by 43% in Ohio since 1948.

-Severe storms are bad.  They cause erosion, mosquitoes,  and flooding.

-Snowcover duration decreased by 2-3 days on average in Great Lakes Region!

-Annual plants bloom three days earlier

-Woody plants shifting North.

-Shifts:  Butterflies 37 days earlier.  Grasses 1 day.  Trees green up three days earlier than average.

-In Central USA, first leaf out date advancing faster than last freeze/frost.

-In Ohio, Quercus alba is leafing 23 days earlier since 1900.

-May 3-April 10, Trumbull County, Ohio.  Wild pansy thought to be indicator of climate change because it keeps shifting north.  Howver, Toothwort is not shifting north but is instead dying out.

-Earth expected to increase in temperature by 2-4ºC by 2100.

-If greenhouse emissions keep going as usual, Earth will increase 4°C by 2100.  If we start using alternative energy NOW, only by 2°C.  If we suddently stop all emissions, then an increase of 0.6°C.   Future warming, therefore, is inevitable!

By 2100, Ohio will be 3.5-4°C warmer.

-Globally, an increase in heat waves will occur

-# of days greater than 90°F will increase in the next 40-60 years

-Predicted outcomes:  volatile heat spells, severe storms, stronger droughts.

-Rainfall in central USA expected to go down

-Crops will be affected, including the “bread basket”

-Increase in wildfires in USA west and USA southeast

-In Europe, forest herbs move ~6 miles/year going North

-Habitat fragmentation may prevent forest herb redistribution.

-Plant diversity expected to go down, including plants in arid climates (deserts)!

-In Ohio, sugar maple to almost disappear by 2100 with climate change.

-In Ohio,  50% of current tree species will be gone over the next 100 years.

-Sweetgum projected to increase by  43-fold

-Northern Forest community will be gone in about 100 years.

-Boreal Forest is moving into Tundra.

-Central Boreal Forest to transition to meadow


Energy conservation is not a solution in itself.  E.g. energy star, florescent light bulbs, hybrid cars, lowering the thermostat, etc.  will not be effective if we do not get away from fossil fuels.

-We need an 80% decrease in emissions NOW to avoid worse case scenarios.

-URGENT:  need to use solar and wind

Lecture 2:  Clovers and kind to clovers

-Genus:  Trifolium

Three leaflets with fused stipules (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Basic layout of true clover.

-Fruit in the fall is hidden in the calyx (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Clover seedpod, typical of the pea family.

-Clovers have a monophyletic lineage. This means that they have one common ancestor species that they have diverged and diversified from.

-There are ~238 species of trifolium worldwide (closer to 300 according to some).

-In North America, 67 are native, 34 are introduced, and 7 are considered invasive.

-101 species are in the USA.

-In Ohio, 2/13, or ~15% are native.

T. ambiguum is the only cultivar and is present only in Pickaway County.

-Few clovers are actually naturalized in Ohio.  Most are near or are in agricultural areas.

T. cumpestre is the third most cultivated clover in the USA.

-Most common clover in USA is the Red Clover (T. pratense).

T. ripens is the most common on USA lawns.  The common name is Dutch Clover.

-Clovers are good for bee keepers.

-They spread quickly!

Lecture 3:  Butterflies of Oak Openings Region

-In the 1950s, Karner Blue butterfly is commonly seen in NW Ohio.

-By 1980s, uh oh!

-Same thing for the Frosted Elfin butterfly.

-And also for the Persius Dusky Wing (which is hard to ID because it looks similar to other Dusky Wings)/

-Like Karner’s, P. Dusky Wings only lay eggs on lupin.

-For the Dusted Skipper, broom sedge is the host plant and its nectar is Hoary Puccoon

-The host plants of the Silver Bordered Fritterally are violets.

-Buck Moth is perhaps the signature butterfly species of the Oak Openings region.

-Threats to Butterflies:  Windshields and mosquito spraying.

Lecture 4:  Assessing Invasive species; Revised

No notes were taken

Lecture 5:  What were botanists thinking?

-Tons of Carex species.  Need more common names

-Botanical and Zoological binomial nomenclatures are different

-Auther name citiations tell of the naming rules/procedures used.  ex:  L.

-Check state (Ohio) vascular plant list for better, updated common names.


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