Blendon Woods is a 653-acre park apart of the Columbus Metro parks system. This area is composed mostly of stream-cut ravines made of ripple rock sandstone, and field ecosystems surrounded by oak-hickory and beech-maple forests. Chock-full of vegetation, this park features various trails to walk on, a beautiful little visitor’s center with bird feeders, and an 11-acre waterfowl refuge visible from two observation stands! These dense old-growth forests feature plenty of habitat for songbirds, raptors, and a variety of mammals. Fun fact! Blendon Woods features an overly-friendly gang of wild turkeys that you can often see from the trails and chowing down under the birdfeeders. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m a birder, but Blendon is well known for being a migratory trap for birds. The songbirds find excellent stopover habitat in the dense ravines, while waterfowl and shorebirds often fill the protected ponds. The ponds are even drained in the fall for shorebird migration before being refilled for waterfowl migration.
Poison Ivy. Toxicodendron radicans. Leaves of three, let it be! As a kid I’d avoid any plant I saw with three leaves, but as I found out, some people aren’t allergic (including myself). This plant often grows in vines up the sides of trees, or low to the ground. The harder part is the variation, with serrated or smooth leaves, and changes color based on the season. One tip- never burn poison ivy! Whether it’s starting a fire or trying to get rid of the plant, burning poison ivy releases particles of urushiol, which can severely irritate your eyes, lungs, nose and skin.
Virginia Creeper. Parthenocissus quinquefolia. This is one of our native woody vines that can be commonly found growing on the ground and up the sides of trees and buildings, getting up to 30 meters tall! This plant produces berries that are mildly toxic to mammals, but acts as an essential food source for birds in the winter.
Northern Spicebush. Lindera benzoin. One of my favorite shrubs! Distinctive by its alternate leaves with little green buds at the end, and its incredible aromatic smell produced by the fruit and leaves. I can’t help but to take a leaf and crumple it up every time I pass this plant. The leaves were used by natives to make teas, which aided in the treatment of coughs and measles.
Shagbark Hickory. Carya ovata. A super cool tree that can be found all over Blendon woods. Quite easy to identify due to its loose bark and leaves in sets of three and two. This tree can grow up to 100 feet tall, and is able to self pollinate. Being a hickory, this tree produces nuts, but is only able to do so after reaching maturity at roughly 40 years!
American Hornbeam. Carpinus caroliniana. Also known as musclewood, this tree is quite distinctive and easy to identify due to the sinewy appearance of the bark. A really interesting tree ecologically, musclewood is one type of tree that produces hanging bracts to disperse seeds. The fruit produced offers an important food source for many woodland species, such as turkeys, grouse, squirrels, foxes, and beavers. It’s also a commonly used wood found in the construction of beaver dams!
Multiflora Rose. Rosa multiflora. An invasive shrub native to Eastern Asia (boo, hiss). Despite having some gorgeous flowers, this plant is unfortunately quite good at disrupting ecosystems and displacing native plants along forest edges. Some (not-so) fun facts about this plant, it can produce one million seeds each year, and these seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to twenty years. This horrid plant was brought over and promoted in the 1930’s as a tool to prevent soil erosion.
Japanese Honeysuckle. Lonicera japonica. Yet another atrocious invasive shrub known for taking over understories and displacing native plants. This plant can be identified by its waxy leaves, trumpet-like flowers, and vanilla scent. Despite its negative impact, it’s yet another interesting plant. The flowers and their scent attract cats, and can be collected and used as a toy for your furry friend! During the Victorian era, honeysuckle was supposedly a bearer of good omens, being planted outside houses to ward evil spirits and witches, and flowers tucked under pillows to bring good dreams.