Highbanks Metro Park- One of Columbus’ many metro parks is approximately 1,200 acres of woodland, prairie, and riparian habitat home to a vast array of species. It received the name “Highbanks” for its shale bluffs towering over the Olentangy River that sits on the eastern side of the park. The park is always buzzing as it is home to nearly 11 miles of hiking trails. Thus, providing the public with an opportunity to escape the city and immerse themselves in all things furry, scaly, and photosynthetic.

Map of Highbanks Metro Park

Below I have depicted just a few of the many different plant species one can see throughout the park.


Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a deciduous tree found throughout North America. It is known for its deeply rigged bark and distinctive leaves that occur in three different shapes (i.e. unlobed leaves, 2 lobed leaves, and 3 lobed leaves). This aromatic species has historically been used for culinary purposes such as teas, rootbeer, and creole cuisine.


Moonseed (Menispermum canadense)

Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) is a woody climbing vine that can grow to be roughly 20 feet tall. The leaves are come in various shapes (rounded, unloabed, or shallowly lobed). The seeds are shaped like crescent moons hence the name “moonseed.” All parts of the plant are toxic due to the presence of alkaloid dauricine. However, it is believed that the Cherokee used to utilized Moonseed as a laxative.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a common understory shrub throughout all of Ohio. It can be identified by its alternate and glossy leaves that give off a spiced aroma when crushed. It also produces red berries that are high in fat content and preferred by various species of birds.


Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis) is an introduced species to the Eastern United States. It was coined the name “dayflower” because it’s blooms only last a day. Its flower is distinctive by it’s two large blue petals and a much reduced white petal. Recent studies have demonstrated that this species can bioaccumulate allowing it to revegetate disturbed areas and “help” clean the soil.


Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is flowering herbaceous species that can cause a itchy rash in certain unlucky indiviuals who are allergic and come in contact with the species. The allergic reaction is caused by an oil called urushiol that is present in poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison ivy. The plant can occur in many forms. It is imprtant to point out a couple of these forms and some key defining factors to help avoid the risk of exposure.

  1. Leaves of 3. Let it be. (Don’t mistake it for Virginia Creeper).
  2. The leaves can be lobed or smooth. Pointed at the tip. Sometimes shiny. Often green but can be red/yellow in the spring and fall.
  3. White berries are sometimes present
  4.  Can occur as a vine or a shrub.

Poison Ivy- Vine

Poison Ivy- with berries

Poison Ivy- Shrub

Poison Ivy- Hairy Vine

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)





Rough Speckled Shield Lichen (Punctelia rudecta)

Common Greenshield Lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata)


Swamp White Oak- Native deciduous tree. CC=7. This tree prefers bottomland/moist habitat (hence the name “swamp”). It also tends to grow well in urban and suburban settings such as Highbanks Metro Park. The leaves have large rounded teeth, wedge shaped, and often hairy on their underside. The bark of these trees appears to be peeling, even on young specimens. The tree can grow to be 50-60 feet tall at maturity. They produce acorns that can be up to 1.5 inches in length with a warty cap.

Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)

American Beech- Native deciduous tree. CC=7. American Beech is a tall tree often recognized by its smooth grey bark, cigar-shaped scaled buds, and sandpapery toothed leaves. During the fall, these leaves are known for their stunning bronze coloration. This tree can grow to be 60-80 feet tall at maturity. The canopy is wide-spreading. It is often found in moist habitat such as a riparian area or lowland forests. White-tailed deer and ruffed grouse love to munch on this plant.

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)


Black Locust- Native medium-sized deciduous tree. CC=0. Black Locust has compound leaves ranging from 6-12 inches in length. The ovular/egg-shaped leaflets range from 6-20. This tree produces paired thorns and false terminal buds. On older trees, the bark is dark and ridged. The white flowers of Black Locust bloom May-June and are fragrant. The young shoots are known to be poisonous to livestock. However, many bird species, such as bobwhite and mourning dove, often indulge in the seeds. Similar species to Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos). However, Honey Locust lacks the paired thorns.

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Norway Spruce (Picea abies)- European evergreen conifer tree; ornamental in urban areas. CC= 0. Common woodland species throughout Ohio. Can occur in pure stands. It exhibits moderate to rapid growth allowing it to reach heights of approximately 80 feet. Dark green needles that are roughly 1-1.5 inches in length. Large female cones (i.e. monoecious tree); roughly 4-6 inches in length. Twigs and branches hang distinctively downward. Prefers cool, moist habitats.

Norway Spruce (Picea abies)