Lost and found
Columbus — Guy Denny gets chills whenever news comes that either a rare, never-seen-before, or a rediscovered plant species crops up in Ohio.
Denny is a botanist and is a retired chief of the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
Thus, similar to other such plant people, the rediscovery of four plant species not seen in the state for decades – and in one case for more than a century – has Denny saying more than just “cool.”
“You have to be a ‘plant nerd’ to get excited over this kind of stuff,” said Denny, who un-apologetically adds himself to that roster. “Botanists cannot help but become excited, either, to discover or rediscover plant species. It’s kind of like finding an Indian arrowhead in a plowed crop filed.”
Denny has been in on finding new species, too, having been at a state nature preserve when false garlic was discovered for the first time in Ohio.
“That’s a Western species,” Denny says.
And this year was an exceptional one, too, says, Rick Gardner, the Natural Areas Division’s chief botonist.
“Finding even one such species in any given year is impressive but finding four is almost unheard of,” said Gardner. “The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves has been reporting yearly ‘best finds’ for more than 30 years, and 2019 is one of the best years ever.”
The rediscoveries were:
* The black-stemmed spleenwort, last seen in Ohio in 1900, was found in Adams County in May.
* The American cuckoo-flower, last seen in Ohio in the early 1990s, was found in Summit County, also in May.
* Vasey’s pondweed, last seen in Ohio in 1935, was found in Lorain County in June.
* The water marigold (Bidens beckii), last seen in Ohio in the 1930s, was found in Portage County in September.
“Botanists have been looking for the water marigold for years,” Denny said. “That’s a really neat find. Thing is, many of these plants are identifiable only by a trained botantist looking for them, but that is why they are in this field.”
Other notable 2019 botanical highlights, says Gardner, included adding a new native species to the state’s flora with the discovery of prune-fruited sedge in Adams County, and finding significant new populations for more than a dozen endangered and threatened species, such as spreading rock cress, rock spike-moss, Willdenow’s croton, Colville’s scorpion-weed, and rose twisted-stalk.
Denny says that many new species finds are likely still out there as well, due in part to the fact Ohio is at that extreme range of more than a few plant species.
“And as the climate changes and warms, we can expect to see more new discoveries of plants that were never native to Ohio,” Denny said.
Importantly, Denny also quickly adds, is that landowners on whose property rare, endangered, threatened, or new plant species are found do not have to worry about the long arm of the law dictating land use activities.
“In Ohio,” Denny says, “animals belong to the state, but with plants, they belong to the property owner who is free to do whatever he or she wishes. The only exception is that such plants cannot be sold out-of-state without a permit.”