Specialty Plants October 03, 2007
The West Woods is one of the fine parks owned by the Geauga Park District. It has well planned trails and cleverly constructed bridges leading to an area called Ansel's Cave. The portion you see from the trail is not really a cave, but rather a rock formation of Sharon conglomerate sandstone. Sharon conglomerate is a type of sandstone, named for Sharon Pennsylvania, that incorporate layers of rock and pea sized gravel carried to Ohio by a glacier. This area is very reminiscent of my favorite portions of Mohican's Hemlock Falls: beautiful rock formations, moss, ferns and Hemlock trees as its crowning glory.
Hemlocks are highly localized trees in Ohio, but a common tree in many of our woods, often found with maples, is the American beech or Fagus grandifolia. A specialty plant found only in the immediate vicinity of a beech tree is the parasitic Epifagus virginiana, Beechdrops. The name Epifagus certainly makes sense, as "epi" means upon and "fagus" is the name for beech.
It looks very much like small tan or brown sticks upon first glance, but this plant is worth a second look. A hand lens really make this plant a little more exciting. My macro photo focuses only on the flowers, and with magnification, they have a purple or magenta stripe to them.
Now is the best time to start scouting for them as these plants are found in the woodlands in late summer and fall. Remember their specialized habitat, so the place to look for them is under beech trees.