Adams County Ohio

Last year I received an invitation to participate in a bio-blitz” at a an 87-acra property in Peebles, Adams Coun ty Ohio that was in the process of being acquired by a terrific land trust conservation organization, Arc of Appalachia (AoA). The part of the property that garnered the attention of AoA is the thin soil, low nuturent sunny southeast-facing hillside hoarboring a plant community called a “barrens” that is a unique plant community type for which Adams County is known. However this barrens became that way not through natural geologic and hydrologic conditions, but is what is termed a “secondary barrens,” i.e., one that became that way from repeated logging and. perhaps, grazing. The land is depleted, but the result is rather appealing, with mosses and lichens predominating. Below see how the tract is described in the Arc’s most recent annual report.


Here’s what the area looks like on Google Maps.


This is the lichen that the site is named for: the “elf ear” lichen, Normandina pulchella. It has a “squamulose” growth form, intermediate between crustose and foliose.

elf-ear lichen

Between Peterson Road and the barren the site is a wooded area with an overstory of Chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii),  sugar maple (Acer saccarum), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and blacklocust (Robinia pseudoacacia). The first two are native tree species, while blacklocust, native to North America, was introduced to Ohio (Ohio Department of Natural Resources). Chinquapin oak, as well as several of the other trees and understory species, are pronounced calciphiles, as indicated in Jane Forsyth’s “Geobotany” article (1971). The overall floritic quality assesment index (FQAI) score for this community is 19.29.

Chinquapin oak is a lime-loving tree.

The open woodlands adjacent to Elf Ear Barrens.

The following is a list of species in the wooded portion of the site between Peterson Road and The barrens.

Polystichum acrostichoides 3 CHRISTMAS FERN Dryopteridaceae fern
Arisaema triphyllum subsp. triphyllum 3 JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT Araceae forb
Cryptotaenia canadensis 3 HONEWORT Apiaceae forb
Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum 5 SOUTHERN WILD COMFREY Boraginaceae forb
Galium circaezans 4 WILD LICORICE Rubiaceae forb
Geum vernum 2 SPRING AVENS Rosaceae forb
Krigia biflora 5 ORANGE DWARF-DANDELION Asteraceae forb
Osmorhiza longistylis 4 SMOOTH SWEET CICELY Apiaceae forb
Podophyllum peltatum 4 MAYAPPLE Berberidaceae forb
Sanguinaria canadensis 5 BLOODROOT Papaveraceae forb
Sanicula gregaria 3 CLUSTERED SNAKEROOT Apiaceae forb
Senecio aureus 4 GOLDEN RAGWORT Asteraceae forb
Valerianella chenopodifolia 4 GOOSEFOOT CORN-SALAD Valerianaceae forb
Verbesina alternifolia 5 WINGSTEM Asteraceae forb
Berberis thunbergii 0 JAPANESE BARBERRY Berberidaceae shrub
Lonicera maackii 0 AMUR HONEYSUCKLE Caprifoliaceae shrub
Rhus aromatica var. aromatica 3 FRAGRANT SUMAC Anacardiaceae shrub
Rosa multiflora 0 MULTIFLORA ROSE Rosaceae shrub
Viburnum prunifolium 4 BLACK-HAW Caprifoliaceae shrub
Acer saccharum 5 SUGAR MAPLE Aceraceae tree
Carpinus caroliniana 5 BLUE-BEECH Betulaceae tree
Carya cordiformis 5 BITTERNUT HICKORY Juglandaceae tree
Celtis occidentalis 4 HACKBERRY Ulmaceae tree
Fraxinus pennsylvanica 3 GREEN ASH Oleaceae tree
Quercus muehlenbergii 7 CHINQUAPIN OAK Fagaceae tree
Quercus rubra 6 RED OAK Fagaceae tree
Robinia pseudoacacia 0 BLACK LOCUST Fabaceae tree
Lonicera japonica 0 JAPANESE HONEYSUCKLE Caprifoliaceae 7 vine
Menispermum canadense 5 CANADA MOONSEED Menispermaceae 7 vine
Parthenocissus quinquefolia 2 VIRGINIA CREEPER Vitaceae 7 vine
Smilax hispida 3 BRISTLY GREENBRIER Smilacaceae 7 vine
Vitis riparia 3 RIVERBANK GRAPE Vitaceae 7 vine


The barren is sparsely occupied by shrubs and small trees, with eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) predominating. The overall floritic quality assesment index (FQAI) score for this community is 19.43.

The barrens is a dry south facing hillside with thin soil.

The barrens is  home to some interesting species with a fidelity to species with low levels of anthropogenic disturbance, i.e. having fairly high coefficients of conservatism. One of these is hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens, a member of the borage family, Boraginaceae) (CC=6). It flowers earlier than most prairie and glade species. According to thye “Illinois Wildflowers” web site the common namne “puccoon” indicayes that the plant was used as a dye plant, and cites its use by Native Americans for pottery, basketry, and “personal ornament.”

Hoary puccoon is an early-blooming glade and prairie species.

Yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta, in the Hypoxidaceae) (CC=6) is a yellow-flowered showy monocot that could only be mistaken fior a grass when the flowers are absent.

Yellow srar-grass is a showy monocot.

An interesting sedge that breaks the “sedges have edges” rule is this flatstem spikerush (Eleocharis compressa) (CC=7). The genus is recognizable by the single spikelet perched on top if the culm, and the species is distinguished by the flatness of the culms. It is a calciphile found in sunny wet places.

Flatstemmed spikerush is a flat-stemmed spikerush.

The following is a list of species seen at the barrens.

Onoclea sensibilis 2 SENSITIVE FERN Dryopteridaceae fern
Asclepias viridis 7 SPIDER MILKWEED Asclepiadaceae forb
Calystegia spithamaea 4 UPRIGHT BINDWEED Convolvulaceae forb
Fragaria virginiana 1 WILD STRAWBERRY Rosaceae forb
Hedyotis canadensis 6 CANADA BLUETS Rubiaceae forb
Hypoxis hirsuta 6 YELLOW STAR-GRASS Liliaceae forb
Lespedeza cuneata 0 CHINESE BUSH-CLOVER Fabaceae forb
Lithospermum canescens 6 HOARY PUCCOON Boraginaceae forb
Lobelia spicata 5 PALE-SPIKE LOBELIA Campanulaceae forb
Potentilla simplex 1 OLD FIELD CINQUEFOIL Rosaceae forb
Rhus aromatica var. aromatica 3 FRAGRANT SUMAC Anacardiaceae shrub
Eleocharis compressa 7 FLAT-STEM SPIKE-RUSH Cyperaceae sedge
Cornus florida 5 FLOWERING DOGWOOD Cornaceae sm tree
Diospyros virginiana 4 PERSIMMON Ebenaceae sm tree
Juniperus virginiana 3 EASTERN RED CEDAR Cupressaceae tree
Liriodendron tulipifera 6 TULIP TREE Magnoliaceae tree
Pinus virginiana 3 VIRGINIA PINE Pinaceae tree
Quercus imbricaria 5 SHINGLE OAK Fagaceae tree
Quercus marilandica 8 BLACKJACK OAK Fagaceae tree
Quercus stellata 7 POST OAK Fagaceae tree


The site is home to several striking mosses. Broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) is an especially large cushion moss found in the ground along with fruticose cladonia lichens. At this tile of the year there are abundant sporophytes in the “spear stage.”

Broom moss is a large acrocarp with hairlike leaves.