Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A day at Johnson Woods

It was a fine day to visit one of Ohio's best known old-growth forests, Johnson Woods. Located in Wayne County, between the metropolises of Marshallville and Orrville, this 155 acre preserve is a wonderful place to study winter trees...

and the inhabitants therein. We found this Barred Owl on our way into the preserve, and were even more surprised to find its mate in a limb not 20 feet away. Masters of camouflage, this day time snoozer was taking advantage of the cover provided by a squirrel's nest. He awoke long enough to let us know he disapproved, but would tolerate our presence.

This forest contains specimens of amazingly large oaks, hickories, maple and beech trees, and a sampling of other species. Some of the trees closest to the trail are well marked, providing an excellent opportunity to study winter tree ID. The bark of black cherry is quite distinctive, and looks a bit like black potato chips glued to the tree. However, sometimes bark on old growth trees look a bit different than the bark which we are accustomed to seeing.

The overwhelming size of the slow growing oaks was most impressive. Towering overhead and long ago maxed-out in height, their canopies spread across the winter sky, much to our delight. White, red and pin oaks grow here in good number, but as the oldsters decline, they are succeeded by maple and beech. Oak requires more light for germination and growth, whereas the maple and beech are more shade tolerant.

What could cause the scaring on this tree? Lines of damage mark this tree and if you click to enlarge this photo you may see small holes. This appears to be the healed over work of a sapsucker drilling for liquid gold.
A different type of pest is making much smaller D-shaped holes in our ash trees. Many of Michigan and Ohio's trees are loosing the battle to the Emerald Ash Borer. Tom Arbor wrote a particularly good article on EAB today, go here to read it. You'll want to make time to visit Johnson Woods while there are still some massive ash trees to see. It is likely they will go the way of the elm and chestnut trees, also victims of non-native pests and disease.
This forest is a good representation of Ohio's woodlands 200 or 300 years ago, and we felt fortunate to spend the day admiring these beautiful, bodacious trees.

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