Nature in Ohio this time of year offer it’s own subtle beauty.
But any time of the year a walk in the Ohio woods will quite likely take you by a tree that at first is hard to understand. We’re used to seeing or learning about plants that have different types of defense mechanisms. Certainly anyone who has tried to remove thistles from their garden has had a first hand experience. Osage Oranges thrive in Ohio and approaching a bird through their tangle is likely to result in a painful stick. They are common in Ohio no doubt because, prior to the advent of barbed wire, they were planted by farmers to contain livestock. Then there are plants that rely on toxins or bad taste to deter predators.
But the tree I’m referring to has physical defenses that far exceed anything else in the woods. Currently there is no animal in Ohio feeding on buds and leaves that is formidable enough for these defenses to be effective. So what gives?
It turns out that a look into our past and a visit to Orton Hall on the Ohio State University campus solves the mystery.
It turns out that we are looking at the results of an evolutionary arms race between plant and animal that ended around eleven thousand years ago. It would appear that the plant was the winner as no ground sloughs can now be found in Ohio. But is isn’t that simple, in addition to other factors that may have contributed to their demise it is thought that early bands of hunting humans may have been a large factor.
So the next time a walk in the woods offers you something that just doesn’t make sense, have some fun and ask yourself why.