A Tree Not To Be Trifled With

Nature in Ohio this time of year offer it’s own subtle beauty.

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Scioto River

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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.

Osage Orange

Osage Orange, from a previous post, Griggs Park

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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?

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Honey Locust, Griggs Park

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Close up of Honey Locust thorns (two to three inches long), Griggs Park

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The thorns are not restricted to the trunk

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It turns out that a look into our past and a visit to Orton Hall on the Ohio State University campus solves the mystery.

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Giant Ground Sloth, Orton Hall, OSU

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Giant Ground Sloth, study 2, Orton Hall, OSU

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Megalonyx Jeffersoni

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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.

7 Comments on “A Tree Not To Be Trifled With

  1. That’s a formidable looking tree! Wow, giant sloths? Fascinating to think of them being that big. I’m planning a hiking post featuring the grass tree, which is native to my country. I’d always found it appealing because of how odd it looks. It wasn’t until I had to research it for my blog that I found out all the amazing uses people had for it. Part of the joy of hiking for me is discovery and I’ve found that blogging has pushed me to actually find out more about what I am looking at! So thanks for this interesting post. A very different orange tree to what I have in my backyard! It looks viscous! 🙂

    • Looking forward to your post on the grass tree! From: Central Ohio Nature To: motobobp@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 6:54 PM Subject: [Central Ohio Nature] Comment: “A Tree Not To Be Trifled With” #yiv0774004562 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0774004562 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0774004562 a.yiv0774004562primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0774004562 a.yiv0774004562primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0774004562 a.yiv0774004562primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0774004562 a.yiv0774004562primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0774004562 WordPress.com | | |

  2. An amazing explanation of two remarkable life forms. A contemppary, ordinary tree sloth is something I would not want to run into today. But THAT THING!!! Thanks for the great pictures and information. M

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