Ohio Adds Six Newly Identified Native Plant Species

A bumper crop of previously overlooked native Ohio plants was discovered last year.

Joy Frank-Collins

Ohio’s botanists had a banner year in 2021, identifying six new native plant species in the state. “We maybe get one a year,” says Rick Gardner, chief botanist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, “so having six in one year is a lot.”

To be considered native to the state, according to the Ohio Rare Plants Law, researchers must show their discoveries were present in the state before 1750, when Europeans began their exploration and settlement. Botanists make those determinations through such methods as sampling, habitat studies and consultations with experts. While all of the plants newly declared as “Buckeyes” have previously been found in other states, Gardner says that doesn’t diminish the fact that they weren’t discovered here until 2021. “We still have a lot to learn about Ohio’s flora and the importance of providing habitats for these species—discovered and undiscovered.”

The newest native Ohioans are:

Hairy lip fern

Myriopteris Ianosa

Known to grow on sandstone, ODNR botanists found this plant on a bluff in Lawrence County on the Ohio River while searching for another plant that grows in a similar habitat. This is the first time they’ve found a hairy lip fern in Ohio. “That’s a really exciting find,” Gardner says.

Lovely shadbush

Amelanchier amabilis

Cleveland Metroparks wetland ecologist John Reinier noticed that this particular member of the serviceberry group growing in Cuyahoga County had bigger flowers and different leaves than the more common species. Its fruit, also known as juneberries, are edible—but you’ll have to fight the birds and chipmunks for a taste.

Provancher’s fleabane

Erigeron philadelphicus var. provancheri

A botany enthusiast found this plant near the Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie and posted a photo to the website iNaturalist. A specimen was also collected on Kelly’s Island but had been misidentified. Provancher’s fleabane has a very specific habitat: It grows only on limestone sprayed routinely by wave water.

Dodge’s hawthorn

Crataegus dodgei

Discovered in Portage County, this shrubby-looking plant was spotted by a sharp-eyed botanist dedicated to researching hawthorns and brambles. The one specimen found is the only one known to exist in the state at present. “We assume there are probably more, but right now, it’s very rare,” Gardner says.

Yellowish-white bladderwort

Utricularia ochroleuca

Found in spring-fed wetlands with high concentrations of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, this carnivorous plant eats micro-crustaceans found in its habitat. It was previously misidentified as another rare bladderwort. “They’ve been in Ohio for a while; they’ve just been hiding from us,” Gardner says.

Bailey’s sedge

Carex baileyi

Originally named after American horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey, this grasslike plant is common in the northeast. ODNR botanists found a specimen in a meadow in Lake County during a BioBlitz, hosted by the Land Trust of Northeast Ohio, a 24-hour period in which scientists document as many species as they can find in one small area.

This story is from the June 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.