Flora and Fauna of Ohio

Topic Flora and Fauna in Ohio
Time Period Ice Age-present
Keyword(s) geology, geography, biology, soil, invasive species, wildflowers, trees, cross-pollination, Ice Age, glaciers, erosion, agriculture, climate, urban development, topography, vegetation
Grade level(s) 4-12
Learning standard(s) Social Studies Standards: Grade 4.11 (Geography), Grade 5.6 and 6.5 (Geography), Grade 8.15, Grade 8.16 (Geography), High School Geography: Environment and Society, High School Geography: Region

Science Standards: K.LS.2, 3.ESS.1, 4.ESS.2, 4.ESS.3, 4.LS.1, 6.ESS.1, 6.ESS.4, 6.ESS.5, 8.ESS.3, 8.ESS.4, High School Biology B.DI.3, High School Environmental Science ENV.ES.3, ENV.ER.4, High School Physical Geology PG.EH.1, PG.GG.1

Ohio is diverse in many ways, including its topography. Because of the geological changes over millions of years, one can travel throughout the state and find different types of soils, rocks and plants growing in different areas. When you start to compare a soil map of Ohio to a bedrock map, plus a map of how Ohio once looked during the years immediately following the Ice Age, it isn’t very difficult to see a similar pattern among all of them.
Over the years as immigrants began settling in Ohio and the surrounding states, they brought with them many varieties of new species of plants. Some adapted very nicely while others didn’t fare well in their new environments and yet others, which we call ‘invasive species’ continue to pose threats to the native plants because they can quickly take over its territory. Scientists are continually studying how the many plants present in Ohio can survive in harmony and sometimes even attempt to create hybrid species.
This primary source set takes students through the evolution of Ohio’s landscape from the Ice Age to the present and also includes experts theories and techniques on how they will face the evolution of Ohio’s species and geology for the future.

Types of Plants

Catalogue of the flowering plants, ferns and fungi growing in the vicinity of Cincinnati Preview

Catalogue of the flowering plants, ferns and fungi growing in the vicinity of Cincinnati

The fungi is listed by Latin names and the municipality where the species was originally found. The rest lists both its Latin name and English translation.

Contributed by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Check-list of the most common plants found around Cincinnati, O. : compiled for convenience in exchanging Preview

Check-list of the most common plants found around Cincinnati, O. : compiled for convenience in exchanging

A total of 440 species are listed in this document by their Latin names.

Contribute by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County


Spring wildflowers of Ohio : field guide Preview

Spring wildflowers of Ohio : field guide

An introduction to this publication states it is a “robust” update to the original 1990 edition. The photographs are grouped by color and rarity. These wildflowers are “influenced” by the prairies west of Ohio, the boreal forest north of Ohio, the Appalachian Mountains east of Ohio and the Ohio River Valley to the south, therefore, almost 2,000 different varieties are seen in different parts of the state. Each photograph includes a description, its distribution, family, habitat, and other pertinent information such as its history.

Contributed by the State Library of Ohio

Forestry publication Preview

Forestry publication

Created by the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. Forestry Dept., there are several versions of this document, the most recent being in 1979. It provides statistics for forests in Ohio. Other links on the same page give statistics for forests in different counties in Ohio from the 1940s.

Contributed by the University of Michigan and HathiTrust

Lesson in tomato farming Preview

Lesson in tomato farming

Photograph of two boys learning about tomato plants from an older farmer. Caption reads: “Garden Club Highland Park.” It is not certain which Highland Park this photograph was taken in, but it seems likely it was taken in Celina, Ohio in Mercer County. Celina was founded in 1834 in a swampy, wooded area that had to be drained and cleared before it could be settled. What remained was a level town surrounded by rich farm fields. Ohio is the country’s fifth largest producer of fresh and processed tomatoes, after California, Florida, Georgia and Virginia. As of 2001, the annual output was more than 500 million pounds, mainly grown in Fulton, Ottawa, Putnam, Sandusky and Wood counties.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Bur Oak Preview

Bur Oak

A photograph of preserved oak leaf samples “found to the east of Wooster Experimental Station’s main building”. The Wooster Experimental Station is now the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and conducts research on foods, agriculture, family and the environment. Samples of several species found around the center are exhibited on its website.

Contributed by The College of Wooster Special Collections

Invasive Species

Evaluating vegetation management practices for woody and herbaceous vegetation Preview

Evaluating vegetation management practices for woody and herbaceous vegetation

Contributed by the State Library of Ohio


Invasive plants of Ohio fact sheets Preview

Invasive plants of Ohio fact sheets

Contributed by the State Library of Ohio


Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve Preview

Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve

Created by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, this double-sided fold-out brochure explains how the Wisconsin glacier affected the landscape of Ohio. A section on the purpose of the Spaghnum Moss plant is included.

Contributed by the State Library of Ohio


Duck hunting in marshland Preview

Duck hunting in marshland

This photograph shows men duck hunting using a small boat, most likely taken around the Sandusky area. During the late 1800s, the Lake Erie marshes were known as some of the best waterfowl hunting areas in the United States. By the end of 1951, the entire 30,000 acres of remaining marshland along Lake Erie, from Toledo to Sandusky, was under private club ownership. Today, the region still supports some of the most intensively developed and managed waterfowling clubs in the Midwest. The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, purchased by the Ohio Division of Wildlife in August 1951, lies in some of Ohio’s finest remaining wetlands. The marsh complex has historically been inhabited by large numbers of waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, and songbirds.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Kelley's Island shoreline Preview

Kelley's Island shoreline

This photograph is most likely of portion of shoreline at Kelley’s Island. Kelleys Island is a mass of solid limestone rock, lifted about 12-50 feet out of the Lake Erie. Geologically, the island consists of successive strata of Columbus limestone with as many as 60 layers which vary in thickness from 2 to 8 inches and full of marine fossils. The eastern shores of the island have mostly been worn smooth from a westbound glacier, producing gentle shores full of rocky beaches. Western facing shores are more sharp and jagged, with erosion caused from the waves of lake. Columbus limestone can be found in a north-south line from Kelleys Island in Lake Erie to south of Columbus and many quarries are, or have been, actively removing this high-calcium limestone for use in production of cement, rip-rap, driveway gravel and road base, agricultural lime, and other uses. Fossils of marine animals are abundant in the Columbus Limestone.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Geography of Ohio Preview

Geography of Ohio

This publication is a Geological Survey of Ohio covering the geography of Ohio. It includes topics about surface features and soil, climate, agriculture, mineral resources, transportation and the development of industries, and the settlement and development for the state of Ohio. This book is part of a series of original research done by the state agency, this one being number 27 in the fourth series of bulletins published. At the time this was published, J. A. Bownocker was the State Geologist of Ohio.

Contributed by Toledo Lucas County Public Library

Hocking Hills healthy woodlands : a plan for the woodlands of the Hocking Hills Preview

Hocking Hills healthy woodlands : a plan for the woodlands of the Hocking Hills

The 63-page document describes the benefits of woodlands, how urban development is detrimental to woodlands, how the T-shaped area to be protected was chosen, a history of the region, current conditions, several illustrated maps, the action plan’s goals and objectives, implementation plans, sponsors, survey charts and cites several articles of literature.

Contributed by the State Library of Ohio

Additional resources

  1. Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden
    Since the early 2000s, visitors have been enjoying gardens with plants that grow in the different regions of Ohio—the Huron-Erie Lake Plains, Till Plains, Interior Low Plateaus (Bluegrass section), Allegheny Plateaus, and the Glaciated Allegheny Plateaus. Also showcased at the Governor’s Residence are green energy and sustainable design technologies. The gardens have been recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation.
  2. “ Common Ohio Trees: Index to Ohio Trees”, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry
    Each tree has its own link. Information on the tree includes the zone in which it most commonly flourishes, sunlight and soil needed, growth rate, mature height and spread, and shape, as well as a written explanation of planting requirements and potential problems. Descriptions on the identifying features (leaf, flower, fruit, bark, and twigs) are also listed. Links to related trees of each species is present on the left-hand side of the descriptions.
  3. “Ohio Wildflower Species Profiles”, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves
    A short description and a few photographs of 18 different wildflowers are listed on this website. The Wildflower Gallery breaks up Ohio’s wildflowers into 3 sections—Prairie Wildflowers, Wetland Wildflowers and Woodland Wildflowers. There is also a drop-down menu where one can select any one of the many nature preserves in Ohio to learn more about each.
  4. “Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide”, The Ohio State University, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
    The default list for Ohio’s weeds on this resource is listed in alphabetical order by common (English) name with its Latin version in a right-hand column. Viewers can also search with a “most common” and photographic format. Each weed’s description includes its family of origin, alternative names, origin and distribution, a description of the plant, similar species, its toxicity and folklore. Pictures of each plant may include the seeds, seedlings, roots, leaves, and microscopic views.
  5. “Ohio NRCS Soils”, United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service
    The USDA recognizes 24 distinct Land Resource Regions in the country based on land use, elevation and topography, climate, water, soils, and potential natural vegetation and Ohio represents 12 of those 24. A link is included to a downloadable and printable PDF document to display how these soil regions are distributed by county. A link is also provided to a very in-depth description of Miamian, the state’s main soil base.
  6. “Ohio Invasive Plants Council”, University of Cincinnati, Department of Biological Sciences
    The home page displays a PDF “Fact Sheet” for 16 different invasive species. Each fact sheet lists a description of the plant, its habitat, the characteristics of why it’s considered invasive, and control methods as well as a photograph and a map of Ohio showing the counties (in green) where the species has been located. Also worthy of noting is a link of “invasive plant definitions” detailing different types of invasive plants.


Teaching guide

Discussion Questions (Download)

1.  How would the different types of soil, landscapes, and rock-beds affect how well a plant grows?
2.  What constitutes whether a plant is “invasive”? What identifying characteristics must it have in order to be considered invasive?
3.  What efforts and being taken to preserve Ohio’s native species and habitats?

Classroom Activities (Download)

1.  Have each student select a tree or wildflower to research and present to the class.
2.  Break the class into small groups. Assign a different region of Ohio to each group. The groups must create a tri-fold poster on the characteristics of their respective regions.
3.  Have the class individually collect 12 different species of plants native to Ohio—4 types of tree leaves, 4 types of weeds, and 4 types of wildflowers (these are sample figures—teachers can decrease or increase the amount based on the grade level).
4.  Have each student or group of students “identify” a previously unknown plant species. It can be a tree, wildflower or weed, but they must describe in detail the characteristics of the plant, including its seeds, flowers, roots, habitat requirements, etc.