Bryophyte Flora of Jefferson County, Ohio, The

Bryophyte Flora of Jefferson County, Ohio, The

Andreas, Barbara K


A survey of the bryophyte flora, Anthocerotophyta (hornworts), Marchantiophyta (liverworts), and Bryophyta (mosses) of Jefferson County, Ohio was conducted from 1998 to 2004. Jefferson County (106,416 ha) is located in the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau region. Its eastern border is the Ohio River. Approximately 20% of the county has been mined for coal since the early 1900’s, and 29% has been cleared for agriculture. Seventeen (17) species of liverworts and 1 species of hornwort were found. Jefferson County records for moss species increased from 0 to 115. The moss flora of Jefferson County is compared to that of other Ohio counties using Sørenson’s similarity index (SI).


Cooperrider (1961) described the extent to which the vascular flora was known for Ohio counties, directing future activities in floristic investigations. He reported 142 species of vascular plants from Jefferson County. A systematic floristic survey of that county (Cusick 1967) increased the known flora to 1,017 species, or 38% of the estimated 2,700 vascular plant taxa reported from Ohio (Cooperrider 1999). Other county floras were produced (e.g., Curtis 1996), and these and similar works led to the compilation of the Ohio vascular flora (Andréas 1989, Cooperrider et al. 2001, among others).

Parallel investigations of the bryophyte flora have occurred and span approximately 150 years, but few comprehensive works have been produced (e.g., Snider and Andreas 1996). County and regional floras were produced by Fulford (1929), Coles (1933), McCleary (1946), Emmitt (1950), Robinson (1957) and Kellough (1959). Geisy (1957) published a list of Ohio mosses and Miller (1964) published a preliminary list of Ohio liverworts. More recent floras of small natural areas have been produced (e.g., Andreas 2001, Rubino and Vis 2001, Snider and He 1990, Osterbrock and Snider 1985). These works, as well as literature and herbarium searches, resulted in the publication of A Catalog and Atlas of the Mosses of Ohio (Snider and Andreas 1996). This catalog contains 400 taxa or about 30% of the total moss flora for North America north of Mexico (1,320 species and 109 varieties representing 312 genera and 72 families [Anderson et al. 1990]).

County dot distribution maps indicate that the moss flora is unevenly distributed (Snider and Andreas 1996). The Hocking Hills (Hocking County) in southeastern Ohio, with waterfalls and abundant sandstone outcrops, has the most diverse flora, with 215 confirmed taxa. Twelve counties have moss floras of more than 100 taxa; 21 counties, 99-50; 51 counties, 1-49. No moss records had been reported from Jefferson County (Figure 1).

Miller (1964) provided a list of 122 liverwort taxa and 3 hornwort taxa for Ohio, with a list of counties from which collections were recorded. Four counties have liverwort floras with 85-40 taxa, 6 counties with 39-20, 6 counties with 19-10, 45 counties with 9-1, and 28 counties had no liverwort collections. He listed three hornwort taxa, each of which was reported from less than three counties.

The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic survey of Jefferson County habitats in order to prepare an annotated list of their bryophyte flora.


The area of Jefferson County is 106,416 ha (Roth et al. 1995). It lies in southeastern unglaciated Ohio (40°35’N northern boundary, 40°9’N southern boundary, 80°52’W, western boundary, and 80°41’W eastern boundary), within the Pittsburgh Low Plateau and the Monongahela Transition Zone of the Western Allegheny Plateau ecoregion (Woods et al. 1998). Lying east of the Flushing Divide, it is in the Little Switzerland Plateau (Brockman 1998), and is characterized as being highly dissected, with elevation ranging from 196 to 423 m. Average local relief is about 110 m in the central part of the county to around 76 m at the western border. The average difference in elevation between hilltops and the valleys along the Ohio River is 159 m (Roth et al. 1995). Jefferson County is entirely drained by the Ohio River.

The climate of Jefferson County is temperate continental, with average winter temperature of -1.O0C, and average summer temperature of 21.7°C. The growing season is 170 days ± 18 days. Total annual precipitation is about 96.5 cm and average seasonal snowfall is 85 cm (Roth et al. 1995).

The region is underlain with sedimentary rock of nearly horizontal position, laid down during the Pennsylvanian and Permian periods (Roth et al. 1995, Lamborn 1930). Four dominant soil associations (Gilpin-Lowell-Morristown, Westmoreland-Hazleton-Berks, Wetmoreland-Lowell, and Lowell-Morristown-Brookside) cover approximately 83% of the county. These soils are well drained, and with the exception of the Hazletown and Berks soils, are Alfisols and are classified as mesic Typic or Ultic hapludalfs (Roth et al. 1995).

The pre-settlement vegetation of Jefferson County was dominated by mixed oak forest (Gordon 1969). These forests were logged and secondary forests now occur on about 57% of the land surface, and 29% is farmland (Roth et al. 1995). Exposed cliffs of sandstones and shales are frequent throughout the county along the walls of stream valleys and road cuts. Floodplains are inconspicuous features of the topography because the erosion cycle has not progressed far enough to permit the growth of continuous well-defined floodplains (Lamborn 1930). There are no natural swamps or marshes occurring in Jefferson County (Cusick 1967). There are, however, artificial aquatic habitats made by roads, railroads and dams.

Perhaps the greatest impact on the flora of Jefferson County has been surface mining. Begun in the early 1900’s, approximately 20,243 ha have been affected. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of mining was done prior to the 1972 Ohio reclamation law and only about 4,425 ha has been reclaimed (Roth et al. 1995).


Systematic collections of bryophytes from Jefferson County were conducted between July 1998 and August 2004. USGS topographic quadrangles, the soil survey of Jefferson County (Roth et al. 1995), geological references (Bownocker 1992, Lamborn 1930), and vascular plant distribution records (Cusick 1967) were used to identify potential habitats. The 122 sites surveyed incorporated localities of diverse habitats in all 13 townships. For each field collection, habitat and substrate information were recorded on the packet. Sources used to identify collections in the laboratory include Vitt and Buck (1992), Crum and Anderson (1981), Ireland (1982), Ley and Crowe (1999), and Crum (1991). Voucher specimens are deposited in the Bryophyte Herbarium at Kent State University.


The list of 115 mosses from Jefferson County (Appendix A) represents 29% of the known Ohio moss flora (Snider and Andreas 1996), and must include a significant percentage of all species of bryophytes growing in Jefferson County. This flora represents 32 of the 56 families reported from Ohio, 67 of the 157 genera reported from Ohio, and 115 of the 400 taxa reported from Ohio (Table 1).

Table 2 is a comparison of the similarity of the moss flora of Jefferson County to that of five other counties (see Figure 1 for county locations). Columbiana and Belmont Counties are adjacent counties; and Hocking, Jackson, and Portage Counties have similar rock outcrops and represent three Ohio counties where bryological studies have concentrated. The moss flora of Jefferson County is most similar to adjacent Belmont County. The SI value between Jefferson and adjacent Columbiana County is the lowest at 25%. This may be because part of Columbiana County is glaciated and is in a different ecoregion, the Low Lime Drift Plain (Woods et al. 1998), and because a systematic bryophyte survey has not been conducted in Columbiana County. The SI value for the comparison of Jefferson County to Portage County, also in northeastern Ohio, is 31%.

When comparing other pairs of counties (Table 2), there was 39% similarity between Hocking and Jackson Counties. These counties lie within the same subdivisions of the Western Allegheny Plateau ecoregion (Lower Scioto Dissected Plateau and the Ohio/Kentucky Carboniferous Plateau). Additionally, these counties have the highest reported taxa in Ohio, with 215 and 187 respectively (Figure 1). The most intensive moss inventories have occurred in Hocking County (e.g., Snider and He 1990). Since the publication of A Catalog and Atlas of the Mosses of Ohio (Snider and Andreas 1996), and additional field work by Andreas, three more moss species have been found: Bryum lisae De Not. var. cupsidatum (Bruch & Schimp. in B.S.G.) Marg., Sphagnum fimbriatum Wils. in Wils. & Hook. f. in Hook, f, and S. girgensohnii Russ.

Portage County, when compared to Hocking and Jackson Counties, has similarity values of 34 and 35%, respectively. All three counties have similar habitats including mature forests and deep, shaded acidic sandstone ravines which favor bryophyte growth.

The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, listed 20 species of mosses as rare (Division of Natural Areas and Preserves 2004). Six of the rare taxa are found in peatlands, 6 taxa in deep, shaded sandstone ravines, and 5 taxa from sunny limestone cliffs-habitats not common in Jefferson County. No rare mosses were found in Jefferson County.

The flora of the exposed sandstone and shale cliffs, when compared to similar habitats in other counties, was depauperate. Similar findings were reported for vascular plants (Cusick 1967). These cliffs are usually dry and not conducive to a bryophyte flora.

Seventeen (17) species of liverworts and 1 hornwort species were found (Appendix A and Table 1). Miller (1964) reported 122 species of liverworts from Ohio, and 5 from Jefferson County: Conocephalum conicum (L.) Underw., Geocalyx graveolens (Shrad.) Nees, Lophocolea heterophylla (Schrad.) Dumort., Porella platyphylloidea (Schwein.) Lindb., and Radula complanata (L.) Dumort. Radula complanta was not relocated. Nomenclature used by Miller is outdated and there is no modern liverwort treatment for Ohio, and a list of Ohio hornworts is unavailable, making it difficult to assess the distribution and total species for the state. Miller (1964) listed 85 species of liverworts for Hocking County, the highest number for any of the 88 Ohio counties. Seventy three of the 88 counties had between 0 and 9 liverwort records.

It is difficult to assess the influence of surface mining on the bryophyte flora of Jefferson County. Twenty percent (20%) of the land surface has been disturbed by coal mining. From field experience, the reclaimed “meadows” planted in primarily non-native grasses are devoid of bryophytes, and those un-reclaimed are depauperate of bryophytes, often having “weedy” species such as Dicranella heteromalla (Hedw.) Schimp., Bryum argenteum Hedw., B. lisae var. cuspidatum, Ceratodon purpureus (Hedw.) Schimp. var. purpureus, and Atrichum angustatum (Brid.) Bruch & Schimp. in B.S.G., among others. Surface mine discharge may be responsible for the absence of typical woodland stream mosses such as Fontinalis dalecarlica Schimp. in B.S.G., Fissidens fontanus (B.-Pyl.) Steud. and Platylomella lescurii (Sull. in Gray) Andrews.

Scattered throughout the reclaimed area are seeps where fast-moving water is discharged. This water is neutralized by natural alkalinity and the metal ions of aluminum precipitate out forming Al(OH)^sub 3^ (Gutta, pers. comm., July 2, 2004 at National Mine Reclamation Center, West Virginia University). This precipitate “cements” the mosses into rock-like deposits (travertine). These seeps are the only location in the county for mosses more common to fens, such as Campylium stellatum (Hedw.) C. Jens. var. stellatum, Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedw.) Warnst. var. aduncus, Bryum pseudotriquetrum (Hedw.) Gaertn. et al., and Didymon tophaceus (Brid.) Lisa.

Funaria hygrometrica Hedw., Physcomitrium pyriforme (Hedw.) Hampe, and Phaeoceros laevis (L.) Prosk. were the annual and ephemeral bryophytes found. These taxa appear seasonally under ideal growing conditions and often are overlooked. Additional annual and ephemeral taxa, such as Pogonatum pensilvanicum (Hedw.) P. Beauv. and Pleuridium subulatum (Hedw.) Rabenh., are predicted from Jefferson County.

There is no clear explanation for the low number of liverwort taxa reported for Jefferson County. Additional field surveys may find common taxa reported from adjacent counties, including Bazzania trilobata (L.) Gray, Diplophyllum apiculatum (A. Evans) Stephani, Jamesoniella autumnalis (DC.) Stephani, Ptilidium pulcherrimum (Weber) Hampe, and Reboulia hemisphaerica (L.) Raddi (Miller 1964).

In summary, the known moss flora of Jefferson County has increased from 0 to 115 taxa, the liverwort flora from 5 to 17, and the hornwort flora from 0 to 1. While the moss flora for Ohio may be well-documented, the county and ecoregion distributions are not well understood. Little information is available on the distribution of liverworts and hornworts in Ohio. This study demonstrates the need for more comprehensive surveys at a local level. These circumstances are in accord with the conclusions of Prather et al. (2004) regarding the decline in plant collecting in the United States, especially at the local level.


The authors thank Donn Horchler for contributing Jefferson County specimens to the Kent State University Herbarium, Jerry Snider for confirming the identification of selected specimens, and G. Dennis Cooke for suggestions on the project. The manuscript was greatly improved by helpful comments of reviewers Sharon Bartholomew-Began and Paul G. Davison.


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Received April 14, 2005; Accepted September 27, 2005.


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