Where can you go to see all five eco-regions that exist in Ohio, along with their associated plants, without traveling great distances? The answer is the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Gardens in Bexley, in the Columbus area.
The Heritage Gardens are the brainchild of former first lady Hope Taft, who is passionate about Ohio’s diverse natural history. She works diligently to preserve it as well as teach others about the value of our rich natural heritage.
In 2001 while living at the residence, Mrs. Taft and a small group of natural resource-minded people came up with a landscape design for the residence property that depicted each of the five eco-regions or physiographic areas.
Today, one can visit the Governor’s residence and tour the natural areas of Ohio in a little over an hour. One can also learn about the stories behind the plants and about other natural resources located in these regions.
Ohio’s landscape developed over a long period of glacial time. Each time the glaciers moved in and then back, they deposited materials that helped develop the parent soils and topography.
These deposited materials and the topography influenced the vegetation that developed in those areas. Following are the five areas and the associated features.
The Lake Plains is a narrow strip of land along the Lake Erie coast that broadens as you move towards northwest Ohio. Plants include prickly pear cactus, silverweed, blue lupines (absolutely exquisite when in bloom) and lakeside daisy (very few spots of these plants remain in the country).
The Glaciated Appalachian Plateau includes Mahoning county and much of the northeast Ohio. This area had one glacial event as opposed to four that occurred in the till plains. Plants include bayberry, striped maple, northern pitcher plant, and cranberry.
The Till Plains consists of most of western Ohio and since it was glaciated four times, it’s fairly flat with gentle rolls. Plants are typical prairie plants including compass plant, prairie dock, purple coneflower and Sullivant’s milkweed.
The Unglaciated Appalachian Plateau is the area of southeast Ohio that was untouched by glaciers. Plants in this area include great rhododendron, bigleaf magnolia, wild columbine and flame azalea.
The Interior Low Plateau is also called the Bluegrass Region and is a small area in southern Ohio along the Ohio River. This area was not impacted by glaciers and the plants are more like those found in the Kentucky Ozarks. Two very cool plants from the area are the native passion flower and the crossvine.
You can learn so much more about our five eco-regions by touring the Governor’s Residence and Heritage Gardens. For tour information go to the Friends of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden website: www.fogrhg.org