Headlands Beach State Park

My botanical survey site is actually Overbrook Ravine Park in Clintonville, however I didn’t have a chance to go out their to do this assignment before taking a trip home, so I decided to check out a local park in my hometown. Headlands Beach State Park is located in Mentor, OH, right along Lake Erie. It is a mile-long natural sand beach, the largest of its kind in the state, and it is home to many plant species typically found only along the Atlantic Coast.

Headlands Beach State Park is located in northeastern Ohio

Plants of Mentor Headlands

Even though there were swarms of midges covering the entirety of Headlands, I found it super cool to explore this park that I had been going to my entire life with a brand new perspective on its plant species. Here are some of the plants I found!

Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata)

Hoptrees are small, multi-stemmed trees with glossy, dark-green leaves that exude a citrus smell when crushed. They produce nectar that is attractive to many butterflies and pollinators, and their leaves are a primary food source for Giant Swallowtail butterflies1.

Hoptrees have distinct horizontal lenticels on their bark


Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

Autumn Olives are an invasive species introduced from Asia in the 1800s for use as an ornamental plant2. It invades old fields, woodland areas, and other disturbed areas, forming a dense shrub layer that chokes out native species and reduces open spaces3.

Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus)

Beach Pea is a member of the Fabaceae family that prefers growing in sandy, coastal conditions throughout the northern temperate zone. This one was growing at the edge of a field of horse tails, right near the shore of Lake Erie. Be careful not to ingest too many of its seeds, because if eaten in large quantities, they can cause paralysis!4

Lyre-Leaved Rock Cress (Arabidopsis lyrata)

Lyre-Leaved Rock Cress is a member of the Brassicaceae family that can be found growing in sandy, well-drained conditions such as gravel prairies and sand dunes. There were multiple clusters of these plants throughout the sandy fields of horse tails in the nature preserve. They serve as a source of nectar and pollen for several species of small bees, flies, and even the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly5.

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Of course there was also some poison ivy at Headlands, which can be identified by its tripinnately compound leaves, with one larger leaflet on the end and two smaller leaflets on the sides. It can come in the form of a vine or a small shrub.

Flowers and Fruits

Wild Blackberry (Rubus Allegheniensis)

Wild Blackberry is a medium-sized shrub that grows on roadsides and woodland edges (which is where I found this one), and they produce radially symmetric flowers that are arranged in a short raceme. The flowers are perigynous and have an apocarpous gynoecium, leading them to produce fruits that are aggregates of drupelets.

Yellow Goatsbeard (Tragopogon dubius)

Yellow Goatsbeard is an introduced plant that is a member of the Asteraceae family, and therefore it produces a capitulum inflorescence of zygomorphic ray flowers. The tiny flowers are epigynous and have a syncarpous gynoecium. Similar to dandelions, each flower will produce a modified achene fruit with a fluffy tuft to carry it through the wind.

Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

Cottonwood trees are dioecious, meaning they produce male and female flowers on separate trees. The female trees produce catkin inflorescences, which turn into individual follicle fruits that burst open upon maturity and release hundreds of tiny seeds with cotton-like coverings to help them sail through the air.

Boxelder Maple (Acer negundo)

Boxelder Maples are also dioecious and produce catkins. Their fruits, however, are samaras, which are modified achenes that have a wing to aid in their dispersal.

Mosses and Lichens

Mystery Moss

I have no idea what this moss could be, but I found it growing on the sand in between the horse tails and grasses. It looks fun!

Lichens- Common Greenshield (Flavoparmelia caperata) and Lemon Lichen (Candelaria concolor

I found these two lichens growing together on a cottonwood tree in the parking lot of the beach park.

Common Greenshield Lichen

Lemon Lichen


And just for fun, here’s a picture of some baby praying mantises that had just hatched outside of my house in the morning before I went to Headlands.


  1. http://nababutterfly.com/Hoptree.html
  2. https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/profile/autumn-olive
  3. https://www.invasive.org/browse/subinfo.cfm?sub=3021
  4. https://www.britannica.com/plant/beach-pea
  5. https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/savanna/plants/sand_cress.html