The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 2, 2013

Ashtabula County high school students identify plants in the Ashtabula Botany Challenge

Star Beacon

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP —  “Here,” Kate Kovshikova said to friend Beth Steele. “Eat this.”

Without hesitation, Steele stuck the little green leaf in her mouth and smiled.

“It tastes more bitter than sour,” she said. “Sorry.”

Wearing boots and speckled with mud, five girls from the Geneva High School Biology II class tramped through the Ashtabula gulf on Wednesday to compete in the Ashtabula Botany Competition.

Six Ashtabula County school districts and the Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus participated in the 13th annual competition, organized by Barrie Bottorf, Bruce Loomis and Mary Howe and sponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Gazette Newspapers and the Ashtabula County Parks Foundation. Donors to the program include the Jefferson Memorial Foundation, the East Ashtabula Sportsmen’s Club and the Holden Arboretum.

Students were challenged to identify 31 clearly marked specimens from Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.

“It is really cool to learn about flowers,” GHS student Nicole Cambeier said. “There are a lot of things about flowers that I would never otherwise know.”

Lindsey Bancroft said she was pretty confident in her plant identifications, but she’s honest about her shortfalls.

“Overall I’m confident, but one or two are really just guesses,” she said.

Howe  said she is always excited to see the number of students enthusiastic about nature.

“A lot of them show a lot of perseverance in trying to figure out what those flowers are,” she said.

The first place team will win $300 for their school. Second place gets $200 and third place gets $100. Each participating team is given a $50 prize for their hard work. An awards dinner will be held Monday at the Jefferson United Methodist Church. Students from Edgewood, Geneva, Conneaut, Grand River Academy, Jefferson, Lakeside and Pymatuning Valley, as well as A-Tech participated in the challenge.

Bottorf said the challenge is strenuous for the body and mind.

“We don’t go easy on these kids,” he said. “Some of the plants are very difficult to identify, down to the smallest detail.”