February 01, 2023

Wildflowers of the NJ Pinelands - 2021 Update

Had this saved in my drafts and realized I never posted it! So here's the final chapter of my Pinelands adventure, and time working in NJ, which lasted from April 2018 - January 2022.

The deeper I delve into the remote and rarely visited portions of the Pinelands, the harder it's become to find additional species to check off the list! But despite this challenge, 2021 was another year of discoveries.

I spent more time exploring the coastal portions of the Pinelands that surprisingly include some barrier beach island habitat (Island Beach State Park, Edwin B. Forsythe NWR) and the fascinating plants that live in the dynamic foredunes, along with the wet, vegetated swales between dunes. I also explored some unique coastal habitats like sea level fens which are found along a very thin sliver on the upland edges of salt marshes where groundwater seeps to the surface. New Jersey has only a dozen or so sites with this type of habitat, which is unique to coastal states including NJ, NY, MA, and VA.

I ventured deeper into the center of the Pinelands to search for the coastal false asphodel (Triantha racemosa), which required renting a kayak, and was honestly one of the best adventures I've ever had, if you catch my drift! This species grows in wet barrens and pine savannas found along the rivers and creeks of the Pinelands. This plant is state-endangered, found only in 6 locations within NJ, and is thought to be a hybrid of T. glutinosa, found further north, and T. racemosa, found further south, which formed when the two parent populations were not disjunct as they are today.

Other highlights included encountering the tiniest of the purple bladderworts of NJ, northeastern bladderwort or resupinate bladderwort (Utricularia resupinata). It was a $%*^ trying to get my camera to focus on it's tiny petals. This species is found in shallow to moderately deep waters (up to 3 m or more) along sandy ponds.

Of all the plants I came across in the last months of my quest, I have to say, the most dazzling was the red milkweed (Asclepias rubra). A milkweed that is restricted mostly to wet barrens and open, wet savannas, it's radiant coloring was just amazing. The one and only individual I laid eyes on was growing in the unlikeliest of spots. It is unfortunate that this plant used to be much more common in the pine barrens, but I hope there are efforts to reintroduce it to historic range in the future.

My time in NJ was amazing, and it's already been a year since I left, but I don't think I'll ever forget my time exploring the pine barrens, it is truly one of the best things about NJ, and a not so hidden gem! All said and done, I've seen at least 397 plant species (though probably more that I never got to recording on iNat). I'm very proud of the work I put in to learn about the different trails, habitats, and histories found within the Pinelands during this journey. I'm also thankful to all the people who shared their expertise and knowledge of this area with me so that I could also enjoy the wealth of biological diversity the Pinelands had to offer! There were bumps in the road, close calls with my Honda Civic on sugar sand paths, and hundreds of ticks along the way, but it was completely worth it! Who knows when I'll have the chance to return again, but when I do, I'll keep my eyes out for the last few plants I didn't scratch off the list!! I'm looking at you Schwalbea. shakes fist


Posted on February 01, 2023 12:33 AM by yan_tonz yan_tonz | 13 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

August 23, 2020

Wildflowers of the NJ Pinelands - August Update

I have a small update since my last journal post in May. I was able to view all of the species on my May update with the exception of American chaffseed (Schwalbea americana). I was skeptical of seeing one, given its endangered status, but perhaps 2021 will be the year I add it to the list! Another species that evaded me was the coastal false asphodel (Triantha racemosa). I've been told only 5 populations exist within the barrens, and that each site is fairly difficult to get access. It also didn't help that my fieldwork schedule is most hectic during the window it blooms. It'll have to be added to the 2021 find list as well.

I spent much of June, July, and early August out in the Pinelands, adding many more species to the list than I had originally hoped for, as I set my sights on exploring the fringes of the Pinelands Reserve where the plant communities found are outside of what you'd find in the bogs, AWC swamps, and pine forests that make up the core of the reserve. That's because the NJ Pinelands National Reserve encompasses broad swaths of the coastal plain that include habitats like coastal dunes, sea-level fens, brackish marsh, and salt marsh. In these habitats I was able to observe species like the fewflower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata), marsh rose gentian (Sabatia dodecandra), annual sea purslane (Sesuvium maritimum), marsh rattlesnake master (Eryngium aquaticum), and wand loosestrife (Lythrum lineare). All of these finds had really opened my eyes to the diversity of the Reserve, that I truly hadn't appreciated until now.

I also was able to add a couple of the rare Platantheras to my orchid tally, including the southern yellow orchid (Platanthera integra), and Canby's bog-orchid (Platanthera x canbyi). Outside of these orchids, I've been able to see almost all of the Pinelands orchids with the exception of Loessel's (Liparis loeselii), spreading pogonia (Cleistes divaricata), and 3 of the rarer ladies-tresses (Spiranthes spp.)

It's that time of the year when all the goldenrods and asters begin to bloom, and they are some of the hardest to identify, so I'll be out taking photos of every yellow and purple flower I see (along with photos of their stems & leaves)!

My list for the final couple months of the growing season includes:
-Bluecurls (Trichostema spp)
-Fern-leaved false foxglove (Aureoleslaria pedicularia)
-Silverrod (Solidago bicolor)

Posted on August 23, 2020 09:23 PM by yan_tonz yan_tonz | 20 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

May 22, 2020

More Pinelands Species Added to the Life List

Since my last post I've been able to add quite a few new species to my Wildflowers of the NJ Pinelands check list, with the help of some fellow plant enthusiasts.

My current Pinelands wildflower count is up to 125 species!

Next up on the list is to try and capture the following species that bloom from mid-May to late-June:
-Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale)
-Slender blue flag (Iris prismatica)
-Yellow star-grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)
-Fly-poison (Amianthium muscautoxicum)
-American chaffseed (Schwalbea americana)
-Narrow-leaved sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa)
-White-tubed colicroot (Aletris farinosa)
-Ragged fringed orchid (Platanthera lacera)

This list is going to be much more difficult to complete than previous lists, considering it contains state-threatened and endangered species, but the goal still stands!

Posted on May 22, 2020 09:09 PM by yan_tonz yan_tonz | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 08, 2020

Wildflowers of the New Jersey Pinelands

I figured this lockdown might be a good opportunity to create a journal entry about a quest I started back in May of 2018 when I moved to Galloway, NJ from the Boston suburbs..so here goes...

I was pretty unfamiliar with the southern half of the state and don't recall having ever visited it in the past. Galloway, NJ is located just outside the outer fringes of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, but it's a 15 min drive before you're in characteristic-Pinelands habitat. This type of habitat wasn't particularly new to me. I had gotten a taste of pine barrens habitat, having lived near the coastal pine barrens of Massachusetts and North Carolina, but this time around I was really living in it..and desperately needed a new hobby (rock climbing wasn't going to be an option anymore out in middle-of-nowhere south Jersey .

I ventured out to my first location: the historic village of Batsto, hiked the sugar sand trails along the Batsto River, and took a peak in the souvenir shop, where I came upon the book "Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey" by Howard P. Boyd, and a list of 150 pine barrens wildflower species to find! Though short and sweet, the guide has really nice photos, good descriptions, and lists the wildflowers in order of time of bloom from March to November. It was perfect timing, as my mid-April arrival had matched well with the first Pinelands species beginning to bloom.

Quest initiated!

It's April 8, 2020, and I've managed to find ~105 of the aforementioned species, along with a few other unique, non-flowering species that are rare outside of the Pinelands like the curly grass fern (Schizaea pusilla).

I blazed through most of the easy to find species, explored several spots on all sides of the Pinelands, and it's getting to the point where I have to spend hours in the barrens before coming across something new. It also means scouring through the internets for any tips, clues, or historical records of species that are still on the list.

My most recent find, the southern twayblade (Neotia bifolia), was a particular challenge, as I had only a vague idea of where to find it, but ended up stumbling across it in a very backwoods section of the Pinelands that was a tough hike to get to.

I don't know how much of this quest I'll be able to complete by the time my job here ends its run, but it's been quite the journey. I've learned about each new species as I've come across it in the field, and gotten to experience the rich history of the Pine Barrens along the way.

Here's to hoping that the 2020 growing season won't be a complete bust, as I need to find a primrose-leaved violet and bird's foot violet before the close of the month.

Posted on April 08, 2020 11:30 PM by yan_tonz yan_tonz | 21 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment


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