Journal archives for February 2023

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

-Yianni

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

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