Category Archives: Native Plants

Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast (a field guide) Book Review!


Welcome to a new feature on NJUrbanForest.com! I will try my hand at nature book reviews.

Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast a field guide seems appropriate enough for my first nature book review. The book, by Peer Del Tredici, is certainly one of the best field guides to urban flora I’ve seen. This quirky book goes over a cache of plants that, while overlooked by most people, thrive in the most tough environments for plants: the urban environment. Both native and non-native plants are included.

Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast
Every plant includes the scientific name along with common names. Also included are:

  • Vegetative Characteristics
  • Flowers and Fruit (as applicable)
  • Germination and Regeneration
  • Habitat Preferences
  • Ecological Functions (especially interesting are the ecological functions of non-native invasive plants!)
  • Cultural Significance
  • Related Species

The book is a wonderful resource packed with photos that goes into great detail on the native and non-native plants that are found in the urban environment. This book helped me in my early days of identifying plants in the urban environment.

If interested in Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast you can click here to purchase from Amazon!

Please note that I may make a small commission for any purchase you may make through Amazon by clicking the above link.

Feel free to comment with any suggestions or questions!

Exploring Cedar Bonnet Environmental Trail!


Welcome to Cedar Bonnet Island

Welcome to Cedar Bonnet Island! Cedar Bonnet Island is part of the 47,000 acre Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The property was owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife back in the 1990’s but was not accessible to the public until the June 2018.

History

The wetlands and uplands that comprise Cedar Bonnet Island were severely degraded during the 1950’s due to sediment that was dumped there to create navigational channels.

45 acres of wetlands and uplands of Cedar Bonnet Island were mitigated and restored as part of the Route 72 bridge project. A one mile walking path and two open shelters were created/added for the public on Cedar Bonnet Island. 19 acres of salt marsh was recreated and 18 acres of upland was created. The uplands were created 20 feet above sea level. The 9.6 million dollar mitigation project began in February 2015.

Trail

Cedar Bonnet Environmental Trail Trail Map

Welcome! Today we are going to explore the one mile long gravel path which explores the different habitats of Cedar Bonnet Island!

Trail 2

As we walk notice the flowering plants blooming on the side of the trail. The white flowers which we see is known as Common Boneset. The plant is favored by pollinators such as butterflies.

Upland Habitat

The Uplands we see on Cedar Bonnet Island are located above the tidal flood zone. The Diamondback Terrapin uses the uplands of Cedar Bonnet Island for nesting purposes. Birds, especially migratory birds use the uplands for food and rest. Due to the location of the uplands irregular flooding may occur due to storms.

In addition to the Diamond Back Terrapin, reptiles which may be found on Cedar Bonnet Island include:

Marsh with Forest Community

As we walk further notice that the uplands are giving way to high salt marsh. High salt marsh only floods twice a month during the new and full moons.

Typical flora found in the uplands include:

Salt Marsh with Meadow

Here we see high salt marsh in the foreground with low salt marsh in the background.

Low Salt Marsh floods twice daily. Low salt marsh is dominated by Saltmarsh Cordgrass.

Salt marshes help to prevent erosion of land and help to absorb pollution. Salt Marshes are also a nursery to all kind of fish which means all kinds of birds! There is an estimated 245,000 acres of salt marsh in New Jersey.

Salt marshes do not contain a huge variety of plants due to the fact that plants found in the salt marsh evolved to having their roots submerged in salt water.

Flora found in High salt marsh includes:

Areas where Common Reed are present indicate manmade disturbance. Common Reed is an invasive species and thrives wherever disturbance has destroyed the original wetland vegetation.

Common fauna of coastal marshes include:

An unfortunate (for us humans) creature of the salt marsh is the Greenhead (AKA Horsefly) who would love to get our blood.

Bee on flowers

Eastern Carpenter Bee on Common Boneset

Cedar Bonnet Island contains acres of important pollinator habitat. The habitat consists of many flowering plants including Boneset, Partridge Pea and Black-Eyed Susans among other species.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly on Boneset

We see evidence of many butterflies and bees taking advantage of the flowers as we walk!

Butterfly

Cloudless Sulphur (a bit on the blurry side)

Seaside Goldenrod

Seaside Goldenrod

Patridge Pea

Partridge Pea

That concludes our tour of Cedar Bonnet Island! I hope that it has inspired you to go and check it out in person!

The preserve is located off of exit 63 on the Garden State Parkway heading east on the bridge to Long Beach Island NJ (image below taken from the Edwin B. Forsythe webpage).

Trail Map

Great Books about Salt Marshes!

Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History

A Day in the Salt Marsh (Arbordale Collection)

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Exploring the Larchmont Reservoir!


Welcome to the Larchmont Reservoir Conservancy

Welcome to the Larchmont Reservoir Conservancy

Welcome to the Larchmont Reservoir Conservancy! Today we are going to trek virtually along the shore of both Goodliffe Pond and Sheldrake Lake (aka Larchmont Reservoir). This hike takes place in the merry month of May so we should see some interesting plants and animals!

Welcome to the Larchmont Reservoir

Before we begin, let’s discuss a bit about Sheldrake Lake. The lake is artificial and was created by the damming of the Sheldrake River (a tributary of the Long Island Sound) in 1935. The lake is about 25 acres in size. The entire acreage of the Larchmont Reservoir including its woodlands, wetlands and Goodliffe Pond (Goodliffe Pond was dammed from the Sheldrake River to provide ice before freezers were invented) is about 60 acres.

Virtual Hike

Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will explore sections of the Sheldrake Lake environment.

Using the below trail map (taken from Sheldrakecenter.org), we’re going to explore a portion of this beautiful nature preserve.

Trail Map

Heading west from the parking area we find ourselves following the joint purple blazed .90 of a mile Upper Trail and blue blazed Colonial Greenway trail. The Colonial Greenway trail is a trail system that links open spaces within five towns found in Westchester County. It is historical and includes famous people from the past including Ann Hutchinson, James Fenimore Cooper and Thomas Paine among others. .71 of the Colonial Greenway passes through the preserve.

Bridge over Sheldrake River

Bridge over Sheldrake River

Let’s walk over this bridge to Cross over Sheldrake River (a Long Island Sound Tributary). The Sheldrake River drains a watershed whose upstream portions cover parts of Scarsdale and New Rochelle.

As we walk we pass the orange blazed 460 foot Mary Anne Johnson River Walk Trail coming from the north.

Bird Blind Leddy Trail

Bird Blind with trail blazes of the Leddy Trail, Upper Trail and Colonial Greenway

We have now arrived at a bird watching shelter on the shore of Goodliffe Pond.

Bird Blind View

After take a look lets continue on the trail where the Green Blazed .52 of a mile Leddy Trail joins from the north.

Now following the triple blazed Leddy, Upper Trail and Colonial Greenway trail we walk northwest following the western shore of Goodlifee Pond and enter New Rochelle. Shortly after entering New Rochelle the Upper Trail heads off to the west. Let’s follow it!

Upper Trail 1

We climb through a forest of Sugar Maple and Black Birch and come to a beautiful view of Sheldrake Lake.

Sheldrake Lake 1

After taking in the view of the lake we descend and find ourselves in a very green wetland.

Wetland

The wetlands are filled with Skunk Cabbage along with other forms of wetland vegetation including Cinnamon Fern and Spicebush among others.

Let’s head back southwest to the combined Leddy Trail/Colonial Greenway to check out the Sheldrake Dam. 

Boadwalk Environmental Viewing Dock

Boardwalk Environmental Viewing Dock

On our way to the dam we see an observation deck and boardwalk jutting out into Sheldrake Lake.

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Approaching near the Larchmont Reservoir we spot a couple of Barn Swallows. Barn Swallows are the world’s most common swallow and they build their nests almost exclusively on human made structures.

Sheldrake Lake Dam 1

Sheldrake Lake Dam 1

We have now arrived to the Sheldrake Lake Dam. The Sheldrake Lake dam was constructed in 1935.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

We hear a rustle behind us in a tree and discover a Black-Crowned Night Heron staring us down!

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Another rustle follows but this time from the ground. It’s a curious Eastern Chipmunk wondering why we are causing so much noise outside his front door.

False Solomon's Seal in bloom

False Solomon’s Seal in bloom

As we start to head back to our car we notice a plant with white flowers growing from the ground. This plant is False Solomon’s Seal. The soil here must be deep and moist for this plant to thrive. It prefers partial shade.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

 Nice! One of my favorite plants is in bloom. It’s Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Even though the picture above shows the back of the flower, the spathe found on the other side reminded early botanists of a preacher in a pulpit-hence the name.

We have now arrived back the shore of Goodlifee Pond.

Canada Geese with Goslings 2

Canada Geese with Goslings

We pass Canada Geese with goslings when we hear yet another rustle behind us. It’s yet another Eastern Chipmunk checking us out.

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

We have now arrived back at our car. Thanks for joining me today on this virtual hike!

Unknown Bird

Directions (Taken from NYNJCT Botany)

Hutchinson Parkway north; get off at exit 21 for Route 125 (Weaver Street); turn right at the stop sign; drive 0.3 of a mile to the stop light; turn left onto Weaver Street; drive 1.7 miles to turn left onto Rockland Avenue; drive 0.3 of a mile to park on Forest Avenue (across from the trail entrances (either west or east of the bridge over East Branch of Sheldrake River).

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out the flora and fauna that have been discovered at Sheldrake Lake here!

Excellent books on Westchester, wetlands and other environmental information:

  1. Walkable Westchester
  2.  Wetlands
  3. A Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Forests: North America (Peterson Field Guides)
  4. The Warbler Guide

 

Exploring Pompton Aquatic Park! (Passaic County Parks)


Pompton Aquatic Park Passaic County Park System

Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take us on a journey through a preserved floodplain forest of the Pompton River, a major tributary of the Passaic River.

Our hike will be in Pompton Aquatic Park (part of the Passaic County Park System). The park runs through sections of Wayne, Pompton Lakes and Pequannock. The park is about an estimated 78 acres (with 28 acres located in Wayne and Pompton Lakes and 46 acres located in Pequannock).

The park is divided in half by the Pompton River while the Ramapo River hugs the eastern shoreline. Pompton Aquatic Park provides much needed habitat to a multitude of wildlife including Great Blue Heron, Wood Turtle, White-Tailed Deer, Muskrat and other wildlife.

The land that became Pompton Aquatic Park was part of the Morris Canal. After the Morris Canal was discontinued the land was given to the Passaic County Park Commission where it sat unused as parkland for decades. Passaic County was awarded a Recreational Trails Grant in 2011 to construct trails. Trails were constructed with stone along with walkways over seasonal wetlands. The trails were blazed by the Pompton Lakes Open Space Committee.

Virtual Tour

Welcome to Pompton Aquatic Park

Welcome! Today we are going to hike two of the four Pompton Aquatic Parks trails. We will use the below trail map (provided by the Pompton Lakes Open Space Committee) to guide us.

Pompton Aquatic Park Trails

 

We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!

Pompton Aquatic Park Trailhead

Blue-Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail

Starting from Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes we will head straight going west at the intersection near the trailhead of the .59 of a mile Pompton Aquatic Park Trail. The entire trail is through fresh water wetlands. Its good we picked the month of August to walk through when it is nice and dry! In fact, if we didn’t look at the vegetation growing we might not even know we were walking through wetlands. Common wetland vegetation growing along the trail as we walk include:

All of the above flora are native except for Purple Loosestrife and Japanese Knotweed which are considered invasive plants, that is, they displace and prevent native plants from growing because there are no natural predators native to the US to stop the spread of these plants.

Intersection of Pompton Aquatic (Blue) and Willow Ave Trail (Yellow)

Intersection of the Blue Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail with the Yellow Blazed Rivercrest Trail

From here we will follow the 1 mile yellow blazed Rivercrest Trail which is the longest trail found in Pompton Aquatic Park. We will head north on this out and back trail (meaning we will retrace our steps). Out and back trails are a good way to verify if you missed something as you walked.

Pompton River

Pompton River

And there is the Pompton River! The Pompton River formed just north of Aquatic Park through the confluence of the Pequannock, Wanaque and Ramapo Rivers. The river above the park is technically still called the Pequannock River.  The Pompton River is classified FW2-NT (fresh water non-trout production or maintenance) by the NJ DEP. The Pompton River is a major tributary to the Passaic River.

Turtles

Painted Turtles in the Pompton River

As we walk along we spot some painted turtles bobbing in the Pompton River. Don’t they have the life! Not a care in the world!

Mile-A-Minute Vine

Invasive Mile-a-Minute Plant

We see jumbles of arrow shaped leaves everywhere. It’s a Mile-a-Minute Plant another invasive. It is native to Asia.

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Eastern Comma Butterfly

August is a good month for butterflies! Here’s an Eastern Comma Butterfly taking a rest.

End (or beginning) of Will Ave Trail

Rivercrest Trail End (or Beginning?)

Well, we have made it to the end of the Rivercrest Trail at Joe’s Grill Field (which is part of the Pompton Lakes park system.). Time to head back the way we came to get to our cars. Glad you could make it! It is my hope that this ‘virtual tour’ of Pompton Aquatic Park inspires you to visit and check it out for yourself!

Feel free to comment with any memories, wildlife sightings or any other comments about Pompton Aquatic Park! Thank you and have fun exploring!

The trailhead discussed in this post is located off of Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes NJ.

Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!

  1. Wetlands
  2. Plant Communities of New Jersey

 

 

 

Exploring the Fakahatchee Strand Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk! (Southwest Florida)


Welcome! After a long hiatus, NJUrbanForest.com is proud to be back with a new hike to virtually explore! Today’s hike will take us deep into southwest Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve via the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. I hope you got your binoculars with you because this boardwalk is chock full of flora and fauna goodness!

Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
Before we begin you may be wondering what in the world is a strand? A strand is generally shallow and has formed where the underlying limestone dissolved. The most common trees found are Bald Cypress, Royal Palm and Red Maple. Within the strand are numerous sloughs which are deeper channels of water. The Fakahatchee Strand is one of the most ecologically rich areas found in the greater Everglades ecosystem.

The Fakahatchee Strand is the world’s largest subtropical strand stretching around 20 miles long and about five miles wide and is the only one with a mixed Royal Palm and Cypress canopy. The park is the largest state park in Florida and contains more native orchids than any other area found in North America. This is why the nickname of the Fakahatchee Strand is the Orchid Swamp.

There are four sections in the park:

  1. Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
  2. The East River
  3. The Jones Grade Lakes
  4. Janes Memorial Drive

The Fakatchee Strand was harvested for its cypress for ten years stretching from 1944-1954 with the exception of the portion we will explore today. The former logging site was then turned into a state park.

Birds, mammals and reptiles common to the Fakahatchee Stand include:

Common plants include:

Boardwalk

Ready? Let’s go! As we walk along there are interpretive signs indicating the flora and fauna found in the Fakahatchee Strand. The trail from the parking lot to the boardwalk is about 856 feet long. The actual boardwalk is 2,300 feet or about .6 of a mile. The boardwalk ends at an observation deck at an alligator pond.

Laurel Oak

Here we have come across a Laurel Oak. The Laurel Oak’s native habitat includes swamps and wet hammocks. The tree can reach heights of 100 feet. In Florida, many homeowners use this tree for their yards.

Live Oak

Next we have a Live Oak. The Live Oak grows to about a maximum of fifty feet in height. The Live Oak’s acorns are popular with wildlife.

Great Egret

A blur of white appears to the side as we walk the boardwalk. Check out the beak on this bird! It’s a Great Egret. In the early 1900’s the Great Egret was pushed to the edge of extinction due to the high demand for its feathers for women’s hats. This of course was before the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

Strangler Fig

As we walk along a huge old-growth Bald Cypress is being attacked by something. That something is a Strangler Fig. The Strangler Fig reminds me of sculptures found in the movie Beetlejuice. The tree starts life as an air plant (aka epiphyte). Once the roots of the Strangler Fig touch the ground the plant is no longer an epiphyte but is now considered a terrestrial plant. Strangler Figs can reach heights of 50-60 feet.

Sabal Palm

Royal Palm is found here. The tree is native to southern Florida and is commonly planted. But here it is wild and not planted.

Limpkin

A Limpkin is around the corner but appears a tad blurry. I thought I just got my eyes checked? You won’t find Limpkins up north. In fact, Florida is the only state in the United States with a Limpkin population.

Iris

As we walk along there are beautiful Iris in full bloom.

Water Snake

As we walk looking at the Iris flowers and other vegetation we spot something that at first looks like rope. This snake means us no harm and we keep walking.

Snag

We see many dead trees as we walk. Dead trees (aka snags) serve a valuable purpose. Insects consume the tree which provide food for a variety of birds. Woodpeckers make holes which serve their young and later provide shelter for animals such as the raccoon.

River Otter

Splash! A River Otter makes a surprise appearance. What an honor to meet its acquaintance before it slips beneath the water.

Turtle

Next we come across a hungry River Cooter who is eating non-stop. River Cooters eat anything it finds. It’s not picky! Let’s keep going!

Annihiga

Check out this guy. It is a Cormorant aka fish hawk. There must be a lot of fish in these waters to keep seeing birds like the Great Egret and this guy.

Coffee Tree

Nice! We have come across Wild Coffee. Wild Coffee is evergreen and grows to a maximum of eight feet in height. The seeds resemble coffee (hence its name) but is not actually used for coffee.

Alligator

And here is the star of today’s walk: an American Alligator. I think we will keep on moving and leave this guy to his day.

Ferns

There are many types of ferns as we walk on the boardwalk. Among them include:

Alligator Pond

We have now arrived at the end of the boardwalk. Straight ahead of us is an alligator pond teeming with wildlife (including guess who? American Alligators!)

 

Forest

Thank you for exploring the Fakahatchee Strand Big Cypress Boardwalk with NJUrbanForest.com!

Directions taken from FloridaHikes.com:

From Naples, drive 17.1 miles east from the intersection of CR 951 (Collier Blvd) along US 41 (Tamiami Trail), passing Collier-Seminole State Park and Port of the Isles. There is a very large sign on the right, but parking is in a small space to the left. Do not block the gate to the Miccosukee Village. From the east, the boardwalk is 6.9 miles west of the blinker at the intersection of US 41 and SR 27 near Everglades City, which is 17 miles south of the I-75 Everglades City / Immokalee exit.

Check out the books below for more information on Florida’s swamps!

  1. The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise
  2. Exploring Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area: A Guide to Hiking, Biking, Paddling, and Viewing Wildlife in the Region (Exploring Series)
  3.  Everglades: America’s Wetland
  4. Florida’s Wetlands (Florida’s Natural Ecosystems and Native Species)

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out the latest flora and fauna sightings here!

Be sure to check out the Friends of Fakahatchee Strand for all the latest happenings!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!