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.
Every plant includes the scientific name along with common names. Also included are:
Flowers and Fruit (as applicable)
Germination and Regeneration
Ecological Functions (especially interesting are the ecological functions of non-native invasive plants!)
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.
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.
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.
Welcome! Today we are going to explore the one mile long gravel path which explores the different habitats of Cedar Bonnet Island!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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!
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
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.
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
We pass Canada Geese with goslings when we hear yet another rustle behind us. It’s yet another Eastern Chipmunk checking us out.
We have now arrived back at our car. Thanks for joining me today on this virtual hike!
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).
Welcome! Today we are going to hike two of the four Pompton Aquatic Parks trails. We will use the below trail map (provided by thePompton Lakes Open Space Committee) to guide us.
We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!
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!
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!
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:
Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
The East River
The Jones Grade Lakes
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Royal Palm is found here. The tree is native to southern Florida and is commonly planted. But here it is wild and not planted.
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.
As we walk along there are beautiful Iris in full bloom.
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.
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.
Splash! A River Otter makes a surprise appearance. What an honor to meet its acquaintance before it slips beneath the water.
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!
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.
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.
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.
There are many types of ferns as we walk on the boardwalk. Among them include:
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!