Nayfield Preserve – A rainy morning stroll

Nayfield Preserve is located on Rt. 518 in Hopewell Township.

Link to NJ Trails map and description

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A mix of snow and rain on this early April morning.  There is something special for every time of year in the woods, but a cold and rainy morning is wonderful for the solitude and almost guarantee that you will not have to share your walk in the woods with other Homo sapiens sapiens…IMG_3791

It had been snowing before I got to Nayfield preserve, but by the time I was out, the snow had turned to rain and only small amounts of snow still laid on the ground.

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In a few short months, this field will be tall with Goldenrod, Solidago spp., Mugwort, Artemisia spp., and many other field species and teaming with pollinators and birds.  Right now, the field is still sleeping but when you look closely, you can see signs of the the field starting to stir with life.

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An egg case on Multiflora rose, Rosa multiflora.  My best guess would be that this egg case belongs to a Praying mantis.  I don’t have much entomological experience, this is just a guess based upon looking at other insect egg casings.  If you know what it is, I’d love to know!

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American Beech, Fagus grandifolia, exhibiting marcescent leaves.  Marcescents is when a plant retains tissues that normally fall off at the end of their season, such as leaves or flower parts.  Scientists are not entirely sure why some species do this, but it is thought that perhaps it helps protect buds from winter desiccation or deter herbivory.  Often it is seen on younger specimens, but sometimes when a plant reaches maturity it will no longer hold on to leaves.

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Spaghnum moss, Spagnum spp.  Also known as peat moss, is in the phylum, Bryophyta.  I loved teaching moss life cycles when I was in graduate school.  This spaghnum is in the Gametophyte stage of its life cycle.  You will find Sphagnum in wet areas all around the Sourlands (and the northern hemisphere).  They tend to acidify the soil that they live in and can retain large amounts of water.  Its always fun to go out for a hike a day or two after a heavy ran and when you walk on the spaghnum it can feel like you are on a water bed.

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Trout Lily leaves poking through the leaf litter.  Sometimes I wonder why plants were given their common name, but there is no doubt in my mind as to why this was named trout lily!  I can’t wait for their yellow blooms!

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More Spring beauties, Claytonia virginica, coming through!  I am waiting on baited breath for those flowers!  It will be any day now!

 

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Red Oak, Quercus rubra, acorn.  The large size, color and absents of a cap are the key identify characteristics for this acorn.  Often when identifying tree species, people want to identify them by their bark or leaves, but unfortunately due to phenotypic plasticity, bark and leaves are not always consistent.  Fortunately, reproductive structures, such as buds and fruit are not nearly as affected by this phenotypic variations.

The phenotype (physical characteristics) can vary greatly on the environmental conditions while the genotype (genetic make-up) does not.  The reproductive structures carry the genetic material of plant onto the next generation, so that is why looking at those structures are lot more dependable when trying to identify a particular specimen.

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Crunch Crunch Snap!  That all too familiar sound you hear when you are in the woods alone and you suddenly realize you are not actually alone…  Can you Spot the fox?

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The American Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, is common in the Sourlands region.  They feed on small mammals, birds, worms and berries.  I never get over the excitement of seeing a fox with their beautiful orange coats and fluffy tails.  This particular fox did not care one iota that I was there, but I have been thinking of the fox all day!

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Of course, where there are foxes, there is fox scat!

 

 

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