Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain – A cold and beautiful morning of hunting for spring ephemerals

Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldmate Mountain is located off of Rt. 29 in Hopewell, NJ

Link to maps and description



Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica, are native to New Jersey and can be commonly found in rich, moist soils.  I love seeing this plant out in the “wild” because it is such a show-stopper that it almost seems that there is some wild gardener going out and planting these flowers just for the beauty of them.



Cutleaf Toothwort, Cardamine concatenata (formerly Dentaria laciniata), is another native New Jersey spring ephemeral.  This plant belongs to the Brassicaceae, “Mustard”, family.   I was surprised when I learned this was a Brassica species, because I generally think of yellow flowers when I think of this family.  I also am usually inclined to pull out a Brassica because there are many that are invasive, so I am delighted to know that this little gem belongs here!


Blood root, Sanguinara canadensis…. sigh….  This is my most favorite (I have many favorites) spring ephemeral.  I was little late this year so I missed the full glory of their blooms, but even partially closed, they are still so beautiful.  Perhaps one more “sigh”??

When I was first taught to identify this plant, my mentor pulled it up and showed me the red roots.  It looks pretty grisly and indeed bloody and so the latin genus, Sanguinara, took root in my mind and I have never forgotten the name.  I did not have the nerve to dig up the root and kill the plant to snap a photo, but if you search the internet for “Sanguinara canadensis roots” you can see what I am talking about!


Just another Blood root looking like a lamp post because I cannot get enough of these flowers!


Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, can have different leaf forms depending on the age of the plant.  When young, the leaves can have lobes and sinuses similar to Oak, Quercus, species and tend to be pubescent, hairy.  As the plant matures, the leaves generally become oval/ovate and glabrous, smooth.  Many plant species experience a physical and or chemical change in their leaves depending on age and how much sunlight their leaves are exposed to.  Even on a single tree, the leaf shape and internal structure of the leaf can vary depending if it is a canopy leaf getting a lot of sunlight or a understory leaf in the shade.


Spice bush, Lindera benzoin, is a New Jersey native and an aromatic plant.  Whenever I am walking through the woods, I am often using all of my senses to explore the scene around me.  Whenever I see a plant that I am not entirely sure what it is, I feel the leaf to see if its hairy or waxy, and then I bruise it to see if it releases any aromatics (obviously if I even suspect its poison ivy, Toxicodendrons radicans, I don’t touch it!).  When Spice bush is leafed out, it seems non-descript and does not scream “I AM SPICEBUSH!” so I constantly walk up to it and give it a rub and a sniff.  It is sort of like that person that you bump into on a regular basis and can’t remember why you know them, but it is very obvious to you that you SHOULD know them… turns out its the person you sat behind every day in homeroom for 4 years….  I don’t know why this plant always gives me trouble, but at least when its in flower I know exactly what it is.


Multiflora rose, Rosa multiflora, showing Rose Rosette disease.  This disease is caused by a virus, Emaravirus sp, spread by a eriophyid mite.  This virus can infect anything in the Rosa genus, so many gardeners are worried about it infecting their garden plants.   The removal of Multiflora rose from your property (and the surrounding area) is important to reduce the chance of Rose Rosette disease from spreading to your ornamental rose plants.


White Wash aka Owl droppings.  Seeing a white wash like this usually indicates that an owl was roosting somewhere overhead.  I scanned the trees above but did not see any owls.  I did not want to go off trail and try to find an owl pellet, but you can often find owl pellets near a white wash.  When an owl eats its prey, it generally eats the animal whole.  The parts that are not able to be digested, such as bones, fur and teeth, are regurgitated as a pellet, while the rest are digested and continue through the rest of the digestive tract.


Eastern Red Bud, Cercis canadensis, is another one of my favorite spring blooms.  The magenta flowers are so pretty and I can spot them from a far distance and know exactly what I am seeing because I don’t know of any other flowering tree with that bloom color.  Eastern Red Bud is in the Fabaceae family, which is the Pea family.  When the flowers are open they have the classic pea flower shape and they also grow pods for fruit!

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