Hopewell Borough Park – A beautiful spring morning with two wild boys

Hopewell Borough Park is located on South Greenwood Ave in Hopewell, NJ

Link to trail and description


Sweet Gum, Liquidambar stryraciflua, “gum ball”.  Sweet gum trees are facultative wetland species, meaning that they prefer to live in wet areas but do not require a wetland habitat.  The leaves of Sweet gum are star-shaped and the branches can develop corky ridges that look almost like small wings.  Whenever I see these fruit on the ground, I immediately look up to find the parent plant.  Even though these fruit look spiny, many small mammals and birds eat them.


The joy and excitement of a young child seeing a new bridge to cross.  I wish I could have some of this fearlessness when I trek into a new territory in life.


“Leaflets of three, let it be”!!! Just kidding!  When I first saw this plant I immediately jumped to conclusions and assumed Poison Ivy, Toxicodendrons radicans, because of the compound leaves of three with those lobed margins.  However, this is NOT Poison ivy, it is Box Elder Maple, Acer negundo!  How do I know?  Easy!  Poison ivy has an alternate leafing pattern, meaning that leaves alternate along the stem, while Maples have an opposite leafing pattern.  If you look at the photo in the left, the stem in the background clearly shows leaves coming off the stem opposite of each other.  As a warning, sometimes when plants are very young they can look opposite when they really are not because the spacing along the stem is so close that it looks opposite when it is actually alternate.  The first year or two of true leaves on a tree/shrub can be simple (only one leaf) instead of compound (multiple leaflets) which can also make identification tricky.  Your best bet for identification of young woody plants is to look at the buds.  Bark and leaves can (and often!) change with age, but those buds will be your best friend when it comes to identifying your plant!


Callery Pear (Bradford pear), Pyrus calleryana, an escaped ornamental turned invasive species.   It is often planted for its “lollipop” shape and white spring blooms.  The fruit are eaten by birds and spread throughout forests.  There are many wonderful native plants that should be considered as alternatives to planting Callery pear such as Serviceberry (Shadbush), Amelanchier arborea, or Black Cherry, Prunus serotina.


River Birch, Betula nigra, with its distinctive pealing bark.   This interesting tree is native to New Jersey, and as its name suggests, it loves to grow in wet areas, such as river banks.  The pealing bark on this tree is truly impressive and makes for a great ornamental!  When I first learned about this tree, my instructor told me Native Americans used to peal this bark off a tree and use it as paper.  Since then I have tried to find any evidence in writing of this happening, and I can’t find a single article referencing that.  They might have made it up as something fun to say in class, or perhaps the person who taught them had shared that information and it has been passed down from year to year.  I know that Birch trees were made into canoes, but paper?  I really don’t know!


My Littlest… the butt scooter…  leaving his mark on the playground like a slug leaving a slime trail 🙂

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