Monthly Archives: May 2018

Omick Woods in Spring – A totally different experience!


Last time I was here, I was alone and everything was snow covered.  This time, the wild boys and my sister came out for the hike.


Common Blackberry, Rubus allegheniensis, mmmm…  I can’t wait for those flowers to turn into fruit!  Black Raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, looks very similar to Blackberry, but the backside of the leaves of Black Raspberry are silver/green while the Blackberry leaves are green on both sides.

Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, displaying its three leaf forms (simple, mitten, trident).  I am not sure if I love Sassafras more because of its name or that it smells like fruity pebbles, but I always giggle to myself whenever I see it.  Most often it grows as an understory shrub, but it can reach 20ft in height.


Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa, a NJ native with fabulous spike flowers.  I have heard that some herbalist recommend making a tea from Black Cohosh to induce labor.  While this plant is beautiful and would make a wonderful garden plant, I would seriously discuss taking any type of herbs/medicine with your doctor especially if you are pregnant!

Green Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica.  The picture on the left is a very young plant and does not yet have compound leaves.  The photo on the right is also young, but it is displaying the compound leaves typical of green ash.  Currently the Green Ash is being threatened by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).  The EAB has been devastating the green ash all along the East Coast, but has only has entered New Jersey in recent years.


High Bush Blueberry, Vaccinium corybosom.  I will definitely be coming through this area again in July/August!  There are few things better than vine-ripened fruit!


Maple leaf viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium, a native understory plant.  While both Maples and Maple leaf viburnums have opposite leaves, the viburnum leaves are fuzzy and the maple leaves are not.  These viburnums also do not grow much higher than hip height.


False solomon seal, Smilacina racemosa, with its terminal flowers!


True Solomon Seal, Polygonatum spp., with flowers/fruit in the leaf axils


Epicormic leaves on American Beech, Fagus americana.  Trees will produce these epicormic leaves or shoots when it needs to increase photosynthesis due to damage to the tree or some other stressor.  As you can see in this picture, the leaves are coming out of an area that had previously been damaged.  This does not always occur at every point of damage in a tree, but it is more likely to occur here or near the root flare.


Perfoliate Bellwort, Uvularia perfoliata!  I just love this little plant!  I think it is so cool how the stems perforate through the leaf.


Wine Berry, Rubus phoenicolasius, an invasive berry species.  Similar to Black Raspberry and Blackberry, but the berries tend to be a little more tart.  It is one of those lovable invasive species that many hate to remove.



Tracker-in-Training!  My Dude pointing out all the animal tracks along the way!  )

(Raccoon on the left, Deer on the right

IMG_6244Princess Tree, Paulownia tomentosa, flowers!  An invasive ornamental, but I can’t help but love those beautiful tubular flowers!


Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, a native with wonderfully fragrant flowers!


Tick Trefoil, Desmodium spp., there are several species that are native to New Jersey, but I am not sure what species this is.


Littlest Dude did not want to be carried, he wanted to walk and protested until I put him down to walk.


Autumn olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, a common invasive found in these parts.  The red berries are often eaten by birds, but they are also edible for humans!  One of my former co-workers used to make a fabulous Autumn Olive cheesecake, with a compote of Autumn olive on top.


I am not sure if this is Slippery Elm, Ulmus rubra, or American Elm, Ulmus americana.   Both of these species are found in this region and are very similar in characteristics.  My initial gut reaction was Slippery Elm, but I cannot say for certain.


If its hairy, its scary!  A large poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) vine growing up a tree.  Don’t lean against this one!


I feel like this looks like a scene out of Jurassic Park!  Except minus the dinosaurs!





Goat Hill Overlook – A deviation from the normal to a plein air hike

Goat Hill overlook is on George Washington Rd in West Amwell

Link to more information about Hiking Goat Hill


My Littlest came today for the Plein Air hike to assist in all Sourland Conservancy Ambassador duties.  Unfortunately with all of his assistance, I was not able to take as many photos as I usually do.  The lack of photos should motivate you to get out to the lovely place and take some of your own!  It was an easy 10 minute hike to the summit that ended in a picnic area with an overlook to New Hope, PA.


Burning Bush/Winged Euonymus, Euonymus alatus, an ornamental species gone rogue.    At my childhood home I remember having a burning bush in the backyard.  I always loved the red color of the fall leaves and it was one of my best hiding spots when I’d play hide and go seek with my siblings.


Oriental bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, another escaped ornamental.  It is a thornless vine that I often find invading forests.  I cannot recall finding this in open areas but I often find it in the forests.  I am frankly surprised that this was used as an ornamental because it does not have interesting foliage or fruits, but here it is taking over!  Another common invasive vine, Porcelain berry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, has both interesting leaves and beautifully colored berries.  I cannot lie, there are some non-native and invasive plants that I love and can understand why someone would plant them in their yard.  However, oriental bittersweet?  I just don’t understand what about this plant would make someone purchase it.  Inconspicuous flowers, boring leaves…. maybe the red berries?


Right after we got to the top of Goat Hill it started to rain.  It was a short rain and the air was warm so it was a pleasant sprinkle.  Littlest didn’t seem to mind it at all!


While the artists were at work, Littlest and I hung out and had a picnic looking out at the beautiful view!


A cookie larger than his head!


Another beautiful view.  When I hiked up this trail I saw there was a smaller trail to the left, maybe 100yrds from the trail head.  I did not take the trail because I was pulling Littlest in the cart, but I am interested in what is along that path or any other views you can see from it.

Tom Ogren wrote a wonderful article titled  “The story of Goat Hill” and the historical significance going back as far as the revolutionary war to the efforts to preserve the area.  If you would like more information about how to obtain the article, contact us through the website!


Such a fun day that Littlest fell asleep while I hiked back down to the car 🙂




Sourland Mountain Preserve (Hunterdon County) – An afternoon hike with my little dude

Sourland Mountain Preserve is located on Rileyville Rd in Ringoes

Link to hike map and description


I know, I know… no bouldering…  however have you ever tried to stop a three year old from climbing a large rock?!


Leaves of Three, let it be!  This, my friends is poison ivy (Toxicodendrons radicans).  3 shiny leaves, wavy/toothed margins, hairy vine.  This “sinister” plant is native and the berries are loved by many bird species.  The rash that most people get when they touch poison ivy is an allergic reaction to the oils produced by the plant.  These oils are persistent and once they are on your clothes they can be very difficult if not almost impossible to remove!  The oils are also retained on plant tissues for many years, so if you want to remove poison ivy from your property, you cannot just spray it with herbicide, you must remove the whole plant (roots included).  Poison ivy is in the cashew family and is also related to mangoes.  Some people that are highly allergic to poison ivy will also react to the skin of mangoes!


Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum, is a native spring flower.  One of the common names of this plant is Crane’s bill, because the seed pods look like the head and bill of a crane.


Solomon Seal, Polygonatum pubescens, for sure this time!


Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida.  Flowering dogwood is the “Official Memorial Tree of New Jersey”!  Many people confuse the bracts on flowering dogwood for flower petals.  The big white or pink “petals” on flowering dogwoods are actually bracts, which are modified leaves.  The actual flower petals are very small and inconspicuous.  Here is a link that visually shows what I am talking about.



Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana.  While it may be common knowledge that Witch hazel astringent is made from this plant, there is also a folklore that a forked branch from Witch Hazel can be used as a dowsing rod to find ground water.  I have heard many tales of this, but personally have never tried it.  I wonder if any person can perform this task or do they have to be specially trained to find water?


A beautiful trail on a beautiful day!



May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum, in flower.  May apples have a two-year life cycle.  The first year they put up only one leaf, as seen in the background of this photo.  In their second year they send up a set of leaves and the flower arises from the axil between the two leaf stems.


Rue Anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides, I just love how thin the leaf stems are that it makes it look like the leaves are just floating in the air!


My dude has been loving this hike.  Running up and down the path, doing 2-3 times the distance I have because I keep stopping to take pictures.  He runs ahead, realizes I am not with him, turns around and runs back to me, then runs ahead again, all the while shouting “Mom!  Take a picture of this plant! Take a picture of this rock! Take a picture of me, CHEESE!!!!!”



Japanese Stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, coming up through the leaf litter.   This is a highly invasive species, that can live in both shaded and non-shaded environments.  I have seen large, tall stands (taller than me!) of this in the woods as well as having this species try to take over our lawn.  If you see it, rip it out!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, a native and carnivorous plant.  There are a couple different types of carnivorous plants.  There are some that are snap-traps, like Venus fly traps, Dionaea spp.  There are others that are sticky traps, like Sundews, Drosera spp.  Jack-in-the-pulpits are pitcher plants, that attract their prey and once the prey enters the pitcher, they are not able to crawl out.  However, the way this plant pollinates is absolutely fascinating!  I can’t describe it better than the New York Botanical Garden, so before you shut your computer for the evening, read this article.  I promise you, it will be good dinner conversation!



Rocky Brook Trail – A secret trail full of beautiful flowers and bird songs

Rocky Brook Trail is located on Rt. 518 in East Amwell, NJ

Link to map and trail description


I could not find this trail head.  I had double checked on the map before leaving the house and I thought I knew where it was…  But when I drove by the spot I couldn’t find it.  I drove almost a mile further east on Rt 518 before turning around and heading back west driving slowly trying to find the trail head.  Then I got pulled over… Apparently I had a break light out, and all this slowing down was alerting the officer of the death of my break light.  The officer was absolutely lovely and when I told her I could not find this trail head, she pointed to this spot right behind my pulled-over vehicle and said “This must be what you are looking for”.  Never in a million years would I have seen this spot while driving back and forth along Rt. 518, so I am very happy that I got pulled over so that I could 1). Hike this gorgeous trail and 2). Fix my break light 🙂

***If you are trying to find this trail, if you are at the Rt 31 and Rt 518, turn east on Rt 518 and go a little over 1/10 of a mile and on the left side of the road before the little bridge there will be a turn off and that is where the trail head is***


Christmas Tree Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) fiddle head.  I am not very good at fern identification, but this one pretty easy to distinguish from other species.  It gets its common name because it stays green or mostly green throughout the winter.


I hope that I will never get to the point where I don’t get excited about crossing a stream via stepping stones!  I was filled with glee when I saw these and I just love standing in the middle of the stream looking end to end.


Spreading bellywort/Straw Lilly (Uvularia sessilifolia) not quite ready to flower.  I have to admit, while this  plant  is dainty and has a gorgeous cream/yellow bell flower, I am more in love with its sibling, Perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata).  The Perfoliate bellwort has leaves that look like the stem has perforated (hence the name) through the base of the leaf.


American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) leaves fresh from their buds.


Beach nuts dried and empty.  American Beech will start producing fruit once it is about 40 years old and generally produces fruit on 2 to 8 year intervals.


Beach Drops (Epifagus virginiana) is a parasitic plant that feeds off of American Beech trees.  These plants do not contain chlorophyll because they obtain all of their nutrients from their host.


Tall Rattlesnake root/Tall White Lettuce (Prenanthes altissima), I think!  At one point I knew this plant for sure, but when my mental image and name tag popped into my head, it said “Snake root”, which apparently is an Aster.  I love having an inner catalogue of plants, and sometimes I feel like my brain flips through all the plants like a rolladeck.  Often though, I stand there staring at a plant, mentally sifting through my database and know that I know the plant, but forgetting both common and latin names.  Sometimes when I go to look something up, I stare at my computer screen blankly, grasping for even the first letter of the name of thing I want to look up.  Maybe its lack of sleep from two children, but it seems to happen more often now than before.  Either way, I am fairly confident this is Tall Rattlesnake Root.


Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis), the other fern that I can identify.  Truly, Christmas Tree Fern and Sensitive fern are the only two that I am confident about.


This picture doesn’t really do the view justice, but the ground was just a carpet of spring beauties.


I believe this is False Solomon Seal, Smilacina racemosa.  True Solomon Seal, genus Polygonatum,  have flowers in the leaf axils, while False Solomon Seal has terminal flowers.  I am sure there are other ways to distinguish between the genera, but I am not confident telling them apart.  Here is another blog that has both plants in different life stages.


Spring Beauty Rust, Puccinia mariae-wilsoniae, is a rust fungus that infects Spring beauties.


Rue Anenome, Thalictrum thalictroides (Anemonella thalictroides).  I love this dainty little plant.  It has these little leaves that shimmy at the slightest breathe but support these beautiful white flowers.


The Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.  I know that this is considered to be a weed, but I think this is such a pretty flower and making a wish then blowing its seeds were a favorite childhood past time.  Also, I just found this fun video about using a dandelion stem as a whistle!


Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens) is a New Jersey native.  I always get a kick out of this flower because its a yellow violet… not a violet violet…  OK… I know I’m a dork, but I can’t help it!


Just a couple of Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginiana) being perfect and beautiful.

These are both Galium spp.  They have a couple different common names such as Cleavers, Goosegrasss, Woodruff, Bedstraw and my personal favorite, Stickywilly.  I always prefer to use latin names, because a “common name” can be different by region or two different plants can have the same common name.  However, the Genus and species combination is unique to each individual species.


Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is another New Jersey native.  It has berries that are eaten by birds and you can often find it climbing up trees and your house.  We have some growing along our fence and it often crosses our deck and tries to climb up our siding.  This plant always evokes the song, “Virginia Creeper” by Old Crow Medicine Show.  Its a great song to be playing in your head as your walk through the woods, although caution should be taken because you might find yourself dancing a little jig alone in the woods!


It is a little hard to see what is going here, but it is a young tree with a bunch of debris stuck on it about 2ft off the ground.  When you see trees or bushes around a stream/river with large clumps of leaves and debris stuck on them, it is an indicator of how high the water level was during a flooding event.   This young tree was about 6ft from the current stream flow, so this indicates that the stream was at least 6ft wider and 2ft deeper than what it was when I took this picture.  There have been times when I’ve seen this natural flood height indicators in branches over my head!  It is an amazing reminder of the power of water and how fast it can change!


Jewel Weed/Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis) is a friend of those allergic to Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).  If you accidentally touch the itchy foe, you can crush up some Jewel Weed stem and rub liquid on the area, and supposedly it will help prevent a rash from forming and or help relieve the itchiness of rash.  I am not allergic to poison ivy, so I cannot comment on how well it works, however I have used crushed jewel weed to treat stinging nettles and it did make a difference for me.  If these reasons alone are not enough to love this plant, let me give you three more!  If you break off a leaf and hold it underwater, it will look like there are little jewels on the leaves!  The flowers on this plant are a gorgeous orange and just so lovely to look at.  Last but definitely not least, what I loved about this plant as a child, the seed pods explode!  Ballochory, aka ballistic seed dispersal, is my most favorite form of seed dispersal.  Its so fun and I used to stand at clumps of Jewel Weed and poke all of the pods hoping to get a big explosion.  They bloom between July-September, so make sure to find your own clump and waste some wonderful time exploding seed pods!