Eames Preserve – A misty morning walk

Eames preserve is located on Harbourton-Woodsville Rd in Pennington, NJ.

Link to trail map and preserve description

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This photo reminds me more of when I was in a Panamanian rain forest than in New Jersey.

I love being outside, doesn’t really matter if its raining or sunny, but on a cool spring morning when its lightly raining….  I don’t think it can get much better than this!  The lack of human noise combined with the cacophony of morning bird songs is just divine.  The understory in Eames is so lush and dense that even though I couldn’t see many of the little streams, I could hear the water pouring over the rocks.  It was so meditative that I often caught myself just standing in one spot and listening to the rushing water.  When I go out for these hikes, I try to see as much as I can, but sometimes the scenery and the sounds overtake me and I just stand in one place taking it all in.

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This mist was just beautiful!  I couldn’t capture it with my camera, but it softened all the colors of the forest.

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Evidence of Tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera).  Tulip poplars are in the Magnolia family, and have really pretty yellow flowers, unfortunately for us, these forest giants flower so high up in the canopy that it is very rare to actually see the intact flowers.   Many times when I walk through the woods and see a gigantic tree with an almost cartoonish straight trunk and branches only near the canopy, I can safely assume that what I am looking at is a Tulip poplar.  Their size and straight growth habit lends them to be great lumber trees.

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Leaf galls on Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra).  Galls are created when damage or salivary secretions from a pest/disease organism stimulates plant growth hormones to activate.  When these growth hormones are activated, it causes an increase in plant tissues to be grown in the area stimulated.  These abnormal growths are refered to as galls.  There are many organisms that can cause galls, such as mites, aphids, adelgids, mites, midges, plant lice, wasps and fungi.  Galls can come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  There are some that look almost like a fruit or pinecone, while others look like something straight out of a horror film!

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Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) seed pods wrapped in a spiders web, almost like Christmas lights on a tree.

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Plants flattened by rushing water.  When I worked in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, we were always very cautious about working around a “wash” during the rainy season.  A wash is a dry creek bed and often can become quickly flooded by a wall of fast moving water that seemingly comes out of nowhere.  These washes can fill even when it is not currently raining at your location, but at some point up stream.  I am not sure what the term is for areas like this in the North East.  At Eames, there are multiple “washes” all along  the hiking trail.  You can tell where these washes occurred because of plants being pushed over like they are here, or highly eroded paths like in the picture below.

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On the right is the footpath and on the left is the wash.  There are a few key indicators that are tells that this wash is created by fast moving water.  1. The stream bed is narrow, relatively straight (not meandering) and deep.  2.  There are a lot of bare roots exposed, indicating that soil was very recently removed from the stream banks.  Slow moving water allows sediments to settle and generally does not create these clean roots.   3. Large piles of debris.  I did not take a picture of it, but further along there was a big pile of branches, leaves and plant material that had been swept along this temporary stream.  Where this pile collected, you could see that the understory had gotten a lot more dense with shrubs and created a wall of roots and stems that this stream could not pass through, so the water dispersed over a larger area, slowing down the stream and reducing the erosion.  This is the a great example of how trees and shrubs can help reduce soil erosion, which improves not only soil quality, but also water quality and overall ecosystem health.   The most nutrient dense portion of the soil, is in the upper part of the soil layer, the “top soil”.  This is also the layer that hosts most of the soil detritivores, that break down leaf litter and other dead plant material, making it bioavailable to other plants.  This is also the first layer that is swept away during soil erosion.  When soil erosion occurs, it causes soil particulates to enter the steam.  This is causes increased turbidity in the water, which can block sunlight for aquatic plants and can also reduced the dissolved oxygen in water which affects both macro and micro invertebrates.

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Foam!  Why is there foam here but no where else along the stream?  Here is my theory (its a good one!).  Organic materials, such as this large root will release compounds in water called surfactants.  A surfactant reduces the surface tension of water, which will in turn allow more air to mix with water, creating air bubbles that aggregate together to create foam!  Under this foam is a little pool, making this a perfect place for foam to build up and the excess water flow under and continue downstream.

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Just a perfect little water drop sitting on some Jewel weed, Impatiens capensis!

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Raindrops making the invisible, visible!  A spiderweb viewed from the side.

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This is the spiderweb viewed straight on!  How many times have we all walked face first into a web and then ran around flailing our arms and shouting and sputtering while grabbing at those invisible strings attached to our faces???  What a wonderful thing nature is!

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The former president of the NJ Mycologist society let me know that that these are actually Purple tooth, Trichaptum biforme (I had thought these were some sort of Turkey Tail mushrooms, Trametes versicolor).  These mushrooms are considered to be saphrophtyes, which live on dead and decaying organic matter.

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Choose your path carefully! Just kidding, its a loop!  I do love these trail markers though, it feels a little ominous!

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Beautiful…  *sigh*

 

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