Hopewell Borough Park – A much needed picnic and walk

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To say we had a rough week would be an understatement.  Both of my wild boys were very sick this week and it was pretty scary for us.  They are doing much better now and back to their old selves but the time spent in the hospital always leaves a mark on me.  Not going outside disorients me and I feel so disconnected with the rest of the world.  I (we) needed to get outside for a little while and so Hopewell Borough Park felt like the right place to go.  While there was very little sunshine, the air felt so good and just being able to move freely was so healing.  We picked up some sandwiches from the Peasant Grill and headed to the Gazebo at Hopewell Borough Park to have a little picnic before playing and going for a walk.  I’m really trying to savor these t-shirt days.  I love summer and always feel so sad when the weather starts to change and it becomes too cool for t-shirts.  I know there can be some days in the October that are warm enough but it is just not the same as the wonderful hot weather of summer.  In my opinion, summer is never long enough!

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This sneaky plant caught me by surprise!  When I saw it I knew it was in the Solanaceae family, the Nightshades!  Other familiar plants in this family are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant and tobacco! It also looked really similar to the ground cherries growing in my garden, so I thought perhaps it was an escape from someone’s garden….  Apparently there are quite a few ground cherry, Physalis spp., species native to this area!  I am not too sure which species this is, I am leaning towards Smooth Ground Cherry, Physalis subglabrata, but I am really not sure.  This was just a surprise and a delight to know this plant is just hanging out here in Hopewell Borough Park.

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White Snake Root, Ageratina altissima, a native woodland flower.  I learned this plant as Eupatorium rugosum, and will forever think of that name first.  I love this flower and how it stands out so brightly in the forest in the fall.  It is sort of like the last “horrah!” of summer and once these little flowers close, it is time for the forest to go to sleep for the winter.

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I think this is a Fall Webworm moth, Hyphantria cunea.  It is considered to be a native pest, and constructs its tents in hardwoods such as hickories and walnuts, birches and cherries.  Apparently the fall webworm is not as detrimental as the spring/summer tent caterpillar because they rarely kill their host tree.  I looked up what these caterpillars look like as adults, and they are pretty cool looking.  Sort of like an abominable snowman in moth form.

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A green frog, Lithobates clamitans, sitting on what I originally thought was a rock but it turned out to be a very large piece of foam cushion….  Just another weird thing in the Sourlands!

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Goldenrod, Solidago spp., head high and a foreboding sky.   Even though the sky was dark, it didn’t feel like it was going to rain.  There was not any heaviness to the air and there was not any wind.  This is the view that I needed to help restore me from this week.  When I feel overwhelmed one of the things that make me feel better is just going outside and getting lost for awhile.  Even though I wasn’t lost and couldn’t let myself become consumed in this field because I had the wild boys with me  (I really just wanted to push pass the Rubus and just lay down for a few), it felt so good just to stop and stare into this field.

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My wonderful co-worker, Laurie, showing my big dude a “nature door”.  He was so excited to run under this Spruce, Picea, and play in the “house” that this tree created.

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Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, a native plant that is edible at certain stages and toxic at others.  The young shoots of the plant apparently are OK to eat, but the berries and the mature plant are both toxic.  I know those berries look so inviting, but please do not eat them!

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Taking a stroll through the lower meadow.  Trails like this give me so much pleasure.  It is not often you can walk through such a thicket and see how nature is moving through succession.  The upper meadow with just herbaceous plants, the lower meadow with a mix of woody plants and meadows and then the forest.  I love these successional transitions.  It reminds me Venn diagrams with their overlapping portions.  Some species can live in a meadow but not in the shrub layer. Some in the shrub layer but not the mature forest.  It is just wonderful being able to walk through this and see this transition in action.

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