Monthly Archives: March 2019

Nayfield Preserve – Welcoming spring!

Nayfield Preserve is located on Lambertville Hopewell Rd in Hopewell.

Link to trail map.IMG_3257I was recently contacted by a researcher interested in studying Viburnum species and their pollinators and I jumped at the chance to show him around Nayfield. This preserve can be tricky to find, but once you arrive, it is such a wonderful place to walk. The big open field, the drier upland area, the wet lowland area, vernal pools and evergreen forest…I mean, what is there not to love? When I hike with others, I always learn something new.  Today was no exception!

For a while now, I have  puzzled over a certain shrub which, in some ways, resembles a Cherry tree (Prunus). Cherry trees have alternate branching patterns but this shrub had branches that were opposite each other. Although I know that there are only a handful of trees which have branches directly opposite each other, nothing in my mental plant catalog could help me identify what I was seeing.

Today, I learned that what I was seeing was none other than a very large Blackhaw Viburnums (Viburnum prunifolium )! I know this shrub well, but I mistakenly thought they didn’t grow larger than 10 feet tall. Today, I learned that Blackhaw can grow to almost 40 feet tall! How boring would life be if we already knew it all?IMG_3247Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora, leafing out. This invasive bramble is the first woody plant that I have seen with leaves this year.IMG_3253Blackhaw Viburnum flower buds about to open! Doesn’t it look like a little broccoli head hiding within the bud scales? IMG_3263Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, another invasive plant which always seems to be springing ahead of the pack! Garlic mustard is considered an edible. I have heard that people sometimes use it as a substitute for garlic when making pesto. I have a bunch of it in my yard, so I think I might need to try this recipe later this spring!IMG_3269Fox scat with what looks like a little femur, tibia and fibula in it. Perhaps remnants of rodent dinner.IMG_3278This tree caught my eye as I entered the field. The silvery buds were glowing in the morning sun!  My guess is that it is some sort of Pussy Willow, Salix spp.IMG_3274The buds were so soft under my fingers that it felt as if I was petting a rabbit! If anyone has a guess as to what species this is, please let me know!IMG_3283Another “New-To-Me” species! This is called Seedbox, Ludwigia alternifolia! How fabulous are these seed capsules? When Seedbox is in bloom it has beautiful yellow flowers and that would be a gorgeous native plant to add to any garden!IMG_3307I think everyone needs another view of these seed capsules! I can’t help but smile when I see them 🙂

St. Michaels Preserve – Anniversary of Sourland Niche!

St. Michaels Preserve is located in Hopewell, NJ with entrances on Hopewell Princeton Rd and Aunt Molly Rd.

Link to tail map.

IMG_2986My first blog hike was posted one year ago on March 17, 2018.

This year has flown by so quickly!  When I noticed the Red Maples’, Acer rubrum, buds swelling and turning red, I remembered seeing them a year ago when I began writing about my hikes in Sourlands.

Throughout this past year, I have enjoyed 40 hikes at 22 of the 24 Sourland Preserves.  When I reflect on my experiences in the woods, I realize that as I surrendered to the beauty of the forest, it provided me an opportunity to think deeply about whatever was on my mind. I encountered many new plants and I learned more about myself.

This year, I would love to share in this blog other people’s experiences and photos from their hikes around the Sourlands and also to highlight some of the incredible projects that the Sourland Conservancy is working on.

There are many interesting projects going on here including: Amphibian Crossing Guards, Roots to Rivers Riparian Restoration, Baldpate Restoration, Sourland Stewardship Leaders, the Sourland STREAM Program, and The Foraging Forest!

IMG_2972Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta, is the first flower I have seen this year! Hairy Bittercress is an invasive belonging to the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family. There are many edibles that are Brassicas including kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and collard greens!

IMG_3006Spring beauty, Claytonia virginiaca, about to bloom. On my way out of the woods, I found a little one snuggled near a few downed logs which protected it from wind but still allowed full sun. This created a microclimate which encouraged this little spring beauty to start putting on its flower buds. Over the next few weeks, the forest will be waking up! I have already heard Spring Peepers, Pseudacris crucifer, sing their Sweet Spring Song!

Rockhopper Trail – Looking for signs of spring during a very mushy snow hike!

Rockhopper Trail is located on Brunswick Ave in West Amwell.
Link to trail map.

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March is a wonderful time of year because of the anticipation of spring! It is cold and wet and yet the plants are starting to wake up and slowly letting the world know it will soon be spring. I always loved going on scavenger hunts as a child, and now looking for signs of spring is my scavenger hunt. I had planned to spend my morning looking under leaf litter for cotyledons and opening buds but the weather had other plans. We had a heavy wet snow, so I decided to bring the whole family and just enjoy the beauty of a snow laden forest. I did, of course, keep my eyes peeled for opening buds, but there is so much wonder and joy of being the first to walk on the snow that it was just a wonderful morning exploring the forest. Walking, riding and skipping…Into the Woods we go!

IMG_2207Shagbark Hickory, Carya ovata, bud just beginning to open! It will be some time before there are any flowers, but the process of a new spring has begun!IMG_2210It was cold enough to snow but not quite cold enough to freeze so the ground was a mushy, slushy mess and perfect for splashingIMG_2211Good thing the Wild Boys came prepared in their wellies…Unfortunately, my husband and I only had on our hiking boots which kept us mostly dry, but we had to be more cautious about where we stepped.IMG_2216We all explore at our own pace and in our own way.IMG_2219Littlest carefully assessing his steps because the ground was very slippery!IMG_2223I know I have said it many times, but I love the Sourland Conservancy high-visibility orange hats! My big dude took off running through the woods, but I could always see where he was because of his hat.IMG_2237Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora  buds are becoming red and are beginning to open.IMG_2253American Beech, Fagus grandiflora. These sharp, pointed  cigar-like buds are a great way to distinguish this tree in the winter!IMG_2276Our boots made loud suctioning sounds as our feet sunk down and lifted the wet snow and mud.IMG_2281I love how this branch covered in lichen resembles a dog chew-bone.IMG_2282A quintessential Sourland boulder looking picturesque in the newly fallen snow.IMG_2319Slosh slosh slosh!IMG_2323Deer tracks! We tracked this deer for almost half of a mile along the trail. It kept going on the trail even after we turned around to go back to the car.IMG_2330A fairy’s eye view of the world!IMG_2337Who wouldn’t be smiling if they had a personal ride through a winter snow laden forest?IMG_2343Christmas Tree Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, poking out through the snow.IMG_2345Another gorgeous boulder standing out proudly in the snow.Before you know it, this forest will be flush with green again, obscuring the view of these peaceful centennials.IMG_2346Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, buds swelling and getting ready to open. Spicebush is among some of the first shrubs to flower in the early spring!IMG_2357There were lots of rock hoppers on this trail!IMG_2364When I saw this tree hollow, I thought of the book “My Side of the Mountain” and the little boy, Sam, who lived in the hollow of a tree. I loved the story as a child and had always wanted to try to make acorn pancakes… Maybe this will be the year that I try it!IMG_2383Winged Euonymous, Euonymous alatas, an invasive that is unmistakable due to its winged stems. The other common name for this plant is “Burning Bush”, because the leaves turn a vibrant red in the fall.IMG_2384More fun on Sourland boulders!IMG_2389A winding path through the woods.IMG_2393We spotted a bird’s nest in a Multiflora Rose bush. The multiflora rose protects this nest from predators by concealing the nest and fending off predators with its thorns.IMG_2398A sneaky Lichen looking like a trail blaze! Luckily, we knew we were on the blue trail. Nice try!IMG_2406Seta poking up through the snow. Seta are the stalks that support the spore capsule of a moss.IMG_2412Spring Beauties, Claytonia virginica standing out in the snow. These lovelies were just about big enough to support flowers. I bet that in another week or two they will be flowering!

A peaceful winter hike with a splash of an ending!IMG_2442The Rockhopper preserve shares a parking lot with Dry Creek Run preserve. When we returned to our car, I removed Littlest’s jacket so he could get in his carseat but when he saw the Dry Creek Run trail, he took off down it. He knows that when there is a trail head, it is time to explore!

Guest Post – Sourland Mountain Preserve: A winter hike on a day off.

This post was written by Keana, one of our Spring 2019 interns. She is interested in ecology and photography, so I felt a blog hike would be the perfect first assignment. Enjoy!

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With a day off from school and a partly cloudy weather forecast, I decided to seize the opportunity to go hiking. After weeks of devoting all my “free-time” to studying for midterms in stuffy cafes and overcrowded libraries, it felt liberating to finally step outside and breathe the crisp, bone-chilling air of the winter season.pic2

Before beginning my little adventure in the Sourland Mountain preserve, I was greeted by the skull of a deer. I figure it probably belonged to one of the many white-tailed deer of the region, whose overpopulation still continues to threaten the Sourlands.

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A black sooty mold infesting a branch. This mold eats the “honeydew” left behind by the Beech Wolly Aphid.

There was an abundance of colorful mushrooms growing on many trees and fallen trunks. Though it looks cool to me, I know the mushrooms are definitely not a good sign for the trees.pic6

I spy with my little eye five vultures.

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Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is an invasive shrub found in the Sourlands. It’s bright red fruit contrasts starkly against the dull brown backdrop of the branches. Apparently the berries are edible and have a bitter taste, but I was not in the mood for trying (especially with all the dog and deer feces that were laying around).

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I was expecting the pond to be completely frozen, but surprisingly only the center of the lake was covered in ice. The transparency of the ice gave me a sneak peek into what lay beneath—not much except for a lot of leaves and scattered branches. Unfortunately, I did not catch a glimpse of any fish.

pic9The picturesque elevated walkway that winds through the rocky Sourlands. I remember coming here as a kid and challenging my sister to cartwheel contests along the path.