A couple weeks ago I spent several hours on a beautiful Sunday exploring the unique flora of New Jersey’s pine barrens. This was a total new experience for me, having never once gone along on a botany field trip. The field trip was led by a group of wonderful folks from Pinelands Preservation Alliance and was their first of the year in search of spring flowers. I was introduced to this group through entry’s in Steve’s blog. He was finishing up with the Alliance’s summer-long botany course and had posted some very nice photos, piquing my interest in their group.
So I signed up for a day-long expedition in search of Broom Crowberry (Corema conradii), an evergreen shrub that grows in the pine barrens’ low-nutrient soils. Our guides led us to one of the very few New Jersey locations where Broom Crowberry is found, a small sandy patch in the southern part of the state.
We arrived at the field in late morning and I was at first a little surprised. I knew that we were there to see flowering plants, and had built this expectation of a field with large flowers. Instead, I was greeted by this scene, a large sandy field with low growing shrubs. Most of the other participants, much more experienced that I, were down on hands and knees busily viewing the plants with loupes or their naked eyes.
I walked into the field and bent down to see for myself. The flowers were there, but much smaller than I imagined. Still, they were bright red and complete. I spent the next several hours photographing flowers and shrubs, and learning a bit more about the pinelands.
Here is one of those photos, which captures the flowers of both male (on the left) and female (on the right) plants. Though very small, no larger than a pencil eraser, these flowers were abundant and in full bloom. My boots and camera were covered in pollen by day’s end.
It was a great first experience. I’ve gone back to the area a couple times since and have taken photos of other interesting plants I found along the way. More photos for another day!