The Rt. 539 Painted Rock

Rt. 539 in Ocean County, New Jersey
Rt. 539 in Lacey Township, New Jersey

There’s a very large and somewhat famous rock sitting in the Pine Barrens, next to County Route 539 in Lacey Township, New Jersey.  According to local lore, the rock was left behind by a truck driver who had it off-loaded to fix a flat tire.  Over the years, the rock was painted with a number of designs and became known as (sorry about this) the “Painted Rock”.  Ba-dump-bump.


Shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11, a local artist began painting the rock with a stars and stripes pattern.  Since then, it has become something of a shrine and attempts to paint it with other designs have always resulting in re-painting with the stars and stripes seen in my photo.

While I appreciate the patriotic zeal that has kept the rock painted with the stars and stripes, I do miss the more whimsical designs from the past.  You can read more about the history of the Painted Rock and see some of the early designs here .


NJ Pine Barrens Flowers

Pine Barren or Golden Heather

I was fortunate enough to spend some time last weekend birding in the NJ Pine Barrens and several of the spring flowers in were full bloom.  This beautiful golden flower is known as Pine Barren Heather or Golden Health (Hudsonia ericoides).  Pine Barren Heather is a small shrub which grows in dry open sandy areas throughout the pine barrens and several plants were in full bloom last weekend.

Sand Myrtle
Sand Myrtle

Sand Myrtle is another low flowering shrub that grows in sandy patches, but prefers wet areas over dry.  Even though it has been a relatively dry spring, these lovely white-flowered shrubs were blooming in many of low wet areas I walked through this weekend.

I hope you enjoy the flowers….I took the photos with my cell phone as I walked from spot to spot during one of my bird surveys for the New Jersey Audubon.

Until next time….







Round-leaved Sundew

In an earlier post I noted that I had found two of the three species of sundew that occur in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, but had not yet located the Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).  My search came to an end in late July while I was hiking in Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area.  I was busy photographing several flowers and was about to walk away when I noticed the a small patch was covered in sundew.  It only took a couple moments to locate this Round-leaved sundew.

This was a pretty good summer for pine barrens plants, my first year of really attempting to learn about the botany of this amazing area.   I have a few more photos to process and plan to have them posted soon.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think about my sundews!

Comments welcome!!

Prickly Pear Cactus

Here is a plant that I didn’t expect to find in the New Jersey pine barrens, the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa).  There are apparently over 200 species of prickly pear cactus scattered thoughout the Americas.  Here in New Jersey, the prickly pear produces large showy flowers that bloom for about a day.  The oval fruits are red or red-purple which, when ripe and properly prepared, are edible.

Prickly pear cactus have been introduced in many places around the world where, unfortunately, it can spread as an invasive weed.  I photographed this large specimen in the village of Malealea located in the highland kingdom of Lesotho, Africa.  Attempts to eradicate the cactus have been almost completely unsuccessful, so the villagers attempt to manage plants by periodically cutting or burning them back.

Fortunately, prickly pear doesn’t grow so large in the pine barrens and is an interesting addition to the variety of plant life found here.


Sundews are another family of carnivorous plants which call the pine barrens home.  Three species of sundews occur in bogs, swamps, and other wet, sandy places.  Like other carnivorous plants, they supplement their normal nutritional intake from the pine barren’s poor soils by capturing and digesting insects.

I photographed this spatulate-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) while on a botany field trip in Warren Grove, New Jersey.  Note the long-stalked leaves are covered with short hairs.  Each hair exudes dew-like drops which happen to be very sticky.  Unsuspecting insects are attracted to the leaves and become entangled by these sticky hairs.  As the insect struggles to free itself, the leaf slowly wraps around it and completes the trap.

This is a thread-leaved sundew (Drosera filiformis), photographed on the same field trip.  The leaves of this sundew develop into erect, unbranched stems that can be 6 to 16 inches long. These stems are covered with short, gladular hairs tipped with a dew-drop of sticky liquid.

Here’s a close-up of a thread-leaved sundew which shows hundreds and hundreds of glandular hairs – an effective trap for any insect unfortunate enough to come to close to the sundew’s leaves.

The thread-leaved sundew produces numbers of rose-pink to ruby flowers from mid-June through late August.  I was fortunate enough to have this flowering plant pointed out to me by a fellow field tripper.

The round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) also grows in the pine barrens but is quite small and easily overlooked.  I have yet to find one, but will post a photo as soon as I do.  I find all of the carnivorous plants of the pine barrens quite facinating, as I hope you do too.