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.

Pitcher Plants of the Pine Barrens

New Jersey’s pine barrens are home to several species of carnivorous plants, including the Pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea).  The leaves of pitcher-plants are shaped like tubular pitchers capable of holding water.  The tip of each leaf is covered in downward pointing hairs.   Insects are attracted to the leaf’s color and scent, fall into the water inside, and are unable to fly or crawl out.  The plant draws nutrients from the decaying insects trapped by its leaves.

Pitcher-plants are common in bogs and swamps of the pine barrens, with clusters of leaves often jutting through mounds of sphagnum moss, as with this plant.

Busy, Busy Summer and a Swollen Bladderwort

Summer has been speeding along for me and it seems that I have had time for everything but blogging.  I have a backlog of photos to share, though, and I offer this interesting flowering plant today – the Swollen Baldderwort (Utricularia inflata).

Bladderworts are carnivorous herbs which feed on small aquatic animals and grow without roots in water or wet sands.  You may recall from my earlier posts that I am in the very early stages of learning about the plant (and especially the wildflowers) of the New Jersey pine barrens.  There are several examples of bladderworts which occur in the pine barrens and I found this one in a couple locations, Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area and Allaire State Park.

I hope you find the Swollen Bladderwort as facinating as I do and thank you for your patience as I gradually catch up on my postings.

One final comment for tonight.  Thank you very much to the reader who provided me with the correct name for the “Redbuds” shown in an earlier posts.  I now know that these are the flowers of the Red Maple (Acer rubrum).  Thank you!!!

Flowers of the Pine Barrens – Leatherleaf


Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is in full bloom now, an early Spring flower in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.  Also known as Cassandra, you can find this low growing shrub growing along ponds, bogs, and slow moving streams.

Leatherleaf grows in large colonies and produces rows of small. white, bell-shaped flowers.  Out hiking this weekend, I found these flowers in three different locations.

The Pine Barrens are off to a beautiful start this year and, with the help of Howard Boyd’s Flowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, I hope to find (and photograph) several other flowers this Spring.

Spring in the New Jersey Pine Barrens


Spring has arrived in New Jersey and, with it, a renewed interest in all things outdoors.   Around this time last  year, my wife and I were touring through South Africa on our trip of a lifetime.   We had an amazing adventure and, a year later, I find myself thinking often of the places we visited and people we met along the way.  Unfortunately, I developed a Morton’s neuroma in my right foot shortly after returning home and, along with it, burning and shooting pain that made hiking and bird watching (two of my favorite activities) nearly impossible.  After several months of treatments, though, the pain has lessened and I am eagerly returning to my outdoor pursuits.  A walk though the New Jersey Pine Barrens feels like a visit with a dear old friend – you don’t really know how much you love something until it is taken away.

A few month’s ago I picked up a copy of Howard P. Boyd’s Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.  Over the last few years I have been slowly developing an interest in improving my plant indentification skills and figured that starting with flowers is as good a place as any to start.  Boyd’s book arranges flowering plants by season, so a newbie like me has some idea of what to expect as I venture out.  The weather forecast was not promising yesterday, so I opted to visit a couple places I had gone to before as part of field trips.

A field of flowers

My first stop was a place I blogged about back in April, 2010 for another look at Conrad’s Broom-Crowberry (Corema conradii).  First up in Boyd’s book, this low-growing shrub produces small flowers at the tips its gnarled branches.  Plants produce either male or female flowers and photographing them means lying flat on the ground and straining to get a good look through the camera’s eyepiece.

And there they are – beautiful tiny purple-red flowers at the tips of each branch.  Broom-crowberry is listed as an endangered plant in New Jersey, growing only in a small, restricted area of the pine plains.

New Jersey's Pygmy Forest

My next stop was the Pygmy Forest, a globally rare stunted forest ecosystem.  At maturity, this pine and oak forest reaches heights of only 4 to 5 feet –  I am standing in front of a mature, fully grown forest in this photo.  Amazing New Jersey.

Walking back to the car, I noticed rustling in the leaves just off the trail.  Hoping that it wasn’t a snake (though it would have made a good photo), I carefully approached the rustling sound and discovered a pair of eastern fence lizards locked in a passionate embrace.  When mating, the male fence lizard grasps his mate’s neck with his mouth (you can see him biting and holding onto her neck in this photo).  If their mating is successful, she will lay about 15 eggs which will hatch this fall.

I visited a few other places before the rains came and I heading home.   It felt great to get out and about and to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pine Barrens again.  I can’t wait to do more!

Red Buds

Red Bud

The red buds have been in full bloom lately, a favorite time of the year for me.  I enjoy watching the trees slowly turn from winter’s gray to bright red to the translucent green of Spring.  While hiking in the southern part of New Jersey a couple weekends ago I came upon a small patch of red bud trees in full bloom and snapped a few photos of these lovely flowers.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Earth star fungus and Tar lichen

Earthstar Fungus

This is another interesting fungus discovered during my recent field trip with Pinelands Preservation Alliance, an Earth Star (Scleroderma geaster).  These unusual fungi apparently grow first out of the ground as a round, almost bulb-like fungus, then slowly split apart into the star-like shape.  The center ball structure holds the spores, much like a puff ball, and emits them when disturbed.   I found several of these on my return trip and, like so many others, it was the first time I had ever really noticed them.

Tar Lichen

I had this unusual lichen identified as Tar Lichen in my notes, though I haven’t been able to find it in my guides or during web searchs.  In this case, I actually remember seeing this before, but had no idea that it was a lichen!  It really looks like globs of tar that have somehow been poured into the sand.  If you have a better or more definitive identification, please send it along to me.  Thanks!