Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pine Barrens Hike

I had the chance to go on a guided plant hike in the NJ Pine Barrens yesterday, led by the incredible Janet Novak of the Delaware Valley NARGS chapter.  I've wanted to dive into the Pine Barrens since I read John McPhee's book 25 years ago, but had never gotten around to it in 11 years of living in NJ.  Neighbor Ray and my 9-year old botanist (above, with beaver stump) made a long, humid day out of it.

We started at Pakim Pond in the Brendan Byrne State Forest in south Jersey.  We shuffled around the mucky edge of the small pond on boardwalks and pine needle-covered paths.  The acid sandy soil is host to carnivorous plants, ferns, a few orchids, pitch pine, blackjack oak, and a wide range of ericaceous shrubs, including the high bush blueberries that we snacked on as we walked.

I've come to think of pitcher plants as rare, fussy, expensive and hip (lately), but here they were in the wild, growing at the wet edges of the pond.

Here's the super-famous curly grass fern, a really tiny thing.  Note my errant finger in the photo. 

Each hummock in the pond was a little garden.

We moved on next to Webb's Mill, a bog that looked like an impressionist painting yesterday.

Pitcher plants, sundews, bladderwort...Monet, right?  I felt like a kid.

Pitcher plant and compatriots.

More bog beauty

Incredible things were everywhere.  I took too many photos and inevitably failed to capture the excitement of this site.

Dwarf pines growing in sand just outside the Warren Grove Bombing Range

Dwarf pine

The last stop of the day was at Bill Smith's garden in Warren Grove.  We walked around the corner and found this 10' x 30' raised bog garden in full bloom.  Bill is growing many of the same plants that we'd seen growing wild in the local bogs, but what floored us were the pitcher plants.  I had that feeling that I have in front of a masterpiece in a museum: overwhelmed by the combination of beauty and skill.

Gorgeous containers lined the raised bog bed.

Another of the many, many saracennias

A mini masterpiece.   The yellow is bog asphodel.

Red + Blue= Wow

These guys looked hungry.

This dude survived 5 hours of plants, plants, plants with Ray and me.  He had a well-deserved burger followed by a nap on the ride home.