About a three hour ride from NYC you will find some very pristine and unusual landscapes in our southern neighbor, New Jersey. The Pine Barrens consist of about 1.1 million acres of protected land, with extreme environments that range from sphagnum bogs to sandy deserts. My mother and I went on this beautiful outing lead by Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Uli Lorimer, who has a wealth of knowledge about native plants and knew the pine barrens in and out (amazing job not getting us lost!). We were accompanied by landscape architect and native plant pioneer, Darrel Morrison. He's the designer of many sites in and outside New York City and has also recently worked on the expansion of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Native Flora Garden. The following images illustrate the type of moonscape that exists in this sandy environment. Some of the plants we saw flourishing here are: Broom Crowberry Corema conradii mixed with Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. These two species interspersed to create a beautiful low growing mosaic, the glossy leaves of the Bearberry reflected the light and Crowberry was like a red hairy mat. The dominant species is the Pitch Pine Pinus rigida that surrounded the sandy paths we walked on and provided a unique sense enclosure; trees only slightly bigger than us. The Pitch Pine is accompanied by the Scrub Oak Quercus ilicifolia.
At the next site we visited my feet got pretty wet and muddy, thankfully it was warm and it was so beautiful that I didn't really care. But for people going out there, definitely bring high boots! On the way to the bog we saw pine forests with an undergrowth of blueberries turned bright red.
The bog was beautiful and tasty! I ate tart and refreshing cranberries. It was hard not to step on amazing plants, everywhere we looked there were carniverous Pitcher Plants Sarracenia purpurea . It makes sense there would be so many of these plants here, since the soil level is low in nutrients and high in acid, forcing plants to look for their nutrients elsewhere (namely, in bugs).
This set of Sarracenia are so red it looks like a crime scene!
I think the most beautiful scene we saw was watching the Eel Grass Zostera marina flow in the current of a shallow creek. The grass was so bright in the sun and so graceful. It was very peaceful and quiet at that moment.
Here are some photos of us collecting seeds and enjoying the day.
This little blue flower is the Gentiana autumnal, commonly known as the pine barren gentian! I also wanted to write about another outing I had, that I believe is somewhat related. This was last week, on another beautifully warm day, to the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, led by the Newtown Creek Alliance's Kate Zidar. I can't believe I've lived in Greenpoint for ten years and not gone on this walk before. I think it had something to do with it lining the sewage treatment plant that's turned me off before, but now I know it's really beautiful. I also think the design, which features many native plants and natural rocks, is partially inspired by the Pine Barrens landscape. Definitely check it out for yourselves and keep your eyes out for it's expansion over the next few years.
And last, though not least, a few weeks ago I spent a day with a reporter from Al Jazeera English on a tour of green infrastructure in the city for a short video piece they were doing. We visited the green wall at Hugo Neu Recycling in the South Bronx, the High Line, Eagle Street Farm, and one of the roofs we installed last year. The video is now online and looks pretty good.