Topic: Summary of the Annual Joint Field Meeting of the Northeastern Section of the Botanical Society of America, the Philadelphia Botanical Club, and the Torrey Botanical Society (June 1 – 5, 2008)

The Joint Field Meeting of the Northeastern Section of the Botanical Society of America, the Philadelphia Botanical Club, and the Torrey Botanical Society took place in the Pinelands National Reserve, New Jersey, on 1-5 June, 2008. Participants were housed at the Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education on Barnegat Bay in Waretown, Ocean County. Five experts on the regional flora served as trip leaders: Joseph Arsenault of Arsenault Consulting; Dr. Walter Bien of Drexel University; Ted Gordon, Director of Pine Barrens Inventories; Dr. Gerry Moore, Director of Science, Brooklyn Botanic Garden; and William Olson of Maser Consulting. Travel to sites in Ocean and Burlington Counties was in 4 vans and 4 private vehicles.

In preparation for Monday’s excursions, Walter Bien’s Sunday evening powerpoint program, “Fire Effects on the Pitch Pine Plains,” provided a comprehensive overview of the globally imperiled dwarf pitch pine (Pinus rigida) communities created and maintained by frequent intense fires. On Monday, following in the footsteps of botanists of the 19th and 20th centuries (J.H. Redfield, Constantine Rafinesque, John Torrey, Witmer Stone) in search of Corema conradii (broom crowberry) at its southernmost limit of range, we paused briefly at historic Cedar Bridge Tavern that welcomed these travelers who then went on to seek the crowberry on the West Plains. Our next stop at a nearby towering white pine plantation set out as seedlings in 1960 by forester Silas Little convinced us that soil impoverishment is not the cause of stunting in the plains. At the Le Clare homestead on the Little Plains near Warren Grove we again saw planted, non native trees that were protected from wildfire towering over the endemic stunted pines and scrub oaks in adjacent fire ravaged areas. Also observed were many members of the heath family, including large areas of Leiophyllum buxifolium (sand myrtle), some still in bloom. Extensive carpets of broom crowberry and patches of Pyxidanthera barbulata (pyxie) were also seen. After lunch we viewed the Lower Plains from an observation tower at the Warren Grove Air National Guard Gunnery Range. Here we visited anthropogenically disturbed sites harboring many rare pioneer species recently documented by Bien and Gordon. Of special note were Rhynchospora knieskernii, (Knieskern’s beaked rush), a large population of Gentiana autumnalis (pine barren gentian), and Muhlenbergia torreyana (Torrey’s muhly). Bien also discussed regeneration plots on severely disturbed sites maintained by his graduate students.

The evening slide-illustrated program, “Cedar Swamps, Savannahs, and Quaking Bogs of the New Jersey Pine Barrens,” was presented by Ted Gordon.

On Tuesday morning near Wells Mills County Park we walked through an Upland Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)-Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica) Forest with some Q. ilicifolia (bear oak), Q. stellata (post oak), and Sassafras albidum (sassafras). The understory was dominated by Gaylussacia frondosa (dangleberry), G. baccata (black huckleberry), and Vaccinium pallidum (lowbush blueberry). No additional tree species can tolerate the severe fires that shape this community. We also visited a fire-scorched Pitch Pine Lowland dominated by Calamovilfa brevipilis (pine barren reedgrass) and Gaylussacia dumosa (dwarf huckleberry). Both of these communities produced large populations of Xerophyllum asphodeloides (turkeybeard) whose flowers were severely browsed by deer. Next we entered an adjacent cedar swamp along Cold Brook to see Schizaea pusilla (curly grass fern) and, in anthesis, Arethusa bulbosa (dragon mouth).

At the Oswego Cranberry/Blueberry Experimental Station near Jenkins, Dr. Amy Howell presented a powerpoint program titled “The Health Benefits of Cranberries and Blueberries.” In a canal at the station we noted the rare Utricularia inflata (swollen bladderwort), the rare U. purpurea (purple bladderwort), and the common U. striata (striped bladderwort). After lunch we focused on the riverine savannahs, quaking bogs, and cedar swamps along the Oswego River above Martha Furnace. Highlights here were colorful sphagnum carpets, an abundance of flowering Sarracenia purpurea (pitcher plant), Utricularia cornuta (horned bladderwort), Narthecium americanum (bog asphodel), and Eriocaulon compressum (early pipewort). At the furnace site Liparis loeselii (Loesel’s twayblade) and a small glade harboring a dozen fern species, including Ophioglossum pussilum (northern adder’s tongue), attracted attention.

The evening powerpoint program by Gerry Moore was titled “Rare and Endangered Species of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.”
On Wednesday at Webbs Mills, the group traversed a boardwalk over a bog created by turf removal. Prolonged flooding by beaver had delayed flowering of many species. Carex exilis (coastal sedge) and a few dragon mouth were in bloom; bog asphodel and Lophiola aurea (gold crest) were in bud. The four leaders made a strong effort to teach the group to identify bog plants in their non-flowering state.

At Whitesbog, birthplace of the cultivated blueberry, we saw several banners of Calopogon tuberosus (grasspink), Polygala lutea (orange milkwort), Minuartia caroliniana (pine barrens sandwort), Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush), Nymphaea odorata (inc.forma rosea; fragrant white water lily), Itea virginica (Virginia willow), and two highlights, Uvularia puberula var. nitida (pine barren bellwort), and New Jersey’s only native occurrence of Schwalbea americana (chaffseed).

After botanizing the edge of Pakim Pond in Brendan Byrne (Lebanon) State Forest, we examined an advanced growth Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic white cedar) swamp along Shinn Branch. Here we noted Ilex laevigata (smooth winter holly), Triantalis borealis (star flower), Smilax walteri (coral greenbrier), Thelypteris simulata (bog fern), and Woodwardia areolata (netted chainfern).
In the evening a fine banquet was held at the nearby Captain’s Inn in Forked River. Potential sites for next year’s meeting were discussed leading to the possibility of the Pocono Mountains. Mark Demitroff, University of Delaware Permafrost Group, presented a powerpoint program titled “Pine Barrens Wetlands: Geographic Reflections of South Jersey’s Glacial Past.” Mark made a convincing case that permafrost played an important role in shaping regional wetlands in southern New Jersey.

Thanks go to the treasurer Karl Anderson, the assistant chair Walter Bien, the Wells Mills County Park staff and associates, and Patricia Gordon for assistance with all phases of this event. There were 58 participants. Trip report by Ted Gordon, fieldtrip chair.