On September 21 2014 Maria Rossi led our chapter on a discovery tour through Somerset County’s portion of the Great Swamp which includes about 425 acres and is located in Lord Stirling Park. We met at the Environmental Education Center to begin our walk.
About 3 years ago a native plant rain garden was established in front of the Environmental Education Center. The rain garden flourished and contains Royal Fern Osmunda regalis, Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica, Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis, Asters Aster spp., Goldenrods Solidago spp., Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis and more. Nearby we visited teaching gardens which included another native plant garden, a scent/herb garden and a touch garden.
Maria led us on a walk through woods and meadows. An early rainfall had collected on the spider webs making them conspicuous. The flowers of goldenrod and asters were spectacular despite the cloudy day. We admired the brilliant red of Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia and Poison Ivy Toxicodendron radicans. A Monarch butterfly landed on a New England Aster Aster novae-angliae.
On May 8, 2014 the American Chestnut Foundation partnered with the Somerset County Park Commission on an experiment to restore American chestnut trees whose population had been decimated by Cryphonectria parasitica. Excerpts from a sign outside the enclosure for the trees tell us:
“The American chestnut Castanea dentata once dominated 200 million acres of Eastern forest. Wood from the trees supported the US economy and our way of life. Chestnuts were a primary source of food for wildlife, livestock and people. Roasted chestnuts were sold by street vendors. In the late 1800s Cryphonectria parasitica, the fungal pathogen that causes chestnut blight, arrived from Asia.”
An overpopulation of deer has impacted the forest understory in the Great Swamp. Four deer exclosure fences have been erected to give native plants a chance to recover. Maria took us into one exclosure that had been closed off for several years. We found saplings of many native species including Spicebush Lindera benzoin, Sweet Pepperbush Clethra alnifolia, Pin Oak Quercus palustris, Red Oak Quercus rubra, Red Maple Acer rubrum, Hackberry Celtis occidentalis and Arrowwood Viburnum Viburnum dentatum. We plan to return in May to look for and record spring ephemerals.
Our visit ended with a gift - nutritious bouquets of kale from the EEC vegetable garden. Thank you, Maria.
Belinda Beetham and Mary Denver, Co-leaders of Highland Park Regional Chapter
Amelanchier sp. serviceberry
Cephalanthus occidentalis buttonbush
Clethra alnifolia sweet pepperbush
Hamamelis virginiana witch-hazel
Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire
Myrica pensylvanica Northern bayberry
Rubus allegheniensis blackberry
Rubus occidentalis black raspberry
Vaccinium sp. blueberry bush
Viburnum dentatum arrowwood viburnum
Viburnum opulus cranberrybush viburnum
Ageratina altissima white snakeroot
Aster novae-angliae New England aster
Aster spp. Asters many species
Bidens sp. beggar ticks
Boehmeria cylindrica false nettle
Coreopsis verticillata tickseed
Eupatorium maculatum Joe pye
Hackelia virginiana stickseed
Lobelia cardinalis cardinal flower
Lobelia siphilitica great blue lobelia
Penstemon digitalis beardtongue
Solidago spp. Goldenrods, many species
Tovara virginiana jumpseed
Onoclea sensibilis sensitive fern
Osmunda regalis royal fern
Clematis virginiana virgin's bower
Parthenocissus quinquefolia virginia creeper
Toxicodendron radicans poison ivy
Vitis spp. grape vines