A Trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens

Photo by Marni Majorelle.
Photo by Marni Majorelle.
Photo by Marni Majorelle.
Photo by Marni Majorelle.
Photo by Marni Majorelle.
Photo by Marni Majorelle.
Photo by Marni Majorelle.

Last month, two great friends of BBG traveled with Native Flora Garden curator Uli Lorimer to the New Jersey Pine Barrens to explore the area’s wealth of plant life, collect seeds, and sample ripe cranberries.

BBG members Lola Lloyd Horwitz and Marni Majorelle are not only expert gardeners with decades of horticultural experience, they are also mother and daughter! Please see below for Marni’s account of this unique family outing, originally published on her blog, alivestructures.blogspot.com.

A Trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens

By Marni Majorelle

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 led 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 Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Native Flora Garden.

The following images illustrate the type of moonscape that exists in this sandy environment.

Broom crowberry (Corema conradii) mixed with bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) 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 pitch pine (Pinus rigida), which surrounded the sandy paths we walked on and provided a unique sense of enclosure amid trees only slightly bigger than us. The pitch pine is accompanied by scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia).

At the next site we visited my feet got pretty wet and muddy; thankfully it was warm and 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, from bugs). This set of Sarracenia was 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.

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