The wilds of New Jersey

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Yup, that’s New Jersey. We hiked in Norvin Green State Forest near Wanaque today. Note the slight hint of red on the maples–it’s been a cool summer (but today it was quite hot).

Each year, we participate in the Invasives Strike Force, a partnership among several environmental organizations sponsored by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The Strike Force is a citizen-scientist program that trains interested people to monitor hiking trails for invasive plants and then goes out and eradicates invasives along our lovely local hiking trails. You attend a training session and then are assigned a trail section, usually a 2-mile loop; following a specific protocol, you check that trail for invasive plants. I’m happy to say that we saw very few invasives on our trail section today, except near the roads, and those most of those we did find were still few in number so should be fairly easy to control.

We hiked through a beautiful second-growth forest primarily of oaks (red and chestnut oak) and red maple with an understory of witchhazel and a shrub layer of blueberries. The ground layer was very varied; in addition to gazillions of blueberry bushes, there was Solomon’s seal, ferns, sedges, Canada mayflower, hepatica, and many, many other plants. On rocky outcroppings there was little bluestem, a native prairie grass.

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And, of course, there was abundant wildlife, including numerous amphibians and lots of spiders.

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Our dog, Fudge, always accompanies us on hikes and is expert at finding the trail when we are in danger of losing it. We think he must smell the presence of humans. The trails we were on today were little used and could have done with a few more blazes, but Fudge kept us going in the right direction. He’s not as young as he used to be, so he takes every opportunity to lie down in a cool spot.

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He’s lying in a patch of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). Notice how it crowds out all other vegetation–a textbook example of invasiveness.

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