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BIOL 261 Ecology Field trip:

A trip to the Heart of the Pine Barrens

The Bog

We began our trip in a bog off of Route 539 about 5 miles south of Whiting. Professor Grembowicz explained that the Pine Barrens covers over one million acres, which accounts for over a quarter of the state’s total land area.

Stream leading to a burned out cedar bog off of Route 539. Photo by Dr. Jim BrownThe pitch pine Pinus rigida is the predominant tree, but the landscape is by no means barren. The Pine Barrens has over eight-hundred species of plants and nearly four hundred species of animals. The early settlers called it the pine barrens because it was difficult to grow traditional food crops because of the sandy, acidic and nutrient poor soil.

Some plant species have adapted to these poor soil conditions by gaining much needed nutrients, such as nitrogen, by "catching" insects. These include the Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea, Round Leaf Sundew Drosera rotundifolia, and Purple Bladderwort Utricularia purpurea. These insectiverous plants use three different but effective ways to trap insects.

The Pitcher Plant, an insectiverous plant found in the burnt out cedar bog. Photo by Dr. Jim Brown.The Pitcher Plant has leaves that collect rainwater through openings at the tops. Insects are attracted into the leaves "the pitcher" by a sweet-smelling substance produced by glands on the leaves. Once they are inside the leaf, the insects cannot escape due to downward growing hairs on the inside surface. The insects get tired and fall into the collected water. They eventually drown. Digestive enzymes break down the insect, and the nutrients are absorbed.

Pasedena Terra Cotta Factory

Exploring the abandoned terra cotta factory in the ghost town of Pasadena, NJ. Photo by Dr. Jim BrownOur next stop was one of the ghost towns of the Pine Barrens listed in Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey by Henry Charlton Beck. The Pasedena Terra Cotta Factory, was destroyed by fire in the early 1900's, but the ruins are only a few hundred feet from the roadway and the original Raritan and Delaware Bay Railroad (later called the Central Railroad of New Jersey). It was nestled in a scrub oak forest. Controlled burning has kept the oaks growing and prevent the "fire surviving" pitch pine from returning. It was surrounded by tall quaking aspen trees where are not native to New Jersey.

 

Apple Pie Hill

Apple Pie Hill is one of the highest points in the Pine Barrens, which is 209 feet above sea level. It can be reached by taking Route 532 West from Route 206 or by taking Route 532 East from Route 563. There is a 60 foot fire tower which the whole class climbed and gave us one of the most magnificent view of the Pine Barrens. You see a plain of pine trees that stretches to the horizon in every direction. It is close to Chatsworth which many call the capitol of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Ecology field trip at the highest elevation in the Pine Barrens, Apple Pie Hill. Photo: Dr. Jim Brown

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