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Plants of the Pine Barrens

Of the several thousand species of plants native to New Jersey, only about 550 species were known to occur in the Pine Barrens in the early 1900’s. Witmer Stone, the foremost authority on the vegetation of the Pine Barrens at that time, indicated that a good many of these were present only because people had amended the soil in the villages and industrial sites. He put the number of “true” Pine Barrens species at 386.

The flora of the Pinelands National Reserve is a more complicated matter. It contains most of the historical Pine Barrens ecosystem, but also considerable coastal areas and some Delaware Bay shore area. Also, the influence of people on the vegetation communities of the Pinelands region has increased exponentially.

Here we offer brief sketches of a few true Pine Barrens plants.

Pine Barrens Gentian, Bog Asphodel, and Swamp Pink are wetland flowers that are threatened or endangered globally and nationally, yet are locally abundant in the Pinelands.

Unknown to many, the Pinelands is home to a delightful array of wild orchids. Several, such as Rose Pogonia and Grass-pink, are very abundant and easily found along the Pinelands streams and in wet meadows and open swamps. Other orchids range from the rare to the imperiled, the most critically endangered being Spreading Pogonia, Yellow Fringeless Orchid, and Lace-lip Ladies’-tresses.

The Pinelands also hosts several species of carnivorous plants, including Pitcher Plants, Sundews, and Bladderworts, that have evolved their own unique ways to capture and consume insects and other tiny animals. Since the soil contains so few nutrients, the plants use the nitrogen obtained from their prey to supplement their diet.

Pine Barrens Trees

Woody plants can be divided into groups such as trees, shrubs, subshrubs, and vines, but some woody plants blur these distinctions. For general purposes we can think of trees as typically tall perennial woody plants with a single stem (trunk). There are only about twenty tree species native to the Pine Barrens.

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Shrubs

There are about 68 species of shrubs native to the Pinelands.

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Ferns & Fern Allies

The Pine Barrens is not particularly rich in ferns, but it does have several prominent and beautiful species.

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Herbaceous

There are over 250 native Pinelands plants in this informal category (excluding the Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes, q.v. Also, see the separate category for the Orchids.)

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Aquatic Herbaceous

Aquatic Herbaceous

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Orchids

Though all of our orchids are terrestrial herbaceous plants, they are so distinctive and so well-loved, we have given them a special place here.

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Rushes

Rushes are often confused with grasses and sedges because of superficial similarities, but they are quite distinct.

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Sedges

Routinely overlooked by some, the sedges (Cyperaceae family) are a ubiquitous and, ecologically, highly important component of the Pinelands flora.

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Grasses

Wildflower enthusiasts who disregard the grasses are certainly missing a big part of the show. The flowers produced by grasses are indeed small, but they are quite spectacular when viewed with a 10X hand lens.

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Vines

Any plants with long, trailing or climbing stems are commonly considered vines. Some are woody and others are herbaceous. We have about 16 such plants native to the Pinelands.

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Pinelands Native Plant Resources

Brochures, fact sheets, links and a list of retail and mail order native plant nurseries.

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Special Plants of New Jersey Fact Sheets

These fact sheets give identification details, conservation status, habitat descriptions, and additional information for each of the rare plant species listed below. The fact sheets were created by the Partnerships for New Jersey Plant Conservation, a group of scientists and citizens committed to saving New Jersey's incredible botanical heritage, and the New Jersey Natural Heritage Program. Please use and distribute these fact sheets!

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Recommended Resources:

Plants of the Pine Barrens (Georgian Court University)

Descriptions in this section are from New Jersey Wild Plants by Mary Hough

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