Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting Out of the House With a Toddler: Burnt Mills Floodplain, Bedminster

My son points out the carpet of the invasive species lesser celandine, a floodplain scourge of early spring. I'm generally not a defeatist, but there's not a whole lot stewards can do about this one. I'm hoping for a native bug to decide it really, really likes to eat lesser celandine. Otherwise, spot treatment of small patches is recommended.
Headwaters Association's Burnt Mills Floodplain preserve, Bedminster, NJ

My father-in-law and grandmother(-in-law) were running late for dinner at Kiku Hibachi & Sushi in Bedminster. Our plan was to meet halfway between Yonkers and the Sourlands. Kiku was what Jared and my father-in-law chose.

Jared, who is always poking around NY-NJ-CT Botany for interesting places to hike found Raritan Headwaters Association's Burnt Mills Floodplain preserve.

RHA was formerly Upper Raritan Watershed Association and South Branch Watershed Association -- the groups merged and chose a much slicker and shorter by one word name. One day I'll seek out the conservation group with the longest name.

At this point, my own organization's name is in the winner's circle -- Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Six words, FoHVOS for short. Four of those letters are regularly misheard on the phone (F, H, V, & S), leaving only one letter that a good listener might catch when I spell the ending of my email address. "OK, I'll spell that for you: 'F' as in Frank, O, 'H' as in Harry, 'V' as in Victor, O, 'S' as in Sam."

Conservation groups have not caught onto the trend of using very short names in lower case. For profit entities roll with the market. For example, driving along Route 202 in Raritan, one sees a sign that reads "char." While, the restaurant is  formally called Char Steakhouse, the sign drops the capital letter 'C' and 'Steakhouse' to achieve "New York-style atmosphere." Tribe of Two Sheiks brand hummus tossed the sheiks and are now 'Tribe.' I'm sure I could name others, but in the interest of time, I'll make a couple business names up: pot (purveyor of fine toilets), house (another Pottery Barn-like box store), and pharm (flowers, cotton swabs, and prescriptions - drive-up).

 Bluebells about to bloom.

Burnt Mills Floodplain, like most natural areas in NJ, is a mixed bag of weeds, native trees, scraggly shrubs (one or two), and some herbs. The trail was brief and easy, with the sand being the most interesting feature to my son.

My husband and I bit our nails and stared at the celandine. I sighed and grabbed a single stem of spicebush, typically a common, clumping shrub. My husband briefly and politely noted my mumblings about deer browse. He pointed out barbed wire and wondered if bluebells survive a history of overpopulated herbivores -- deer and domestic grazers.

The trail disappeared. Our jackets were back in the car. Dinnertime was approaching. We turned back.

 Bluebells and lesser celandine. How are the bluebells competing? A study over time would be interesting. Bluebells are quite a tough soul, and a mover, too. We planted on individual in horrible clay fill in front of our house. Several years later, the original plant is increasing and has two more individuals along it's rhizome. Each are spaced about 8" apart.

Virginia waterleaf, a reclining species, takes refuge from the lesser celandine in the crotch of a tree. Otherwise, I didn't notice this regular native inhabitant of riparian areas and moist, fertile soils.

Father and son contemplate opposite sides of the trail. 

 "Ah, yes, sand. I love sand. I pick it up above my head and watch it stream from between my fingers." 

My son heads out.

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