April 17, 2024

New Jersey Lichens I Have Learned

Remember that I am not in any way a lichen expert. This is just my notes of what I have had IDed for me over the years as I photograph lichens.

Tree Trunk Lichens (roughly in the order that I learned them)

Common Greenshield (Flavoparmelia caperata):

  • Big, greenish circles, often 6 inches in diameter but varying in size.
  • Greener than most other lichen
  • No discs (apothecia)

Rough Speckled Shield Lichen (Punctelia rudecta):

  • big, grayish circles, often 6 inches in diameter but varying in size.
  • White dots all over the lichen.
  • Center is rougher and browner than edge, with tiny lumps (isidia)

Candleflame Lichen (Candelaria concolor):

  • yellow specks
  • looking closely, they always have an actual thallus, branching leaf-like form
  • not a particular shape, just patches that blend into one another

Rosette lichen (Physcia millegrana)

  • lots of little gray-green flakes.
  • no real shape, but they cover much of the background of many tree trunks.
  • Often has round reporductive discs (apothecia)

Orange-Cored Shadow Lichen (Phaeophyscia rubropulchra):

  • very dark gray, hard to see against most bark
  • largely oval in outline but generally two inches or less in diameter
  • very divided thallus
  • orange if you break it open

Hammered Shield Lichen (Parmelia sulcata):

  • Gray colored, generally smaller than common or rough speckled.
  • surface covered in dents, somewhat like it's been beaten with a ball-peen hammer
  • Branches in thallus much narrower than in the big shield lichens.

Smooth bark lichens:

Common Script Lichen (Graphis scripta)

  • white oval patches (often wider than tall)
  • dark squiggles (actually reproductive discs, apothecia, but not disc shaped)
  • most often on hornbeam

Common button lichen (Buellia erubescens):

  • small, oval, light gray or bark colored patches with scattered black warts

Rim lichens (Lecanora spp.):

  • generally gray-green oval patches.
  • obvious reproductive discs (apothecia) with rims the same color as the lichen
  • the center of the disk roughly indicates the species: waxy yellow = mealy, dark brown = bumpy, pink and small = pink-eyed, white = frosted. This is not entirely reliable nor are these the only rim lichens.

Mapledust Lichen (Lecanora thysanophora):

  • almost never has disks
  • much lighter colored rim around the whole lichen
  • generally on maples.
  • more common north of NJ

Lichens on branches (all of the bark lichens, plus):

Common Ruffle lichen:

  • edge of thallus turned up and ruffly
  • edge has conspicuous black "eyelashes" (rhyzomes)
  • edge often mealy looking

Star Rosette Lichen (Physcia stellaris) (can be on trunk as well):

  • gray-white thallus.
  • branches are somewhat tubular looking and smooth
  • often has reproductive disks (apothecia) in a darker color.

Strap lichen (Ramalina americana)

  • bushy but with strap like branches
  • reproductive discs big and balanced on edges of leaf like a plate on the edge of a board.
  • not commonly seen except on recently planted nursery trees.

Bushy beard lichen (Usnea strigosa)

  • bushy with stringy branches
  • each branch has tiny branchlets at ninety degree angles to it all over
  • reproductive discs big and balanced on edges of leaf like a plate on the edge of a board.
  • not commonly seen except on recently planted nursery trees.

Lichens on fences, or on the bases of trees (most of the above lichens plus)

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella and C. floerkeana)

  • green "matchsticks" with red tips
  • base made up of gray-green flakes
  • C. cristatella is not as bumpy on the "sticks" as C. floerkana

Common Powderhorn (Cladonia coniocraea)

  • just the green sticks, with no red tips
  • base is gray-green flakes
  • at the base of trees almost all blue-green or gray-green flakes are this species.
  • there are many less common Cladonia species on horizontal wood, often with cups at tips of sticks

Lichens on bare ground:

Turban cap lichen (Cladonia peziziformis)

  • gray-green sticks with big, pinkish-brown caps
  • sometimes also grows on decaying cement

Dixie Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia subtenuous)

  • like a tangled mass of yarn
  • branches fork in "y"s which then fork in "y"s etc.
  • greener and more common than the other reindeer lichen

Gray Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia rangiferina)

  • tangled mass
  • grayer and not as clearly "y"-branched as Dixie
  • almost only ever found on coastal plane, less common.

Lichen on sidewalks (and gravestones)

Sidewalk Firedot

-circular collections of bright orange or red-orange discs.

Note the various candleflame, goldspeck, and gold dust lichens can also be on sidewalks, as can various crusty green ones that I can't identify

Lichens on Rocks

Smokey-eyed Boulder Lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens)

  • oval splashes of white or light
  • covered in reproductive discs, especially in the center
  • discs are waxy gray with black rims.

Rock Greenshield (Flavoparmelia baltimorensis)

  • like a common greenshield on rock
  • center is noticeably more brown than edges
  • smoother looking than common greenshield

Note that common greenshield can also grow on rocks

note that there are a lot more lichens that I cannot yet ID, especially on rocks.

Posted on April 17, 2024 12:58 AM by srall srall | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 13, 2024

NJ Moss notes

This is very rough and tentative; I am by no means a moss expert.

First off, there are three main classes of moss commonly seen in NJ:

  • Sphagnum (Sphagnopsida)
  • Haircap / Smoothcap (Polytrichum/Atrichum) (Polytrichopsida)
  • Everybody else (Bryopsida)

So, if you learn the first two, you can label everything else "Bryopsida" and be fairly confident.
Sphagnum moss

  • Wet ground
  • Central star of short branches above whirl of longer branches
  • can be several inches "tall" and are actually even longer but buried in debris.
  • often look wet and squishy or wooly
  • often light green or reddish
  • whorl generally under 1 inch diameter

a sphagnum moss

a sphagnum moss

a sphagnum moss which has been knocked on its side
Haircap and Smoothcap (Polytrichum / Polytrichastrum and Atrichum)

  • Look like little stars
  • Haircap when dry fold upward like little paint brush tips
  • Smoothcap when dry crinkle into tight, squiggly clumps
  • Haircap have longer, narrower leaves and can be several inches tall
  • Smoothcap have broader leaves and are rarely more than an inch high if that.

Haircap (moist) narrow stars

Smoothcap (moist) broad-leaved stars

Haircap (dry) leaves fold up

Smoothcap (dry) leaves crumple and crinkle inward

Note that Thyme Moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) can also look star-like at the tips of the stalks, but the leaves are even broader, oval shaped, and the stems have oval shaped leaves not in whorls.

Thyme moss (not in the haircap/smoothcap group)


Everybody Else (Bryopsida)

These are roughly in the order in which I learned them.

Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum)

  • very common in woods
  • tapered from base to tip in a long triangle
  • has side branches, so looks "twice compound" like a fern
  • side branches are somewhat loose and messy

Delicate fern moss

a few mosses can be confused with it. Brocade is common, but each stem looks rolled in at the edges. Redstem Feather is very uncommon and much looser.

Brocade Moss (Callicladium imponens)

  • common in woods
  • tapered from base to tip in a triangle
  • each side branch has leaves neatly rolled under
  • tips of side branches lighter
  • looks like it was embroidered, very tight and tidy

Brocade moss

Cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum)

  • grows in clumps
  • light colored, often blue-green
  • leaves are elongated and look succulent
  • common in woods
  • another species, white moss (Leucobryum albidum) is less common but present

Cushion moss

a big patch of cushion moss

Silvery Bryum (Bryum argentium)

  • the sidewalk-crack moss
  • leaves so tiny the whole moss looks velvety
  • sometimes grayish but can be green or red-brown
  • can grow away from pavement but likes rock and poor soil

Silvery Bryum

a similar moss, but much less common, in similar situations, but with longer leaves is:
Redshank (Ceratodon purpureus)

Redshank (you can see individual leaves)

Thyme moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum)

  • oval leaves alternate along stem
  • somewhat transluscent
  • leaves have definite midvein and a sharp tip

Thyme moss

Tree Moss (Climacium americanum et al.) There are several species in our area, hard to separate

  • big for a moss, like 3 inches tall
  • long, inch-long, branches in loose whorls
  • small leaves mostly appressed to the branchlet
  • not too common, wood edge

tree moss

Bristle moss (Orthotrichum stellatum et al.) There are several species in our area, hard to separate

  • grows on tree branches
  • round clumps
  • like little stars
  • "fruit" are oval and among the leaves (technically the capsule of the sporophyte)

Bristle moss

This is very commonly mixed up with crisped pincushion moss (Ulota crispa) which is a more northern species and has its "fruit" in elongated capsules that stick up well above the leaves

Crisped pincushion

Fork moss (Dicranum sp.)

  • looks brushed to one side
  • long, silky looking leaves
  • forest floor or boulders (two different species)
  • grows in clumps

Fork moss

Tree skirt moss (Pseudoanomodon attenuatus)

  • grows on the base of trees (or sometimes elsewhere)
  • grows down and spreads outward
  • new growth looks like little lighter colored balls at the tips of branches

Tree skirt moss

Tree skirt moss

Note that other mosses also grow on tree bases.
Other, more challenging mosses:

There are lots of other mosses in NJ that are either less common or more challenging to ID.

Rock mosses (Grimiaceae) are dark mosses in clumps on boulders.

an example of a rock moss (the yellow-green is not)

Bladder moss (Physcomitrium pyriforme) grows in disturbed soil and has very round "fruit" (sporophyte capsules) on little stems above a clump of velvety-looking moss

Bladder moss

Apple moss is much the same, but with long, silky leaves, and "fruit" on droopy stems

Apple moss

Seductive Entodon moss (Entodon seductrix) has long, smooth branches with leaves tightly appressed all the way around, like tiny ropes (It also has the weirdest name of any common moss, someone spent way too long in the lab!)

Seductive Entodon moss

Spoon leaved moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra) is similar but grows upward and the leaves are not as tight to the stems. The tips are light. This is an extremely common species in the woods by me

Spoon-leaved moss

Pocket moss (Fissidens taxifolius) is a neat little moss that likes wet and looks like someone ironed tiny Cristmas tree branches.

Pocket moss

Plait moss (Hypnum cupressiforme et al.) are several messy looking forest floor mosses that I never try to actually ID. they look something like this

Probably a Plait moss

Branch moss (Callicladium haldanianum) is another messy moss that I can't ID. It's shiny.

Probably branch moss

Lindberg's hypnum (Calliergonella lingbergii) is another messy moss, more spreading in the leaves. I can't ID it, either

probably Lindberg's hypnum

Red-stem feather moss (Pleurozium schreberi) is another messy moss, but it has a distinct red stem at least

Red-stem feather moss

And hoar moss (Hedwigia ciliata) is a cute little bristly-looking clumping moss of boulders (and old roof shingles) that I've just learned

Hoar moss
For those of you into the taxonomy of it all, the Bryopsidas here fall into 6 orders:

  • Hypnales
  • Dicranales
  • Bryales
  • Orthotrichales
  • Funariales
  • Hedwigiales

Hypnales is the most complex, with 7 families:

  • Bracytheciaceae (spoon leaved moss)
  • Hypnaceae (branch moss, brocade moss, red stem feather moss)
  • Neckeraceae (tree skirt moss)
  • Thuidiaceae (fern moss)
  • Entodontaceae (seductive Entodon)
  • Climaciaceae (tree moss)
  • Pylaisiaceae (Lindberg's Hypnum)

Dicranales has 4 families:

  • Dicranaceae (fork moss)
  • Leucobryaceae (cushion)
  • Ditrichaceae (redshank)
  • Fissidentaceae (pocket moss)

Bryales has 2 families:

  • Mniaceae (thyme moss)
  • Bryaceae (silvery Bryum)

Orthotrichales has one

  • Orthotrichaceae (bristle moss, crisp pincushion moss)

Funariales has one

  • Funariaceae (bladder moss)

and Hedwigiales has one

  • Hedwigiaceae (hoar moss)
Posted on January 13, 2024 06:50 PM by srall srall | 4 comments | Leave a comment

September 19, 2023

Centaurea (Knapweeds) in New Jersey

Note: these are my notes, they may well be incorrect.

Knapweeds are best identified from a side-view of the flowerhead, which shows clear details of the phyllary bracts (green or brown overlapping "scales" at the base of the "flower")

Most common in central NJ (my area) is C. nigrescens, Tyrol knapweed. Each bract has a larger green triangle at the base, with a smaller, dark (black or brown) roundish disk on the end, which is fringed with 5-8 bristles on each side. The green triangle never has bristles outside of the disk. The disc does not obscure your view of other bracts.

Most common in NJ as a whole (and especially in the coastal plains) is C. stoebe, spotted knapweed. Each bract is triangular shaped with length-wise stripes and a dark border on the upper third. This dark border has bristles. Also, the basal leaves are very divided, moreso than in other Centaurea species.

Batchelor's buttons, C. cyanus supposedly is a common escape in NJ. It has bright blue flowers with very broad ray flowers, a very different color from any other of the knapweed species.

Brown knapweed, C. jacea has larger flowerheads than either Tyrol or spotted knapweed. It's bracts are brown and papery, not triangular-shaped. They can be somewhat bristly at the base of the phyllary, but near the "flower" they are not and are often notched. They are not green, not striped, and not narrow.

Black knapweed, C. nigra, is not often seen in NJ. It's bracts seem to be all fringe. They are very narrowly triangular and obscure the bases of the other bracts. They have more than 8 bristles on a side.

There is a hybrid of brown and black knapweed, Monckton's knapweed, C. moncktonia. It has strongly fringed lower bracts and papery, notched upper bracts. I believe this is it here:

Finally, there is the garden flower, perennial coneflower, c. montana. It has blue ray flowers that are extremely narrow and widely spaced. I don't believe it escapes:

Posted on September 19, 2023 08:56 PM by srall srall | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Rubus in New Jersey

(these are just my notes; I am not an expert)
In New Jersey we have:

Wineberry (R. phoenicolasias): fuzzy red stems

Black raspberry (R. occidentalis): blue-gray, round stems

(Red raspberry) (R. idaeus) (mostly north of NJ): blue-green or red-green, round stems

Cut-leaved blackberry (R. laciniatus): deeply lobed leaflets

Sand blackberry (R. cunefolius): wedge-shaped, smallish leaflets

Purple flowering raspberry (R. odoratus): leaves not divided, currant or maple-like

Common dewberry (R. flagellaris): trailing with prickles on stems, dull leaves

Swamp dewberry (R. hispidus): trailing with bristles and some prickles on stems, shiny leaves

Common blackberry (R. allegheniensis): fluted stems, flowers in clusters of more than 12, in a raceme, glandular flowerstalks

Pennsylvania blackberry (R. pensylvanicus): fluted stems, flowers in clusters of fewer than 12, not very glandular, not always a raceme and if so a short one.

note: in separating the raspberries: R. idaeus has pinnately compound leaves (you'll see this on the new growth)
while R. occidentilis is virtually always trifoliate.

And obviously the fruit of R. idaeus is red and of R. occidentalis is black.

Posted on September 19, 2023 05:32 PM by srall srall | 5 comments | Leave a comment

April 07, 2022

Opuntia in New Jersey

Opuntia humifusa is the more common cactus on the dunes in NJ.

  • Its flowers have no red in the center. It never has any spines.
  • Its areoles (the dark spots) should not have much in the way of obvious spined hairs (but this is subtle)

If it has red in the flowers or any spines it is probably O. caespitosa.

  • This is the much less common cactus of the Jersey Shore.
  • Pretty much all cacti with spines are this, but it can also completely lack spines.
  • It has flowers with red centers (always).
  • Its areoles (the dark spots) have lots of spiny hairs that should be relatively easy to see.

Note that there are two weird species of Opuntia on Long Beach Island and Brigantine.

  • O. durmmundii has tiny pieces to it
  • O. lindheimeri is very upright not sprawling as the main two

O. humifusa (yellow flowers):

O. caespitosa (I think) (spines):

Posted on April 07, 2022 07:23 PM by srall srall | 3 comments | Leave a comment

January 01, 2021

Ligustrum spp. (Privets) in New Jersey

I am not an expert, this is just what I've learned so far:

There are four privets in New Jersey: border (L. obtusifolium), common (L. vulgare), Chinese (L. sinense) and California (L. ovalifolium).

In central NJ border privet is vastly more commonly escaped than all the others put together.

California privet has shiny twigs (branchlets) that are entirely smooth. All others have dull twigs.

Border privet is either deciduous or semi-evergreen. All the others are evergreen or semi-evergreen, so a privet with no leaves in late winter is border.

-California privet always has pointed leaves.
-Border privet never has pointed leaves (they are blunt, rounded or indented)
-Chinese and common can have either pointed or rounded leaves.

Common privet only has flowers/fruit at the ends of branches, never in the axils. All others can have axillary clusters of flowers/fruit.

All privets can have flower/fruit clusters around 2 inches long. Only border privet can have clusters smaller than that. Chinese and California clusters can be up to 4 inches long.

-Border and Chinese privets have dull, blue fruit (because of a bloom on the fruit). Every now and then this gets rubbed off, leaving shiny black fruit, but it's rare, and generally still present toward the center of the cluster.
-Common and California privets have shiny, black fruit.

Chinese privet has stems of individual flowers and fruit longer than 1/2 inch. All other privets have short stems

-Chinese and common privet have flowers with petal lobes about equal to length of tube. Chinese also has reproductive parts sticking out well beyond the tube (common does not).
-California and border privet have flowers with petal lobes much shorter than their very long tubes. (but California has shiny twigs and border has dull and hairy)

Border (and only border) can have 1-inch, pointed, somewhat thorn-like branchlets. They are not always present.


To prove (or disprove) you have border privet:

-when flowers are present: long tubes on flowers, twigs not shiny

-when fruit is present: fruit is dull blue, not shiny black; there are any fruit clusters under 2 inches, also some clusters not terminal; stems of each fruit under 1/2 inch; whole cluster under 2.5 inches; stems of fruit hairy.

-when only leaves present: leaves are not pointed, small twigs are not shiny, leaves are not thick and leathery. (This will not be enough to prove you have it, it only definitively rules out California). Also, a very close shot of hairs on small twigs will show them to be of very differing lengths (that would prove L. obtusifolium). Border privet is the only one with 1-inch, pointed, somewhat thorn-like branchlets, if you see these, it's definitive.

-when no leaves present (and healthy buds present): the only privet that will lose all its leaves in winter (and it doesn't always) is border. To prove it's not some other genus, make sure the buds and branches are opposite, the bark is not shreddy, no buds are more than 3 times larger than the smallest buds, no buds are more than 2 times longer than wide, no buds are red. Look for 1-inch, somewhat thorn like side branches (this is pretty much the only shrub with opposite buds and "thorns", if these are present).

Posted on January 01, 2021 02:02 PM by srall srall | 4 comments | Leave a comment

November 27, 2020

Vaccinium sp. and Gaylussacia sp. in Central New Jersey

I am not very experienced with unusual blueberries. This does not include Pine Barrens species. I am not an expert, this is what I've learned so far:

The common highbush blueberry in central NJ is northern highbush blueberrry (V. corymbosum). It is generally taller than an adult, has spindly branches that can be green or red (or brown) and conspicuous red buds in winter. It has pale pink or white flowers and blue fruit, and the leaves do not have any resin dots but are minutely fringed on the edges. This is the blueberry sold in grocery stores. It often has blueberry stem galls, with a walnut-sized, lima-bean shaped growth that makes the stem bend at 90 degrees. Highbush blueberry grows in damp soil.

The common short blueberry in the Watchungs is Blue Ridge blueberry (V. pallidum). It is often only knee high, not above waist high, grows in dry soil, has very narrow, often green branches that are not smooth, and has leaves that often lack teeth. The fruit are small and dark blue.

The only other short blueberry is common lowbush (V. angustifolium). It always has teeth on the leaf edges and is never lighter below. Otherwise very like V. pallidum. Note that taller berry trees can be short when young or growing in adverse conditions.

Tall or tallish blueberries and huckleberries in order of how common they are here:
-northern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum)
-black huckleberry (G. baccata)
-deerberry (V. stamineum)
-dangleberry (G. frondosa)

How to separate the tall species:

-narrow (longer than wide) and white or pale pink: highbush
-narrow (longer than wide) and dark pink/red: huckleberry
-broad (wider than long), white, but still bell shaped, narrowed near tip: dangleberry
-broad (wider than long), white, not bell shaped, spreading lobes: deerberry

-stem not much longer than fruit, blue: highbush
-stem not much longer than fruit, black: huckleberry
-stem much longer than fruit, fruit blue: dangleberry
-stem much longer than fruit, an odd bluish green: deerberry

-wide or narrow, with yellowish, sticky glands on both sides, no teeth: dangleberry
-not narrow, with yellowish, sticky glands only below, no teeth: huckleberry
-not narrow, no glands, often widest below middle, with ciliate edge, can be toothed: highbush
-not narrow, no glands, generally widest at middle, no teeth, no cilia on edge: deerberry

-red and round: highbush
-red and sharp: huckleberry
-not red, but round: deerberry
-not red, but pointed: dangleberry.

Posted on November 27, 2020 03:42 PM by srall srall | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 22, 2020

Persicaria sp. in New Jersey

I am not an expert. This is what I've learned so far:

Smartweeds have flowers in a cluster at the end of the stem.

If the flowers are all single or in little clusters where the leaves attach to the stem you have a knotweed instead (Polygonum sp.).

Smartweeds have sheaths (ocreae) where the leaves meet the stem, and the upper edge of this sheath often has a fringe of hairs (cilia) growing up from it along the stem. These are very important in deciding which species you have.

Distinctive Species:

Jumpseed (P. virginiana)
Huge rounded leaves (the size and shape of a large lemon, though flat (obviously)). Marked with a dark triangle that is only on the center half of the leaf, not near either edge. This dark mark (chevron) fades by the time the plant flowers. Flowers are very spread out along a huge stem, at least a foot long. Flowers are white or green. Soon replaced by green fruit.

Asian Jumpseed (P. filiformis)
Same as Jumpseed but with dark marks extending to the edges of the leaf, still present when flowering, and flowers dark pink.

Halberd-leaved Tearthumb (P. arifolia)
Leaves large and triangular with the bottom corners very elongated and pointed away from the stem. The whole leaf about 4 inches long. The plant is covered in backward-curved prickles that can tear skin and cling to clothing. Flowers are only about a half a dozen, light or dark pink or white, in a loose cluster at the ends of long, bristly stems. This plant only grows in wet soil.

Arrow-leaved Tearthumb (P. sagittata)
Like the above, this plant is covered in backward-facing bristles that can tear skin and stick to clothing. The leaves, however, are basically long oval shaped, but with a triangular notch where the stem attaches to the leaf, leaving two very sharp, downward-facing lower lobes. The flowers are in roughly marble-shaped-and-sized clusters in white or pink. This plant only grows in wet soil and often forms very large colonies.

Mile-a-Minute: (P. perfoliata)
Leaves like a rounded equilateral triangle, with the stem attached just in from one side. Plant is a vine, climbing over shrubs and other vegetation thanks to backward-facing bristles that can tear skin and cling to clothing. Flowers are green in a tight cluster the size and shape of a grape, which turn into sky blue fruit, and seem to grow out of the center of a round leaf. This is an aggressive weed and does not need wet soil.

Nepal Smartweed (P. nepalensis)
Leaves like an elongated triangle but with the stem attached at the edge of the smallest side. The leaves are sessile (they don't have much of a stem). Plant is not bristly. flowers grow in a small, round cluster about the size and shape of a marble, out of the base of the uppermost leaf. Flowers are white. Leaves often have a red edge. Not found in NJ (that I know of) but present in several spots in upstate New York.

Most Common New Jersey species:

Low Smartweed (P. longiseta)
Dark pink, narrow, dense clusters of flowers max about 2 inches long, not nodding, with long hairs among the flowers. The clusters have the overall width of maybe a section of pipe cleaner. The lower part of the cluster may be somewhat interrupted. Sheaths have fringe that is nearly as long as the sheath itself. Grows in disturbed areas and does not need to be wet.
Also has smooth stems, smooth leaves, leaf stems under 1/4 inch, no hair on edges of leaves, largest leaves generally under 2 1/2 inches. Can have dark marks on leaves but these are not highly contrasting with surrounding leaf. Some hair on sheaths themselves but it is flat to the sheath, not sticking out. Usually does not form large patches of plants. (See also Lady's thumb, swamp, and dense-flowered smartweeds below).

Dotted Smartweed (P. punctata)
Interrupted, narrow clusters of white or green flowers, usually held upright or sometimes drooping, clusters usually not more than 3 inches long. Sheaths have fringe about half the length of the sheath.
Also has stems either smooth or with short hairs growing along the stem (not sticking straight out), Leaves can also be either smooth or with hairs pressed to the surface of the leaf. leaves have a stalk about 1/2 inch or less, and largest leaves are about 5 inches. Base of leaf is tapered to stem. If you look very closely at individual flowers you can see dots or bumps on them. (This is by no means the only species with these dots.) Must grow in wet soil. Often in large patches of several plants together. (see also waterpepper, swamp, dense-flowered, and Carey's smartweeds below)

Pinkweed (P. pensylvanica)
Broad, tight clusters of light pink flowers. Flowers a little larger than other smartweeds. Whole cluster generally not more than 1 1/2 inches long. Base of cluster never tapered. Sheaths never have any fringe. Upper stem is usually not smooth, but also does not have hairs sticking straight out from the stem.
Also can have white or darker pink flowers but this is rare. Leaves are large, the big ones are about 5 inches long and they have definite stems, about 1/2 inch long. Must grow in wet soil and often forms large colonies. (see also small and water smartweeds below)

Pale Smartweed (P. lapathifolia)
Very large smartweed with dense, drooping clusters of pale flowers. Clusters generally up to about 4 inches long. Sheaths never have any fringe. Stems noticeably broader than other smartweeds, commonly up to 1/2 inch wide at sheaths.
Also can have white or darker pink flowers. Leaves can be hairy near the margins or along the center vein. Larger leaves can be up to about 8 inches long and are often 6 inches. Leaves often have a dark triangular mark (chevron) in the center. Leaves have a definite but short stem, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Sheaths are large, up to about 1 inch long, and can have stripes.This plant does not have to grow in wet soil but usually does. It is annual and easy to pull out of the soil. (see also Carey's, stout and Far Eastern smartweeds and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate below)

Other New Jersey Smartweeds

Lady's Thumb (P. maculosa)
Similar to low smartweed, but has tight, narrow clusters (not interrupted at the bottom of the cluster) of flowers that are both light and dark pink in the same cluster, with flowers that open wide, and without any hairs in the flower cluster. The sheaths have fringe that is much less than half as long as the sheaths themselves. The leaves usually have a dark triangular mark on them.
Also has longer leaf stems than low smartweed (over 1/4 inch), with larger leaves (over 2 1/2 inches for the largest). The leaves can have some hair, but it would be flattened to the leaf surface, or they can be smooth as in low smartweed. They are not linear but rather sort of long ovals as in most smartweeds. Does not grow in standing water, does not generally need wet soil, and does not usually grow in colonies.

Swamp Smartweed (P. hydropiperoides)
Similar to low smartweed, but with narrow, dense clusters of pale pink or white flowers always held upright (though they can be slightly bent). Clusters up to about 2 inches long. Grows in colonies in very wet soil, often in standing water.
Also has leaves fairly long and narrow for a smartweed, but not grasslike. Sheaths have a long fringe, nearly as long as the sheath, but there are no hairs among the flowers. Flower clusters appear tapered at the tip more often than in most other smartweeds. Flower clusters often interrupted toward base.

Dense-Flowered Smartweed (P. glabra)
Similar to low smartweed but with longer, very dense, narrow clusters of dark pink flowers, never interrupted, no long hairs among flowers, clusters about 2 inches long, or more. Leaves never with dark marks. Fringe on sheaths present but much shorter than sheath. Grows in wet soil. Uncommon.

Waterpepper (P. hydropiper)
Similar to dotted smartweed but with very long, drooping, narrow, highly interrupted clusters of often dark pink flowers (though it can be pale pink or white). Clusters are often more than 6 inches long. The lowermost flowers actually grow at the bases of the uppermost (very small) leaves and are surrounded by the sheaths. This is a fairly common and subtly pretty smartweed of wet areas.
Also even the largest leaves are generally under 3 inches, and the leaf bases are not as tapered as in most smartweeds. Stems and leaves never have any hair at all. Stems are often red (but not always) Like dotted smartweed, if you look very closely at the flowers you will see they are covered in dots or bumps. The sheaths have short fringe, well less than half as long as the sheath.

Carey's Smartweed (P. careyi)
A rather large smartweed with drooping clusters of flowers in white or light pink, but covered all over with extremely long hair that sticks straight out from the stem, unlike any other smartweed (though kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate has similar hair on sheathes only). Grows in wet areas. Uncommon

Small Smartweed (P. glabra)
Similar to pinkweed, but with very narrow leaves about three inches long but only 1/2 inch wide, with a pale midvein, rather like crocus leaves, or small blades of grass, but distributed along the stem as in other smartweeds. Flowers in a fairly dense, wide cluster but can be looser, narrower, and longer than pinkweed, and flower color can be darker or lighter than pinkweed. Sheaths have short fringe. Does not have to grow in wet soil. Uncommon.

Water Smartweed (P. amphibia)
Similar to pinkweed but growing in standing water. Leaves often floating on surface of water but can be freestanding as in typical smartweeds. Flower cluster very dense, up to 2 inches long, deep pink, a striking color, but lighter pink where the flowers are open. Flowers open in a ring around the cluster at a time and open flowers are much wider than buds, making the cluster look much broader in one section than the rest. Cluster does not droop though may be slightly bent. Stems are generally a little hairy but the hairs are pressed against the stem. Stems are often striped. Sheaths have no fringe. Leaves have short hair, pressed to the surface of the leaf, with long stems up to 2 1/2 inches. Leaves are large, 6 to 7 inches or so. Often forms large colonies in standing water. Must have wet soil. Uncommon but striking.

Stout Smartweed (P. robustior)
Similar to pale smartweed but sheathes have short fringe. A very large smartweed. Sheaths are often swollen at the base (but this is not the only species with swollen sheaths). Flowers generally white or pale pink in dense, long, drooping clusters. Leaves never have dark marks. This is perennial, so difficult to pull out of the ground, unlike the annual pale smartweed. The flowers are paler than in Far Eastern smartweed, but it is very dificult to separate these two with confidence. Does not need wet soil.

Far Eastern Smartweed (P. extremiorientalis)
Similar to pale and stout smartweeds. Sheaths have short fringe. A very large smartweed. Stems are often somewhat narrower than the other two large species. Flowers generally a mixture of dark and light pink in the same long, dense, drooping cluster. Leaves often have dark marks. Stems are hairy especially between leaves. Flower spikes often kinked. Very difficult to separate with confidence from stout smartweed. Does not need wet soil.

Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate (P. orientalis)
A garden escape. A very large smartweed with dangling, drooping clusters of dark pink flowers. Clusters about two inches long. Sheaths are green (rather than papery and brown in most smartweeds) and where other smartweeds would have a fringe, they have a green collar, sticking out at a 90-degree angle from the stem. Sheaths are also very hairy, with hair that likewise sticks straight out from the stem. Does not need wet soil. Uncommon.

Posted on November 22, 2020 04:21 PM by srall srall | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Alnus sp. in New Jersey

I am not an expert. This is what I've learned so far:

There are three Alders (Alnus sp. ) in NJ: Smooth (A. serrulata), Speckled / Gray (A. incana, used to be A. rugosa), and European (A. glutinosa)

Alders have woody "cones" for fruit that are generally present all year round. Any tree with cones and broad leaves is generally an alder.

Alders have twice-serrated leaves, that are alternate

Alders have buds that are on stalks (and are alternate)

Alders have long male catkins and very small (smaller than a pencil eraser) female catkins.

Alders live in damp soil near water.

Alders are usually multi-trunked shrubs.

Species (in NJ):

An alder that is a tree, or more than about 20 feet high is European alder.

An alder with blunt-tipped leaves, or especially with any leaves where the tip is indented, is European alder.

An alder in the winter with female catkin cluster clearly drooping below the main branch is speckled alder.

An alder with leaves whose bases are tapered into the stem rather than blunt which also has a taper at the tip end is smooth alder.

An alder with cones upright, not drooping below the stem is smooth alder.

An alder with single teeth (not double toothed) is smooth alder.

An alder with orange hair on veins below is European.

Smooth alder:

Leaves are oval, tapered at both ends, single or double toothed, usually not hairy

Female catkins are upright. Sometimes cones are upright. Sometimes cones droop. Cones have fat and short stems.

Bark is only slightly speckled on twigs, pretty much not speckled on trunks.

Speckled alder:

Leaves are tapered at tip, fairly straight across near stem. Usually very obviously double toothed. Sometimes hairy below.

Female catkins are not upright, either straight out or drooping. Cones have thick, short stems.

Bark nearly always white speckled (short horizontal lines) on twigs and on trunks.

Buds are rounder, fatter than other alders.

European alder:

Leaves blunt or even indented at tip. Not long tapered at tip. Leaves quite wide for length sometimes nearly as wide as long. Sometimes leaf tip indented. Generally very obviously double toothed. Underside of leaf has orange hair on veins. Leaves are shiny above.

Female catkins are upright or straight out from branch, but not obviously drooping. Cones usually dangle. Cones are on long and thin stems.

Bark not generally light speckled on trunks, sometimes dark speckled, sometimes broken into small plates. Bark on twigs can have some speckles but generally not many.

Posted on November 22, 2020 04:19 PM by srall srall | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Cardamine sp. in New Jersey

I am not an expert. This is what I've learned so far:

There are several groups of Cardamine species in NJ.

Most common are the weeds of lawns and disturbed areas, the bittercresses (hairy, narrow-leaved, and nursery)

Next are the woodland spring ephemerals, the toothworts, of which by far the most common is cut leaved toothwort.

Finally there are the much larger wetland meadow species, cuckoo flower and bulbous bittercress.

There are a number of very rare species that are similar to each of these and which ought to be present in NJ.

Hairy Bittercress: small plant with lots of small leaflets always with a basal rosette of many leaves when it is flowering. The end leaflet is round and somewhat lobed. The fruit are held close to the stem, facing upward, NOT spreading at a 45 degree angle. Flowers extremely early in spring and in late winter, and continues for many months. Rosette is present all winter. The stems of the basal leaves are hairy, and the leaves have up to 4 pairs of leaflets.

Narrow-Leaved Bittercress: small plant with lots of small, narrow leaflets in a basal rosette and on the flowerstalk. Flowers are tiny and greenish, with minute petals that fall quickly. This plant flowers much later than hairy bittercress, in late spring. Basal rosette is present in winter. Up to 9 pairs of leaflets on the stem leaves.

Nursery Bittercress: very similar to hairy bittercress, but with somewhat wider and more lobed end leaflet, more likely to bloom in the fall, holds fruit at about a 45 degree angle from the stalk. It will have basal leaves present when flowering

Pennsylvania Bittercress: very similar to hairy bittercress, but without any basal leaves when flowering, and with fruit held at a 45 degree angle to the stem. often grows in water. Stems are thicker and whole plant somewhat succulent. leaves and leaflets tend to be decurrant (extending downward) on the stems

Wavy Bittercress: flowers are similar to hairy bittercress, much larger petals than narrow-leaved. Leaves intermediate between narrow-leaved and hairy. fruit nearly at a 90 degree angle to the stem. leaflets tend to be fairly broad. up to 6 pairs of leaflets.

Sand Bittercress: flowers are similar to hairy bittercress. Leaves are also similar, but with smaller leaflets and very large numbers of leaflets. The fruit is held away from the stem at the base, then curved upward. Flower stems are hairy, leaf stems are not. leaflets very narrow

Note: If you see a plant that looks much like these but has unlobed basal leaves it's probably Arabdopsis thalani, mouse ear cress. Other possible species are smooth rockcress and lyre leaved rockcress. The rockcresses have entire leaves (but often lobed) and flower clusters all along an inch or more of the stem. Also note that Lepidium species, shepherd's purse, and pennycresses look similar but none have elongated fruit.

Cut-Leaved Toothwort: all leaves, both on the ground and on the stem, with very narrow lobes

Two-Leaved Toothwort: all leaves both on the ground and on the stem, broad, toothed or with rounded lobes, generally with three main lobes to the leaf, not at all narrowed.

Slender Toothwort: significant contrast between broad lobed leaves on ground and small, very narrowly lobed leaves on the stem. If the basal leaves are absent difficult to tell from the vastly more common cut-leaved. If it has not flowered yet, it has sharper teeth, but is otherwise hard to tell from two-leaved.

Large Toothwort: supposedly present but I've never seen anyone find it. similar to two leaved but the central lobe or leaflet of the leaves is narrow, not as broad as on two-leaved, still broader than cut-leaved.

Note: wood anemone (Anemenoides nemerosa) looks a little like these but with single large flowers. Rue anemone is somewhat simliar, but with small, round leaflets in a whorl under the flowers. dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) is somewhat similar but always with three leaves (of 3 or 5 leaflets) in a whorl and flowers in a tight whorl as well. Starflower (Lysimachia borealis) has simple leaves in a whorl below generally a single flower.

Cuckooflower: this much larger plant has flowers each about the size of a fingernail or larger. Usually they have a pink tinge but not always. The plants are about knee high. The stem leaves of cuckooflower have lots of tiny, narrow leaflets in pairs

Bulbous Cress: this is similar to Cuckooflower, though the flowers tend to be droopier and not at all pink. The stem leaves are very distinctive: wedge shaped with a few teeth, but entire, not divided as in cuckooflower. stem with appressed hairs. This grows in very wet open areas.

Purple Cress: much less common, similar to bulbous cress but with drooping purplish flowers and stem hairy or smooth but not with appressed hairs.

White Cuckooflower should not be present in NJ but is in the Hudson Valley and is very like cuckooflower but white or yellowish never pinkish.

Note that rockcresses (smooth, lyreleaved) look a lot like these (especially like bulbous cress) but have entire basal leaves (bulbous cress has a large terminal lobe and a few lateral lobes). The extremely rare American (or round leaved) bittercress looks similar to cuckooflower but is only a few inches tall and creeping, without the divided stem leaves.

Posted on November 22, 2020 04:19 PM by srall srall | 0 comments | Leave a comment