The Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey were floating in the fragrance of the white spiky flowers of sweet pepperbushes when we entered and walked in single file to find the native orchids and flesh-eating plants.
A Cedar pine forest managed by controlled fire in order to stop the natural evolution of a take-over by deciduous oak. Sandy soil. Here and there, oases of open space and light.
Bogs within the forest created by deep springs. No inlet or outlet except rain and evaporation.
Rivers (the Mullica): water (‘Cedar Water’) dark as chocolate from the tannin run-off from the trees and the presence of native iron. But drinkably clean. Sea captains used to cask this water and take it with them to sea because it remained cleaner and sweeter than any other water.
Blueberry and cranberry bushes and many water-loving plants including lotus and insect-eating plants.
Varieties of luminous sphagnum moss. So bacteria-free that it was used in WW1 as bandages.
Native orchids. Nothing like their commercial cousins: delicate, not tall, with flowers white, yellow, red. Mysterious in many regards including their complex structures. And their nutritional dependence in all or part of their growth cycle on an unknown number of different soil fungi too small to see. Orchids here are protected by law. They are further protected by this interdependence because they die if transplanted.
The Lenni Lenape had access to 1.3 million acres of Pine Barrens (‘barren’ to early Quakers for its lack of agricultural potential) up and down the east coast when the Europeans first arrived. That it survives here, if in shrunken acreage and even if no Lenni Lenape survive here for their ethnic cleansing long ago, is due to the alertness and devotion of many descendants of European immigrants including the prominent Philadelphia families of Biddle and Wharton.