Spring Hill and the pygmy pines NJ Barry Caselli
July 25, 2009


Today I decided to visit the Spring Hill Plains, one of our pine plain or pygmy pine areas. We have four such areas- The East Plains, the West Plains, the Little Plains and the Spring Hill Plains. The Spring Hill and Little Plains are both small areas. Combined these 4 areas form the largest acreage of dwarf pitch pine in the world. The next largest is the pymy pine area in the Long Island (NY) Pine Barrens.
I haven't been to Spring Hill in a while, so I just decided to go up there. I found the trees there to be 7 to 8 feet tall, with a few 10 footers, but also many 3 to 4 footers. (Further north, in the East and West Plains, the trees are about 4 feet tall on average, or maybe 5.) Tree trees are twisted and contorted. None of them is straight. The trunks average about 4 inches in diameter, or maybe a little less. The understory consists of either low-bush blueberry or hucklberry. There were also a lot of blackjack oaks, and some were taller than the pines. Down close to the ground I found the usual pine barrens heather and reindeer lichen, but also some pyxie, which is rather uncommon. Down on lower ground, before getting up on Spring Hill, I found tons of mountain laurel and lots of sand myrtle. I've never seen so much sand myrtle in one place as I saw there. Also, a couple different times while driving along on the dirt roads, I saw a lizard cross the
 road up ahead of me. That was really cool. Each time he was far enough ahead of me that I couldn't have run over him. There was no chance of that. Previous to today I had never seen lizards cross the road. I've seen them on tree trunks, old wood and in cemeteries.
Most of the area I was in today, except on Spring Hill itself, is in Penn State Forest.
Penn is an undeveloped state forest, with no facilities, no office and no staff or workers. Why it exists as a separate entity from other surrounding state forests I have no idea. It's only 3366 acres, so it's pretty small compared to the others also. It's surrounded by nearly pure pitch pine forest in private land, interspersed with commercial cranberry bogs.
The pymy pines are fantastic. I wish I lived a little closer to them. I clocked the distance at a little over 21 miles, the last 3.5 or 4 miles on dirt roads. I'd go more often if it was closer. I'll post some of my pictures later. I can't wait to check them out and then share them. I know I still have to send some from yesterday too.

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I have narrowed down the photos I took at the Spring Hill Plains to 10. I will send them in 2 messages. Here's part 1.
In numerical order of the filenames,
The first photo shows a typical view, with the ground going slightly downhill and then slightly uphill in the distance. The trees here are about 6 to 7 feet tall.
Next photo: the sub-shrub, Common Bearberry, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Next photo: another typical view. The trees here are also about 6 to 7 feet tall. The oaks are Blackjack Oak.
Next photo: a view below the canopy, with the camera about 12 to 18 inches above the ground.
Next photo: a view of serotinous cones on one of the trees. There is a common misconception that all the pines in the dwarf forests have nothing but serotinous cones. But that's not true. They have both serotinous and non-serotinous cones. Serotinous cones are cones that only open in the heat of a forest fire.
And if I didn't say it yet, all pines in the dwarf forests are Pitch Pine.
The last 5 pictures coming in the next message.

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Here are the last 5 pictures.
In numerical order of the filenames, the first picture shows:
Another typical view, this time going slightly downhill and then back up again. The changes in elevation really change the look of the forest here.
Next picture: another view under the canopy with the camera pretty close to the ground.
Next picture: a view downhill, looking towards the way I came. The dirt road on the right is the one I came in on. You can see for a few miles.
Next picture: a similar view, panning to the right a little. The hill in the distance is most likely Bear Swamp Hill. There once was a fire tower on that hill, but that was before I came to South Jersey.
Next picture: The sub-shrub, Sand Myrtle, Leiophyllum buxifolium. All the sand myrtle was found on lower ground before going up the hill.
Here's a map of the location:

If you zoom in just a little bit you'll see the short little road that I drove on to go up the hill. That's a little bit south/southeast of the marker on the map.
The whole area is basically wilderness, except for the dirt roads I guess.

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