Pine Barren Forests, NJ Barry Caselli
April 13, 2009

I was recently thinking about this area where I live again, and how our forests differ from place to place within the Pine Barrens. To the untrained eye, the entire Pine Barrens is the same. But it really isn't, at all.
The upland forests all have pines and oaks. That is true. But in some areas you can have a 90/10 mix of pines and oaks, or a 50/50 mix, or a 10/90 mix. In some areas, the forest appears to have no oaks at all.
Also, from place to place, the dominant species of oak are different. North of the Mullica River, it's highly unlikely that you will find any Willow Oaks. But in southern Atlantic County and south, they are pretty common. The same goes for Spanish Oak. Though I have seen some Spanish Oak in Wharton State Forest. In the pine-dominant areas, the oaks you will find are most likely stunted Blackjack Oaks. But throughout the Pine Barrens, you can find White, Scarlet, Black and Post Oaks. Chestnut Oak is found in scattered areas of the Pine Barrens, but not all over. This makes a total of 8 oak species.
Also Scrub Oak is common in the Pine-dominated areas, in the shrub layer. Scrub Oak never really gets to tree size. Sometimes you can find Dwarf Chestnut Oak in the same situation as Scrub Oak. But these are usually south of Atlantic County.
Then there are things like Mountain Laurel, which is extremely common in some areas and conspicuously absent in other areas. The same goes for American Holly.
Then in ghost town areas, and other areas with severe past man-made disturbance, you can find such species as Norway Spruce, Buttonwood (American Sycamore), White Pine, Southern Catalpa and Sweetgum, among others. I know of one ghost town site where you can find Hemlock and Bald Cypress.
As for wet forests, along most stream and river banks you will find Atlantic White Cedar swamps, and there are also some cedar swamps that are just there, not necessarily running along rivers and streams. But some cedar swamps changed into hardwood swamps after cutting sometime ago. The hardwood swamps usually contain Sourgum (Black Gum or Tupelo) and Swamp Maple (Red Maple).
So you see, though our forests are apparently very uniform, the species lists are in fact quite variable from place to place. This makes our forests all the more interesting.
Oh, and one other thing, which I almost forgot. All pine trees in the Pine Barrens are not Pitch Pine, though the vast majority are. You can also find Shortleaf Pine and Virginia Pine, and sometimes even Loblolly Pine. I guess this is just to throw in some confusion. :)


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