Highland Park Native Plant Reserve, Middlesex County

Botanical Blitz July 2014


The Highland Park Regional Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey conducted a Botanical Blitz on July 27, 2014 at the Highland Park Native Plant Reserve. Highland Park’s Shade Tree Advisory Committee created the Reserve and began habitat restoration there in April 1994. This three acre site is a riparian buffer zone for the Raritan River and home to a variety of wildlife. The Reserve is now cared for by the Highland Park Regional Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey in cooperation with the Shade Tree Advisory Committee and the Department of Public Works.

Fifteen participants recorded over 130 plant species in roughly three hours. Participants eagerly pulled out field guides and magnifying glasses to identify plants. A hiker through the Reserve joined us, enthusiastically pointing out plants and asking for identifications.


sand wasp on a green cone flower wild bean On the left is a sand wasp (Bicyrtes sp.) on the tall coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

Next to it is a trailing wild bean, (Strophostyles helvola).


There were more native plants found than nonnative plants. The Native Plant Reserve had experienced several years of neglect but a few of the original 1994 plantings were identified. These included River Birch ( Betula nigra), White Ash (Fraxinus americana) and Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium). Riverbank (Vitis riparia), Frost (V. vulpina) and Fox Grape (V. labrusca), all native, were found growing along the river. Several Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) trees were identified. Mourning cloaks, along with many other Lepidoptera species, use this tree as their host plant. Recent native plantings have started to establish themselves. These include Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum multicum) and Great Solomon’s Seal (Polgonatum canaliculatum).

tall cone flower hackberry On the left is a large stand of tall coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

Next to it is a hackberry, (Celtis occidentalis).


Many of the plant species recorded on the list were expected and easily recognized. However a few lesser known native species also appeared. Among them was Erect Knotweed (Polygonum erectum) an annual plant which flowers and fruits from May until October. A little research revealed that erect knotweed is included in the Eastern Agricultural Complex, a group of native American plants, both domesticated and wild, that formed an important part of Native American diets long before squash, beans and corn were brought from Mesoamerica. The latter became known as the “Three Sisters” and were traditional companion plantings long before Europeans arrived. Plans to establish both types of gardens at the Native Plant Reserve are being discussed.


Left is a culversroot (Veronicastrum virginicum).

Our Blitz Crew has been invited to participate in a botanical survey at Highland Park’s Meadows and at another blitz in East Brunswick.

The results of the blitz are reported in the Excel file: Results.

A plant list was done for the reserve in 2005 (Torrey Botanical Society): NY-NJ-CN-Botany website. This has been included in the Excel file.


For map:  click here. For more information about the reserve: Click here.


Belinda and Mary, Co-leaders of Highland Park Regional Chapter