New Jersey’s wildflower meadows are spectacular this month!
“Meadows are beautiful, they’re vibrant and they host diverse wildlife,” said wildflower expert Tama Matsuoka Wong of Flemington, who has two meadows on her property. “The plants are changing all season … every two weeks you get new plants. I don’t think you can match nature. It’s really magical.”
“Meadows are not only beautiful, but are quite an ecosystem,” said Sharon Wander, president of the New Jersey Butterfly Club. Many butterflies need sun and warmth to fly, and up to 125 butterfly species may utilize a single wildflower meadow!
In addition to butterflies, pollinators like birds, bees, beetles and other insects are attracted to meadows. For instance, Wander said a single patch of native mountain mint can attract hundreds of sweat bees, a valuable pollinator. Mammals like foxes are also attracted to meadows for cover and food, and bats and dragonflies will swoop in to feed on insects.
There are plenty of meadows to visit in this state we’re in. Check them out for a dose of instant zen.
White Lake Natural Resource Area – Hardwick Township, Warren County. The centerpiece of this 394-acre preserve is a beautiful lake, but there are diverse habitats surrounding it, including a wildflower meadow. The Ridge & Valley Conservancy will lead a tour of the meadow on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 10 a.m. to noon, leaving from the parking area on Route 521.
Willowwood Arboretum and Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center – Chester Township, Morris County. These side-by-side Morris County parks – linked by the well-known Patriots Path trail – have rolling meadows that attract many butterflies this time of year. While you’re there, check out the gardens and historic structures at the two parks.
Kittatinny Valley State Park – Andover Township, Sussex County. One of the state park system’s hidden gems, Kittatinny Valley covers more than 5,000 acres along the spine of the Kittatinny Mountains. Among its many habitats are meadows filled with tall grasses and wildflowers. If you go, be sure to leave enough time to check out its lakes, hiking trails and butterfly and hummingbird garden.
Rutkowski Park – Bayonne, Hudson County – This little urban park is living proof that you don’t need to have thousands of acres to attract wildlife. One of the park’s landmarks is the large concrete “compass” at its center. The Bayonne Nature Club took a neglected field surrounding the compass and transformed it into a wildflower meadow.
Warinanco Park – Roselle, Union County – More than a decade ago, Union County employees and volunteers took a tattered, goose-infested lawn surrounding a lake and planted native wildflowers. Today, visitors can enjoy a colorful wildflower meadow and thriving butterfly habitat.
Greenwood Gardens – Millburn Township, Essex County. Greenwood Gardens is a 28-acre public garden surrounded by 2,110 acres of Essex County Park System’s South Mountain Reservation. It’s best known for formal gardens, but it also has a wild side, including meadows.
Mercer Meadows County Park – Lawrence Township, Mercer County. Miles of mowed and gravel trails provide a great place for visitors to hike and bike. In addition to the park’s extensive grasslands, there are lovely lakes and woodlands.
Rancocas Nature Center – Westampton, Burlington County. The nature center, part of Rancocas State Park, features a big meadow with a trail winding through it. Along the trail, visitors will see a butterfly and dragonfly habitat, bat boxes, American woodcock habitat and a dragonfly pond.
Thompson Park – Lincroft, Monmouth County. A former horse estate, Thompson Park has 14 miles of multi-use trails through meadows, fields and woodlands. Some of these trails go around Marlu Lake and the Swimming River Reservoir.
Duke Farms – Hillsborough, Somerset County. At more than 1,000 acres, the former Doris Duke estate has been transformed into a model of ecological sustainability. The property is crisscrossed by hiking and bicycle trails, which will take you through beautiful wildflower meadows and woods.
Greenway Meadows – Princeton, Mercer County. This gorgeous park on the former Robert Wood Johnson estate includes spectacular native wildflower meadows created by the D&R Greenway Land Trust, whose headquarters is in the park. Greenway Meadows also includes the wonderful Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail.
Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary – Stone Harbor, Cape May County. Stone Harbor is best known for its beaches, but the Wetlands Institute teamed up with the bird sanctuary to create a 3,000-square-foot wildflower meadow that’s beneficial to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and songbirds.
If you’re interested in starting your own wildflower meadow, it’s easy. Just pick an area of land, stop mowing and see what wildflowers come up on their own. You may have to remove invasive non-native plants at first, then mow once a year to keep down woody growth, but you’ll be rewarded with abundant natural beauty.
To learn more about native grass and wildflower meadows, visit Matsuoka’s Meadows & More website at meadowsandmore.com.
And to learn about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources – including meadows – visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in Morristown.