Now pepper in a few enormous chestnut oaks, several stands of shagbark hickories, widely branched in the abundant sunshine. Of native shrubs and small trees, distribute witch hazel, hophornbeam saplings, enormous serviceberries, lowbush blueberry, huckleberries, and others in little stands, throughout.
We stumbled upon this fantastic oak savannah while exploring St. Michael's, the new 337 acre preserve in Hopewell, NJ. It is on a gentle slope leading to short shale bluffs over the Bedens Brook. This small area seems like it is partially the result of human management (or mismanagement), perhaps 100 or more years ago. However, unlike almost any other place in our area, after being (presumably) opened by tree-cutting and possibly grazing, it has subsequently remained open and hardly succeeded at all. Of late, deer seem to be limiting tree recruitment. But, more importantly, the soil seems so thin, dry, acidic or poor (or all of the above) that mosses are still the dominant vegetation in many places.
I'm really excited to see this place in spring, summer and fall and find out what else grows here. For now, here are some photographs and field notes, some of them conjecture.
Red cedars were peppered throughout. This one, and several others, appear to have died young– maybe from the droughtiness of the soil?
At first I assumed that there were many browsed flowering dogwoods in the shade of other trees. One had so many suckers at 12" to 18" high that it caught my eye. There was no cut main stem, just all of these short stems. On the ground, the stems turned and rhizome-like, rooting at the nodes. Maybe this is Cornus rugosa, roundleaf dogwood? If so, it will be the first time I've met it.