Thursday, February 19, 2015

Native Flora and New Jersey's Biodiversity in Danger

New Jersey State Bird and Flower.
Eastern Goldfinch / Carduelis tristis
Meadow Violet / Viola sororia

Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring or indigenous—native plant life. The corresponding term for animal life is fauna. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota.

New Jersey's 4th graders learn that our state tree is the Northern Red Oak. Did you know that? Did you know that there are 17 species of oaks in New Jersey? Five are rare or endangered.

Our state wildflower is the Blue Woodland Violet or Viola sororia, which is a sure sign of spring. We have 30 native violets and 6 are unique violet species that are rare or endangered. The Cut-leaf Coast Violet no longer exists in the wild in New Jersey.

It might not surprise you that New Jersey is losing its native flora, but the situation is probably more critical than you would suspect.

Wild Blue Lupine
One example is the Wild Blue Lupine, Lupinus perennis, which was once common here but now only exist in four or five locations.

A lack of wildfires, alien weed invasions and deer over-browsing are causing increasing decline of many species.

Of course, the web in nature is always connected. The Wild Blue Lupine and the Yellow Wild Indigo are the only two plant species on which the female Frosted Elfin butterfly will deposit her eggs. Since her caterpillars only eat these two plants, it is no surprise that the Frosted Elfin butterfly is also critically endangered in our state.

One-third of our roughly 2,600 native plant species are designated as endangered or of special concern by the state's Natural Heritage Program.

You can download a list of all 822 rare plants at

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