Borg's Woods Trees

Tree 1: Black Oak over 300 years old. There are 5 species of Oak in Borg’s Woods (Northern Red Oak, Black Oak, Pin Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak). Northern Red Oak and Black Oak are closely related species whose seedlings appear to require open canopy in an upland area to survive. There may also be some "hybrid" Black/Red Oaks, whose bark looks more like the Black Oak, but with a Red Oak leaf. The largest tree in Borg’s Woods is a Northern Red Oak over 12 feet in circumference.

White Oak are locally rare, with only one over 8 feet in circumference. Swamp White Oak and Pin Oak are both wetland species, but with opposite population profiles. Most of the Swamp White Oaks are either large or mature, but few seedlings can be found. Almost all of the Pin Oak are seedlings or younger trees. Someday there will be some really immense Pin Oak ringing the central vernal pond.

Swamp White Oak is one of the most commercially valuable timber species in the eastern United States. It’s strong, dense, and rot-resistant wood even surpasses the closely related White Oak in quality.

Tree 2: Mockernut Hickory at least 130 feet in height, which is unusually tall for the species. The canopy in Borg’s Woods averages about 100 – 110 feet. Mockernut Hickory prefer the driest areas of the woods.

Absent in Borg’s Woods is native Black Walnut, another commercially valuable species related to the Hickories. A hundred years ago, loggers were aggressively seeking out Walnut, even in woodlots not otherwise targeted for lumber. Although Borg’s Woods is documented as one of the only forests in New Jersey never cut, it’s not inconceivable that selective cutting of a few commercially valuable trees may have occurred at some point in the distant past.

Tree 3: Shagbark Hickory is one of the less common species in the woods, but increasing in population along with the Mockernuts. It prefers the boundary of wetland and upland areas. There is also a third Hickory species in the woods which is not yet identified.
Tree 4: Sugar Maple. There’s only a handful of mature Sugar Maple in Borg’s Woods, but this species is rapidly increasing in population, apparently at the expense of Northern Red Oak, which are hardly reproducing at all. Sugar Maple seedlings are one of the most common understory species throughout the woods.

Also common in the forested wetland areas of Borg’s Woods is Red Maple. This attractive species has a reddish flower in the spring, and red leaves in the fall. Several of the Red Maple are over 8 feet in circumference.

Norway Maple are "seeding" into Borg’s Woods as an undesirable invasive species not native to this continent. Volunteer efforts to pull them up will continue. The species is short-lived and highly susceptible to windthrow, and must not be allowed to mature and shade out desirable native species. They are considered undesirable by all professional landscapers, and they are no longer planted as shade trees by local towns. Nurseries should be prevented by law from selling them. A single mature Norway Maple will generate dozens of seedlings within 300 feet every single year, making them a maintenance problem for homeowners and their neighbors. Since 1994, approximately one hundred Norway Maple seedlings are eliminated in Borg’s Woods on an annual basis. They are best singled out for weeding in November, because their leaves fall later than the similar Sugar Maple leaves. Homeowners near Borg’s Woods are strongly encouraged to remove Norway Maples of any size from their properties. This will limit help limit the continued problem of Norway Maple seeding into Borg’s Woods.

Some Silver Maple can be found along Coles Brook. Although it’s a native species in New Jersey, this species may present in Borg’s Woods only by seeding in from adjacent homes. It’s also highly susceptible to windthrow.

Tree 5: Tuliptree. Some of the largest trees in Borg’s Woods are Tuliptrees. Tuliptrees are the ancestral form of Magnolia, and scientists believe they are the most ancient surviving form of deciduous tree anywhere on the planet. They have large and very primitive flowers that appear every May. Their winged seeds are clustered into a variation of the pinecone, which reflects that they originally evolved from gymnosperm species related to conifers. Think of them as a non-missing link between pines and maples. Their squarish leaves have been found in the fossil record back to the days of the dinosaurs. Tuliptrees grow rapidly, and it’s not uncommon for a Tuliptree trunk to have no branches for 50 or 70 feet. It’s as if they are straining to keep out of the reach of a Sauropod dinosaur. This particular Tuliptree may be over 140 feet in height.
Tree 6: American Beech. This is the dominant upland species in Borg’s Woods. Many Beech can be found over 8 feet in circumference. Not to be confused with Birch, Beech is the type of tree that people carve their initials in. One Beech in Borg’s Woods reads "D.B. 1777". The age of a mature forest in New Jersey can be accurately determined by both the density of the size of the Beech population. Although Borg’s Woods was "officially" noted as a 200-year old forest in 1979, the current age of 225 years may actually be an understatement. Some of the most gnarled Beech in Borg’s Woods could be 500 years old, even though larger and healthier specimens of Beech may be younger. Beech will only take root in a fully shaded forest, and as they mature, little else will grow under them, so they gradually take over until one dies and there’s an immense hole in the canopy.

Although they look different, Beech, Oak, and Chestnut are all related members of the Beech family. Until only a few years ago, there were two surviving American Chestnut "sprouts" in Borg’s Woods. Both reached a girth of 6-8 inches, succumbed to Chestnut blight, and then failed to resprout. Scientists are working on strains of blight-resistant Chestnut, and someday the species can be restored to our area.

Tree 7: American Beech (see above).

Tree 8:Sycamore. The leaning Sycamore is a landmark in Borg’s Woods that somehow has survived all the storms. It’s along the runoff creek where it the main trail crosses. There are only four Sycamore in Borg’s Woods. Two are at the scenic lookout, an unusual location for a wetland species. The other is a young, but extremely rapidly growing specimen just off Fairmount Avenue. The Fairmount Ave specimen is growing in the type of rich bottomland soil this tree prefers, and may someday become the largest tree in Borg’s Woods. Extra care must be taken to protect this specimen from the parasitic ivy that has spread into that part of the woods. There are no Sycamore saplings in Borg’s Woods. Saplings of this species appears to require full direct sunlight, which is hard to come by in the deep woods. Although not as common as the Tuliptree, Sycamore grows just as rapidly, just as tall, and generally lives longer. In the right soil, Sycamore can grow to 15, 20, and even 25 feet in circumference, and reach an age of 1000 years or more. Specimens have been known to reach 180 feet in height.

Tree 9: American Elm. This fully mature Elm was destroyed by a storm in late May, 2004. One small branch survived, but it remains to be seen if the tree will die. This specimen was the largest Elm in Borg’s Woods. An enormous hole in the canopy has opened, and the understory shrubbery around this tree will grow explosively over the next few years. Although free of Dutch Elm disease, it may have been weakened by the parasitic ivy at its base. Elm are also a rapidly growing species, and prefers direct sunlight. There is no shortage of elm saplings in the woods.
Tree 10: The Racial Harmony Trees. These two trees, an American Beech and A Mockernut Hickory, are located right along the main trail. They are like a symbol of racial harmony. It’s unusual for two different types of trees to grow in this fashion, and their proximity has severely slowed each of their growth. These trees could be far older than most people would guess. The Mockernut is probably a little older, since Beech will grow under anything, but other species generally won’t grow under Beech. Notice also how the bark of the Beech has begun to creek up upon and encompass the base of the trunk of the Mockernut Hickory. Beech bark has the quality, which aids in self-healing, especially after fires.

Beech are highly susceptible to fire, a brushfire the burns completely around the base of a Beech can kill the tree. The area around these two trees is the most fire-prone in the woods. Small fires have occasionally occurred in Borg’s Woods, and they always happen between April 10 and May 10. Here’s why: after the winter is over, but before the trees "leaf out", warm sunlight dries out the leaf litter from the previous fall. It become tinder-dry and fire prone. By May 10th, the canopy is full, so the leaf litter retains more moisture between spring rains, and it begins to rapidly decompose, further removing the fire threat.