The following letter appeared as an Opinion piece in the Times of Trenton on March 15, 2013
Sagittaria subulata, Bidens bidentoides, Heteranthera multiflora, Mimulus alatus, Nymphoides cordata – these are names that sing to a few of us. They are whispers from tidal mudflats and wet places where small flowers lure small insects. Some have a broad range of habitats including both tidal and non-tidal marshes and swamps, while others have much restricted habitat preferences and are found only along tidal shores.
These are a few of New Jersey’s 822 plant species of concern, rare species, which are either endangered or threatened. They can be small and easily overlooked or in fairly inaccessible habitats. Their continuing presence, however, like that of mine canaries, bodes well for their habitats and for us. Native plants of all sorts are at increasing risk due to habitat destruction and to changes related to erosion, air pollution, and reduced water quality, as well as invasive species and global warming.
The New Jersey special places that are protected, where native plants flourish, and where those considered rare are still present, are our gifts to the future. These plants and their habitats are part of our heritage – as is the Washington Monument. Their loss individually may not be noticed, but together they represent an important legacy.
We have for a many years explored the tidal channels and uplands of the Abbott Marshlands, formerly the Hamilton – Trenton – Bordentown Marsh, and have found there the plants noted above. We continue to find plants that contribute to the Marshlands amazing diversity – 914 plants species listed to date. These include more than 30 species considered rare for New Jersey, of which a few are known only from herbarium records.
We strongly support the Rare Plant Protection program organized by the Pinelands Protection Alliance and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. To learn more: http://www.pinelandsalliance.org/protection/hotissues/ecological/rareplantprotection/
Mary Allessio Leck, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Biology, Rider University
Charles F. Leck, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Ecology, Rutgers University
2083 Lawrenceville Road
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648