Preakness Mountain

List of Species of Special Emphasis



I. SITE NAME: Preakness Mountain


II. SITE LOCATION: Preakness Mountain occurs at the northern end of the Second Watchung Ridge in Bergen and Passaic Counties in northeastern New Jersey.

TOWNS: Franklin Lakes, Haledon, North Haledon, Oakland, Wayne

COUNTIES: Bergen, Passaic

STATE: New Jersey

USGS 7.5 MIN QUADS: Paterson, NJ (40074-82), Pompton Plains, NJ (40074-83), Ramsey, NJ (41074-12), Wanaque, NJ (41074-13)

USGS 30 x 60 MIN QUAD: Newark, NJ-NY (40074-E1)


III. BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION AND JUSTIFICATION: The boundary of the Preakness Mountain habitat complex contains the largest remaining tract of forested land east of the Highlands in northeastern New Jersey. It follows the toe of slope and/or the boundary between developed areas and open space at the base of the ridge, and includes globally rare traprock glade communities and woodland matrix, rare plants, and significant open space for migrating and breeding birds. This area provides an important buffer of native species to protect the globally rare ecological communities and rare plant species.


IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTION/RECOGNITION: A total of about 450 hectares (1,071 acres) is protected through ownership by Wayne Township, the state of New Jersey, and The Nature Conservancy. The New Jersey Field Office of The Nature Conservancy is developing a management plan for the site in consultation with Wayne Township and the New Jersey Green Acres Program. Other lands within this complex are in a mixture of public and private ownership. The New Jersey Natural Heritage program recognizes Preakness Mountain Macrosite, with a biodiversity rank of B2 (very high biodiversity significance), as a Priority Conservation Site.


V. GENERAL AREA DESCRIPTION: Preakness Mountain forms the northern terminus of the Second Watchung Mountain in the Northern Triassic Lowlands (Newark Basin) of the Piedmont physiographic province. The Second Watchung Ridge was formed during the early Jurassic period by lava flows extruded over the deep sedimentary rock of the Newark Basin; the flow actually consists of three subflows of a fine to medium-grained igneous rock called basalt or traprock, separated by red siltstone of varying thicknesses. Late Jurassic tectonic events in the region uplifted, folded, and tilted the basalts and siltstones of the Newark Basin to an average 15 degrees with a northwest dip, creating gentle western slopes and steep eastern slopes. Traprock is more resistant to erosion than are the interspersed sandstones and shales; the sandstones eroded over the millennia to lower elevations, exposing the traprock. The traprock ridges are distinctive features of the landscape, peaking at 270 meters (885 feet) at the summit of High Mountain, the highest elevation in the Piedmont in New Jersey. During the end of the Pleistocene glaciation, the Wisconsin ice sheet covered Preakness Mountain, eroding its valleys and ridgetops as the glaciers retreated. The soils at Preakness Mountain are primarily basalt bedrock outcrops on steep slopes with shallow, well-drained Holyoke soil. The terrain is steep and rocky, with a unique series of alternating north-south oriented, narrow, traprock ridges and deep ravines. Preakness Mountain is in the Passaic River watershed; it forms a hydrologic divide with approximately 21 headwater streams that carry surface drainage from precipitation events into two rivers and three brooks that flow into the Passaic River.

Most of the mountainous terrain of Preakness Mountain is vegetated with open woodland and dense forest. Nine ecological communities have been identified and mapped, including rocky headwater stream, northern New Jersey shrub swamp, inland red maple swamp, talus slope community, traprock glade/outcrop community, hickory-ash-red cedar woodland, dry-mesic inland mixed oak forest, mesic hemlock-hardwood forest, and successional old field. The traprock glade/outcrop community is a globally imperiled community type.

Two subtypes of the dry-mesic inland mixed oak forest type are found at Preakness Mountain: dry mixed oak forest subtype and mesic mixed oak-hardwood forest subtype. The dry mixed oak forest is found on south and west-facing slopes, grading into hickory-ash-red cedar woodland. Dry inland mixed oak forest is dominated by white oak (Quercus alba), red oak (Q. rubra), and black oak (Q. velutina), with shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), mockernut hickory (C. tomentosa), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and black cherry (Prunus serotina). The mesic inland mixed oak-hardwood forest subtype is found on north and east-facing slopes as well as in ravines, grading into mesic hemlock-hardwood forest. Mesic inland mixed oak-hardwood forest is dominated by white oak, black oak, and red oak, with sugar maple (Acer saccharum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), American beech (Fagus grandiflora), black cherry, white pine (Pinus strobus), black birch (Betula lenta), white ash, and basswood (Tilia americana).

Mesic hemlock-hardwood forest occurs on cooler and moister sites in ravines and steep lower north or east-facing slopes. Most of the hemlocks on Preakness Mountain have been damaged or killed by the eastern region hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) infestation, but the associated species in the community are still intact. Other than eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), the most abundant species include sugar maple, yellow birch, black birch, tulip poplar, American beech, basswood, and white pine.

Hickory-ash-red cedar woodland is an open woodland community occurring on gentle to steep south and western slopes on very shallow, rocky soil with some exposed traprock. Canopy coverage is from 30 to 60%, and the trees exhibit stunted growth. The most abundant tree species include pignut hickory (Carya glabra), white ash, red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and chestnut oak (Quercus prinus). The understory consists primarily of grassy and graminoid openings with numerous small traprock outcrops. The traprock glade/outcrop community occurs within this woodland matrix.

Traprock glade/outcrop communities are dry, grass and forb-dominated openings on south and west-facing slopes of traprock ridges. Three subtypes of the traprock glade/outcrop community can be distinguished: traprock outcrop, traprock glade, and traprock savanna. The traprock outcrop subtype has greater than 50% bedrock, less than 50% of which is vegetated by vascular species. The most abundant species on the traprock include crustose and fruticose lichens such as shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia cumberlandii), pyxie-cup lichen (Cladonia chlorphaea), lichen (Cladonia polycarpoides), and thorn lichen (Cladonia uncialis) and mosses such as Grimmia plagiopodia, Ceratodon purpureus, Hedwigia ciliata, and Polytrochum pallidisetum. Red cedar, grasses, and forbs often grow in the cracks and crevices, particularly poverty grass (Aristida dicotoma), wood columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Missouri rock cress (Arabis missouriensis), pale corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens), orange grass (Hypericum gentianoides), dwarf dandelion (Krigia virginica), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), and blue curls (Trichostema dichotoma).

The traprock glade subtype has greater than 50% graminoid cover, less than 5% tree cover, and less than 50% traprock outcrop. The most abundant species, in order of trees, shrubs, grasses, sedges, herbs, mosses, and lichens, include red cedar, low running dewberry (Rubus flagellaris), pasture rose (Rosa carolina), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), curly poverty grass (Dantonia spicata), poverty grass, wooly panic grass (Panicum lanuginosum var. fasciculatum), slim-leaf panic grass (Panicum linearifolium), round-fruited panic grass (Panicum sphaerocarpon), starved panicgrass (Panicum depauperatum), hairlike sedge (Bulbostylis capillaris), broad-leaved sedge (Carex platyphylla), slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia), stiff aster (Aster linariifolius), buttonwood (Diodia teres), grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), rockrose (Helianthemum canadense), orange grass (Hypericum gentianoides), pinweed (Lechea pulchella var. pulchella), stalked bush clover (Lespedeza violacea), wild yellow flax (Linum virginianum), slender knotweed (Polygonum tenue), common cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex), narrow-leaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), silverrod (Solidago bicolor), gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), goat's rue (Tephrosia virginiana), blue curls, arrow-leaved violet (Viola sagittata), pin cushion moss (Leucobryum albidum), hair-cap mosses (Polytrichum commune, P. juniperinum, P. pallidisetum), lichen, and thorn lichen. The traprock savanna subtype has from five to 30% tree canopy, greater than 50% graminoid cover, and less than 50% traprock outcrop. The most abundant trees and shrubs include stunted forms of pignut hickory, white ash, red cedar, dangleberry (Gaylussacia frondosa), chinquapin oak (Quercus prinoides), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), pasture rose, low running dewberry, lowbush blueberry, deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), downy viburnum (Viburnum rafinesquianum), and the same herbaceous and bryophyte species as in the traprock glade subtype.


VI. ECOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF SITE: Preakness Mountain is the largest remaining tract of forested land east of the Highlands in northeastern New Jersey. Most of the mountainous terrain of Preakness Mountain is vegetated with open woodland and dense forest, supporting a remarkable diversity of plants and wildlife. The high diversity of plants may be due in part to the unique geology, thin soils, and variable slope and aspect of the terrain. Local concentrations of calcareous secondary minerals in the felsic traprock of Preakness Mountain probably exist, creating neutral or alkaline microhabitats that could support plants not ordinarily found in the acidic soils characteristic of this region. More than 360 vascular and 20 nonvascular plant species have been documented, 19 of which are rare. Nine ecological communities have been identified and mapped. The traprock glade/outcrop community is a globally imperiled community, occurring at only a few locations in the region (see also Palisades narrative and traprock ridge communities chapter). The traprock glades and hickory-ash-red cedar woodland matrix provide significant habitat for 35 species of special emphasis, incorporating 14 rare plant species and including the following state-listed species. (Living resources and their habitats are dynamic; therefore, the ecological significance and species information presented here may not be complete or up-to-date. State and federal environmental agencies [see Appendix III for office contacts] should be consulted for additional information.)

State-listed endangered
Dewey's sedge (Carex deweyana)
long-awned smoke grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
large-fruited sanicle (Sanicula trifoliata)
small skullcap (Scutellaria leonardii)
small-fruited groovebur (Agrimonia microcarpa)
Basil mountain mint (Pycnanthemum clinopodioides)
Torrey's mountain mint (Pycnanthemum torrei)

The Torrey's mountain mint and basil mountain mint are listed as globally imperiled (G2) by The Nature Conservancy. Additional rare plant species occur in the forested upland and wetland communities at Preakness Mountain; these are climbing fumatory (Adlumia fungosa), Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria), whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), cornel-leaved aster (Aster infirmis), Willdenow's sedge (Carex willdenowii), purple clematis (Clematis occidentalis), hazel dodder (Cuscuta coryli) wild kidney bean (Phaseolus polystachios), swamp cottonwood (Populus heterophylla), few-flowered nutrush (Scleria pauciflora), rock spikemoss (Selaginella rupestris), and narrow-leaved vervain (Verbena simplex). The ridgetop woodlands and forests provide important habitat for migrating and breeding birds, especially raptors and Neotropical migrant songbirds. Sixty species of birds were recorded as probable or confirmed breeders in this area from the first two years of the New Jersey Breeding Bird Atlas project. The uplands and wetlands provide significant habitat for other wildlife.


VII. THREATS AND SPECIAL PROBLEMS: The most serious threat to the significant natural resources at High Mountain Park is the trampling of plants and soil erosion caused by illegal motorized vehicle use on and off the trails. Invasive weeds are also a problem at key access points and on the summit of High Mountain, and appear to be spreading via vehicle tires on the main trails. These aggressive, nonnative plants pose a serious threat to the globally imperiled traprock glade/outcrop communities and associated rare communities, as well as to the woodlands, forests, swamps, and additional rare species in the park. Other potential threats include encroaching housing developments, herbicide and pesticide applications on adjacent properties, illegal dumping, and animal and plant collectors. Many of these threats arise from this site's being the last remaining open space in a heavily developed urban area.


VIII. CONSERVATION RECOMMENDATIONS: Efforts to preserve the remaining open space within the habitat complex through acquisition, conservation easements, or other means should be a high priority for state and local agencies and organizations. The globally rare traprock glade communities and rare plants should be protected from human disturbance through public education, rerouting of trails, fencing, and other means. Rare plants and traprock glade communities should be monitored and research conducted on glade succession, fire history, and rare plant life history. A management plan to prevent human disturbance and to control invasive nonnative plants should be developed.



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List of Species of Special Emphasis


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