HUTCHESON MEMORIAL FOREST (METTLER'S WOODS)
just off Amwell Road, Franklin Township, Somerset County, NJ
Rutgers University and the Nature Conservancy
525 acres (the actual woods is 65 acres)
Tours are given every three weeks by Rutgers faculty members and caretakers in spring, summer and fall.
Located on Anwell Road (Route 514) about 2 miles east of East Millstone. From NYC take NJ Turnpike south to exit 10 (about 25 miles) and go northwest on I-2387 about 14 miles to Route 527 (Easton Avenue) toward New Brunswick. Go 0.3 mile and turn right onto Cedar Grove Lane. Go about 3 miles to the end. Turn right onto Amwell Road (Route 514). The entrance to the forest is 1.3 miles up the road on the left. Look for the huge arch. The woods are open only by appointment and during regularly scheduled tours. Information can be secured from the Forest Director at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
Rutgers University faculty members regularly lead tours of Hutcheson Memorial Forest in Franklin (Somerset County). For instance, in 1998, winter and spring hikes through this old-growth forest were lead by : Thomas Meagher, ecologist, James Applegate, wildlife biologist, John Kuser, forester; James Quinn, plant ecologist, and Bertram Murray Jr., ornithologist. The hikes began at the entrance of the woods on Amwell Road (Route 514), about three-quarters of a mile east of East Millstone and ran between one and two hours.
An attraction in the Millstone valley is a 136-acre forest tract, of which 65 acres are virgin forest, long known as Mettler's Woods.
1701 -- the area settled by the Dutch. It was a farm with a woodlot. I
1954 -- owner Thomas Mettler wanted to sell the virgin forest. A citizens group fought to preserve the land. Widespread contribution, capped by a major one from the Carpenters' Union, have preserved this as the William L. Hutcheson Memorial forest. The forest was named for a president of the Carpenters and Joiners union.
1958 -- "Forest Succession" studies begin that are now the country's longest running such studies.
1976 -- the Forest is listed in the National Park Service Registry of Natural landmarks.
1980s -- Dr. Edmund Stiles was instrumental in re-zoning housing lot sizes in the area from six acres to three-quarters of an acre. This allowed a local farmer to make more money by building more houses and in gratitude he donated half his land to Rutgers.
forest, abandoned farm fields, young forest, Spooky Brook, ecology research plots and farmland.
August 26, 1989
Drs. Mary and Charles Leck
In front of the caretaker's house is a small patch where construction equipment had removed the lawn in June; there were more than 30 species of weeds.
Fields of flowering Goldenrods, mostly Solidago juncea, S. canadensis, and S. gigantea, Euthamia graminifolia; some places were studded with the rose purple of Knapweed (Centaurea dubia).
A field plowed in 1989 was dominated by Nodding Foxtail (Setaria faberi), but other species, i.e., Velvet leaf (Abutilon theophrasti), Mugwort, and Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis).
Forest ravaged by hurricanes, drought, and Gypsy Moths.
White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus); White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum); White-grass (Leersia virginica); Several specimens of Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) near the northern limit of its range; Canada Moonseed (Menispermum canadense).
In moister areas were vigorous Jewelweeds (Impatiens capensis) obviously benefited by the moist summer.
In the Schwartz Tract acquired by Rutgers University with the aid of the Nature Conservancy, Heath Aster (Aster pilosus) was most noticeable, Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Purpletop (Triodia flava), and Upland Bent-grass (Agrostis perennans).
In an old Red Cedar stand was Ebony Spleenwrot (Asplenium platyneuron), Spinulose Woodfern (Dryopteris spinulosa), perhaps indicative of the enhanced soil nutrition associated with the Cedar.
In Spooky Brook were Water Purslane (Ludwigia palustris), Water Carpet (Chrysoplenium americanum), Bur-reed (Sparganium sp.).
Among the butterflies were Monarchs, Great Spangled Fritillary, Black Swallowtail. Birds included White-eyed Vireo, Goldfinches, Field sparrows, and Black-throated Blue Warbler .
August 29, 1992 Saturday
Rosemary and I travel to the Hutchenson Memorial Forest to attend a Torrey walk. Rutgers University owns the property and it is private. Charles and Mary Leck show us a field last plowed in 1983. At this time it is covered with the yellow from the goldenrods. The goldenrods included the Early, Canada, Late, Gray, and Grass-leaved. Mixed in with goldenrods is the Knapweed.
Looking around the field we spot the Red-tailed Hawk, Gold Finch, and Turkey Vulture.
Plants we find include strawberry, Yarrow, Multiflora Rose, Blackberries, Smooth Sumac, Purple Love Grass, Queen Anne's Lace, Field Thistle, Showy Tick-trefoil, Butter-and-Eggs, Sweet Vernal Grass, Oxalis stricta, Horse Nettle, dogbane, Quack Grass, Daisy Fleabane, Calico Aster, Wild Lettuce, and Silky Dogwood.
In an older field, last cut in 1972, we find Box Elder, Mulberry, Crab Apple, Japanese Honeysuckle, Short-toothed Mountain Mint, Panicled Dogwood in fruit, and English Oak.
Turning left we find the Monarch butterfly. Other plants included Self-heal, Black Raspberry, Grape vine, and Jumpseed.
Turning left again we find along the forest edge Climbing False Buckwheat, Pin Oak, Asiatic Dayflower, Sensitive Fern, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lonicera maackii, Snakeroot, Asiatic Bittersweet, Flowering Dogwood, and Red Maple. In the shadier forest area we find Ebony Spleenwort. Back in the open field area we find Black Walnut small tree, Moth Mullein, Japanese Honeysuckle, Indian Hemp, Indian Tobacco, Blackhaw, and Virginia Creeper.
After lunch we visit the forest. Quite a lot of excitement arises over the spotting of two wild turkeys. We find Grape Fern, Tree of Heaven, Hackberry, lots of Flowering Dogwood, White Snakeroot, Maple Leaf Viburnum, Norway Maple, Lady Fern, Spicebush, Beech, White Oak, Empress Tree, Stilt Grass, White Grass, Clearweed, Pokeweed, and Black Nightshade with white flowers.
More excitement generated with the finding on pieces of wood of a mushroom known as Earthstars. They look like miniature eggs set in a container.
We find Horse Balm with its yellow flowers wilting, Elm, Persimmon, Musclewood, and Shagbark Hickory. Coming to an open field we find Ironweed Back in the forest we find, Japanese Barberry, Reed Grass, Jewelweed, Skunk Cabbage and Bird Cherry .
Hutcheson Memorial Forest , Somerset County, NJ. Date: August 29, 1992. Leader: Drs. Mary and Charles Leck.
On a beautiful breezy day, this trip visited the successional fields (aged 3 to 30 years) and a part of the forest of this ecological research property. The "old forest" has lost most of its large trees in recent decades due to drought, gypsy moth damage, hurricanes, and natural mortality, but some older oaks were noted. One of the more dramatic research projects showed the vegetational effects of deer and rodent enclosure fences.
Some of the plants observed were:
Short-toothed Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)
English Oak (Quercus robur).
Goldenrods included Solidago nemoralis, S. juncea, S. rugosa, S. gigantea, S. altissima, S. canadensis, and Euthamia graminifolia. Also here were Tall Sunflower (Helianthus giganteus), Panicled Dogwood (Cornus racemosa), and Silky Dogwood (C. amomum).
In mid-afternoon an excursion was made to another property of Rutgers University, the Display Garden and Helyar Woods at Cook College, New Brunswick. The public garden is noted for trials of new varieties and its perennial collections (e.g. hollies, dogwoods, and other ornamental trees). Helyar Woods was seen to be a healthy climax forest dominated by beech, oaks, and hickories.
Attendance at this trip was 20.
Drs. Mary and Charles Leck
Acer negundo (box elder)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Carya sp. (hickory)
Celtis occidentalis (hackberry)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Diospyros virginiana (persimmon)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Juniperus virginiana (eastern red cedar)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Paulownia tomentosa (empress tree)
Prunus avium (bird cherry)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Pyrus sp. (crab apple)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus robur (English oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Cornus racemosa (gray-stemmed dogwood)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera maackii (Maack's honeysuckle)
Rhus sp. (smooth sumac)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax sp. (greenbrier)
Vitis sp. (grape)
Abutilon theophrasti (velvet leaf)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Ambrosia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)
Arisaema triphyllum (jack-in-the-pulpit)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)
Aster lateriflorus (calico aster)
Aster pilosus (heath aster)
Centaurea dubia (short-fringed knapweed)
Chrysosplenium americanum (water carpet)
Cirsium discolor (field thistle)
Collinsonia canadensis (horse balm)
Commelina communis (Asiatic dayflower)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Desmodium canadense (showy tick-trefoil)
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane)
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot)
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod)
Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry)
Helianthus giganteus (tall sunflower)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed)
Lactuca canadensis (wild lettuce)
Linaria vulgaris (butter-and-eggs)
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco lobelia)
Ludwigia palustris (marsh purslane)
Menispermum canadense (Canada moonseed)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)
Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Polygonum scandens (climbing false buckwheat)
Polygonum virginiana (jumpseed)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Pycnanthemum muticum (short-toothed mountain mint)
Solanum carolinianum (horse nettle)
Solanum nigrum (black nightshade)
Solidago canadensis v. altissima (tall goldenrod)
Solidago canadensis v. canadensis (Canada goldenrod)
Solidago gigantea (late goldenrod)
Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)
Solidago nemoralis (gray goldenrod)
Solidago rugosa (rough-stemmed goldenrod)
Sparganium sp. (bur-reed)
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Verbascum blattaria (moth mullein)
Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed)
Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass
Agrostis perennans (upland bent-grass)
Elytrigia repens (quack grass)
Eragrostis spectabilis (purple love grass)
Leersia virginica (white grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Phragmites australis (tall reed grass)
Tridens flavus (purpletop grass)
Ferns and Fern Allies:
Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort)
Athyrium filix-femina (northern lady fern)
Botrychium sp. (grape fern)
Dryopteris spinulosa (spinulose woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail)