Friends of Edgewood NEWS: Spring 2009

Friends of the Edgewood Preserve
P.O. Box 162, Deer Park, NY 11729
Tel: (631) 242-7402

The Edgewood-Oak Brush Plains Preserve is an 850-acre nature preserve, situated within the towns of Babylon and Huntington. It is a rare and irreplaceable pitch-pine scrub oak wildlife habitat, home to a wide array of bird and plant species, as well as other animals and reptiles, including red fox, rabbits, chipmunks, toads, snakes, and turtles.
The trails and paths are ideal for hiking, walking, birding – passive and unobtrusive activities. Old Commack Road, a paved 1.6-mile road that runs north south is great for jogging and biking. Hunting is not allowed, nor are all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, or any motorized vehicles, except for those authorized by the NYS DEC. 

• Permits are required, but they are free and are valid for three years. For an application, go to: or ask us and we will send one to you!
• To report ATV activity or other trespassing at the preserve: 1-877-457-5680. Other Edgewood concerns/problems? Let us know via phone or e-mail and we will notify the DEC. Thank you!

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Events are free and take place at the Edgewood Preserve, located on Commack Road in Deer Park (unless otherwise noted). Meet at the kiosk in parking area. Rain cancels! Trails are mostly flat. No experience necessary for our events (unless otherwise noted). Binoculars & water are recommended. = Especially for Kids! Registration Required.

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Monday, April 6, 11:00A.M.

BIRDS, BUGS & BUDS at Edgewood!

Join the NYS DEC’s Education staff for this family hike. We’ll walk the forest and field paths, watching for songbirds, insects and plants emerging from their winter slumber. For children five and older, with a parent. To register Ron Gelardi at 631-444-0347 or

Wednesday, April 8

Help Birds Build Their Nest!

This special children’s program includes a story,

nature activities and a short walk at the Edgewood Preserve to look for birds and nests. See JUST FOR KIDS PAGE for more information or to register. Two sessions available! Space is limited.

Sunday, April 19, 9:00A.M – 11:00AM

Bird Walk

Come join us to look for early spring migrants!

Info: Mary Beth at 631-838-4801 or


Saturday, May 9, 9:00A.M – 11:00AM

Bird Walk

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by walking through various sections of the preserve to see which migrants are visiting, and which feathered friends have come home to roost.

Info: Mary Beth at 631-838-4801 or

Saturday, May 9, 11:00A.M.

Family Woodland Hike

NYS DEC Education staff will lead a hike through Edgewood’s pine barrens habitat, looking at the variety of plants and animals that can be found there. Learn how forests recover from fire, as we explore an area of the woods that burned in April 2006. For <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { color: #0000ff } –>

kids seven and up, families and adults. Lengthy hike. Sturdy shoes and long pants recommended. To register: Ron Gelardi at 631-444-0347 or

Tuesday, May 19, 8:00A.M.

Bird Watching at Edgewood

with Great South Bay Audubon Society

Come join us for a joint weekday bird watching field trip with some of the best birders around.

Info: Mary Beth at 631-838-4801 or

Sunday, May 31, 10:00A.M. – 12:30P.M.

Long Hike with Denis Byrne

This hike will cover most of the Edgewood

Preserve trail network. Approximately 6 miles.

Come learn about the history of the preserve

from someone who knows it well. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water. Info: Denis at 631-836-2616 or


Sunday, June 14, 9:00A.M. – 11:00A.M.

Bird Walk

Sunday mornings in June are a sweet time

to visit the preserve – flowers are blooming,

birds are singing, butterflies are flying, hawks are soaring…the world’s abuzz. Come see!

Info: Mary Beth at 631-838-4801

Sunday, June 21, 11:00A.M.


Celebrate Father’s day and the first day of summer by exploring the woods with your kids! Led by NYS DEC Education staff, we’ll walk the trails looking for nests, snakes, toads and insects. Come discover the plants and animals of the fields and forests of this rare natural habitat. For dads and kids five and older. Sturdy shoes and long pants recommended <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { color: #0000ff } –>

To register: Ron Gelardi at 631-444-0347 or

Saturday, June 27, 9:00A.M.

Mountain Bike Ride at Edgewood <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Come ride the mountain bike trails with us. Must have a mountain bike or crossover. Helmets and eye protection are required. Eight-mile ride will cover entire mountain bike trail network with some detours. Info: Denis at 631-836-2616.

Discovering Botany at Edgewood

By Mary Beth Tomko

It was with a certain amount of anxiety that I left my home for the Edgewood Preserve on a late summer Saturday morning in September, because I faced the task of identifying plants in the company of a disciplined botanist – Dr. Andrew Greller from Queens College – along with members of the Long Island Botanical Society. My thoughts flitted among visions of complicated textbook diagrams (with plant parts labeled in Latin!), the common knowledge I had gained from working at my grandfather’s flower shop, and walks with my father to pick blackberries and elderberries in the eastern hills of Pennsylvania.

The land encompassing the Edgewood-Oak Brush Plains Preserve is a shrub savanna community growing on sandy soils and outwash plains. It is the second largest remnant of pitch-pine scrub oak habitat in New York State and the only such area on Long Island. (This area should not be confused with the Pine Barrens region of eastern Suffolk County.) A dense, nearly continuous cover of shrubby oaks, with scattered pitch pines towering above, characterize the pitch-pine scrub oak barrens environment at Edgewood.

Prairie grasslands similar to those that once existed on Long Island throughout the Hempstead Plains (of which only a tiny parcel remains) make a transition to the pitch pine scrub oak habitat of Western Suffolk County. The grassland edges are just a short distance west of Deer Park, and in this transition, small patches of grasses are found scattered throughout the scrub oak thickets.

We identified several including: big bluestem or turkey-foot (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), broom-sedge (Andropogon virginicus), purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), switch grass (Panicum virgatum) and purple top (Tridens flavus).

When we encountered the scrub oaks, which cover eighty percent of Edgewood, it was like discovering a new species! Our expert guides transformed these simple scrub oaks, or acorn bushes, into bear oak (Quercus ilicifolia) and dwarf chinquapin oak (Quercus prinoides).

White oak (Quercus alba), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), post oak (Quercus stellata) and black oak (Quercus velutina) are the larger, more familiar oak trees scattered through the preserve, with the large chestnut oak (Quercus montana) greeting visitors in the parking area.

The pitch pine (Pinus rigida) is the dominant tree at Edgewood, but varies in density throughout the preserve. It has drooping branches, with stiff, yellow-green needles in clusters of three, and often found as tufts on the trunk, which has black, scaly bark. The pitch pine is a hardy species, resistant to fire and injury, forming sprouts from roots, trunks and stumps.

Under this canopy of pines we found bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and blueridge or lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum) and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). Bearberry, a ground cover that grows best in dry sandy soil and is scattered throughout Edgewood. Native Americans were known to use bearberry as a tea to treat urinary tract inflammations.

We stopped to smell the pleasant aroma of narrow-leaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) and delighted in the discovery of several varieties of bush-clovers (Lespedeza spp.), asters, and goldenrods. Catbrier, a native vine, was growing exuberantly in some areas, presenting us with impenetrable thickets.

Discussion finally turned to invasive species, the threat they pose to native plants and the need for control. The most prevalent invasive

species at Edgewood is autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). Others include Multiflora rose, Asian bittersweet, and Japanese honeysuckle.

When I left the preserve that day, I left happy and hopeful, for we had identified more than ninety species of plants (three considered threatened, and one on the NYS list for review

of rare plants) and had carefully recorded specific characteristics, features, biology, history and significance of each plant.

Although just the beginning, the information collected on this field trip will go a long way towards informing land-management decisions and future conservation efforts.

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