Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission

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The Great Oak Park Arboretum: The A-B-C's of the Trees

Very few people in town know that Great Oak Park has a special and wonderful botanical secret. The giant oak tree that is it's namesake is obviously it's most prominent feature.

But did you know that all of the other trees in the park are a botanical alphabet? Every living thing on earth has a scientific name made-up of two parts; the Genus and the species. So, the great oak tree is known as Quercus (the Genus) rubra (the species), or Red oak. At Great Oak Park, all of the plantings were designed by our township Landscape Architect, Steve Gottlieb, to span the alphabet.  

There are maples (Acer), birches (Betula), dogwoods (Cornus), holly (Ilex),  sweet gum (Liquidambar), Basswood (Tilia) and all the way to Zelkova. At one point each tree was marked with an identifying tag, but through time those have mostly been lost. Hopefully in the near future the signs can be replaced and we can all share in the joy of trying to find each plant in the alphabet. In the meantime, even without a name tag, the plantings are really cool and encompass a myriad of shapes and colors and forms just waiting to be explored.  

 The beautiful blue color of the Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus)

 

The palmate leaves of the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus)
 
 
The heart-shaped leaves of redbud (Cercis)
 
 
The peeling bark of River birch (Betula)

 
 

 The awesome weeping beech with its great natural seat (Fagus)

 

 

The huge flower of the Umbrella magnolia (Magnolia)
 
 
The Giant leaves of the Umbrella magnolia
 
 
The star-shaped leaves of sweet gum (Liquidambar)
 
Even in our own town parks, there are amazing discoveries to be made

 Great Oak Park also has a scientific distinction. It was at the Park that a new species of insect for New Jersey was found on one of the trees. This small insect is a Green lacewing and the report of the insect will be published in the Fall in Entomological News. Read the prepublication report that was accepted by the Journal. Scroll to the last page to see picture of this amazing looking insect. It shows that even in our own town parks, there are amazing discoveries to be made.