Project Feederwatch Report January 23rd & 24th

Former Ewing Environmental Commissioner Lee Farnham is a long term participant in Project FeederWatch, a citizen-science project that changes the way observers see birds.  Participants observe birds in their own backyards, helping scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology track what’s happening with feeder birds across the continent (US and Canada.  More than 15,000 FeederWatchers come from all walks of life, including people of all ages and levels of bird-watching skill. Here is his report for January 23 & 24, 2021.

“This was our 295th count since 2005, and we reported a bird we’d NEVER seen here before, the beautiful Baltimore Oriole male.  He even was on the Sunflower seed feeder for a moment. How gorgeous!!! We saw him first at the other side of the yard, at 1157 on 1/23. He then flew across to the feeder area and spent a short while in the Japanese Holly bush between the Safflower and Sunflower feeders before going to the Cardinal Ring on the Sunflower seed feeder. Goldfinches were on it at the time; but kept their distance. His last position was on our Black Cherry tree before he flew off. He was here 15-20 minutes, and he’s welcome to return. In our 295 submissions to FW since 2005, this is the first BALTIMORE ORIOLES we’ve reported. My wife saw him too, as did our cat. They were both enchanted too.”

For full details containing all birds seen go to:

Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East: a Book Review

by Glenn Steinberg

Carolyn Summers’ Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010) is an excellent book. It begins by laying out the reasons to garden with native plants (which the book insistently calls “indigenous plants”). Its reasons include providing habitat for birds, bees, and bugs, as well as making use of fantastic indigenous plants that simply don’t get enough play in the big-box nursery business. The book also discusses the jargon of the nursery business and the implications of that jargon for the gardener who wants to be ecologically responsible (such as how to know when cultivars and hybrids successfully function like native plants and when they don’t).
It spends considerable time talking about native alternatives to popular invasive species (such as Norway Maple, Bradford Pear, and Forsythia). The most interesting part of the book (to me) was a lengthy section on how to use native species in popular garden designs (including the street tree, traditional foundation plantings, a Japanese garden, and a cottage garden). Another section discusses how to mimic natural landscapes in your garden (such as woodlands, meadows, sandplain grasslands, heaths, and salt marshes). Needless to say, the book covers a lot of ground, and for that reason, my one criticism of it is that there were times when I’d have liked more depth and less breadth. But overall, it is an excellent book for anyone interested in incorporating more native plants into the garden.

Saucer Magnolia – May 2017 Plant of the Month

by Ann Farnham, LLA

The beautiful Saucer Magnolia, Magnolia x soulangiana, blooms in Ewing in April and May.

This small tree or multistemmed large shrub is a hybrid and usually thrives in USDA Hardiness zones 4 – 9 (Ewing is USDA Hardiness Zone 6b). It is a cross between Magnolia denudata and Magnolia liliflora, reportedly a hybrid made by one of Napoleon’s retired cavalry officers, Étienne Soulange-Bodin, around 1820 in France.

In the garden it makes a beautiful focal point and is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring along with flowering cherries, redbuds, and the shrub, forsythia.

Saucer Magnolia blooms before its leaves appear in the spring but the flower buds are frequently damaged by frost as they open so early. Having a medium growth rate, a tree may reach a height of 20 to 30’ with a variable spread, pyramidal to rounded in form with low branches; it is also grown as a multi-stemmed shrub. There are dozens of varieties, each with a distinctive size and shape, with flowers which measure up to 4 to 8” across, and colors varying from purple-pink to white.

The best site for a Saucer Magnolia will have an acid, moist, porous and deep soil and full sun to partial shade. It tolerates wind and urban pollution fairly well. The roots need ample room to develop and the tree should be mulched to the drip-line (keep the mulch at least 6” from the trunk). If pruning is necessary, it should be done right after flowering.

There are several pests and diseases which attack Saucer Magnolia but fortunately they are infrequent. The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker woodpeckers seem to favor its bark, and ring the tree with little holes, but the damage is slight.

The Ewing Environmental Commission ( welcomes suggestions for the Plant of the Month from all Ewing residents.

To calculate the economic and ecological benefits of the trees on your property. go to

Johnson Trolley Trail Update

PaintingJTT1Spring cleaning is definitely in process throughout township and the Johnson Trolley Trail is the recipient of some elbow grease by EEC members Joe Mirabella and Lee Farnham.  You may recall from our last post that the Township received a grant to upgrade the existing trail in 2012.   EEC Chair and NJ DEP hazardous waste supervisor Joe Mirabella inspected the bridge and this past weekend he and fellow painting enthusiast were hard at work applying a fresh coat of paint.   Now remains only the planting of low-maintenance shrubs and grasses at certain parts of the trail.


Photos were supplied by Denise Montervino who  wrote in saying “A job well done.  My name is Denise Montervino and my husband Tom and I walk the trail almost daily , so it is nice to see these gentlemen caring about the community.  A big thanks for keeping Ewing a great community to live in.”

March EEC Meeting Rescheduled to March 24

totmplantingTonight’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Ewing Environmental Commission has been cancelled and rescheduled for March 24th at the Ewing Senior and Community Center at 6:30 pm in the Board Room.

Please feel free to join us instead at a public hearing by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission at the West Trenton Fire Co. tonight from 6:00 – 7:30 pm on the proposed bridge replacement. An info session / open house will be held before hand from 4:30-6pm.  The tree cutting / compensatory reforestation plan in Ewing will be covered.

January 2016 Tree of the Month – Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern_Red_Cedarby Ann Farnham, LLA

The Ewing Township Environmental Commission recognizes a stately eastern redcedar tree (Juniperus virginiana) in Village on the Green Park as the Ewing Township Tree of the Month for December 2011.  Village on the Green Park is along Sabrina Drive.

Eastern redcedar is an evergreen tree of many uses. The wonderfully aromatic wood repels moths and is used for chests and to line closets.   Native Americans made flutes from the wood.  Colonists made log cabins out of the wood.

A small redcedar trees makes an excellent chimney brush. In Virginia, my wife and I would tie ropes to both ends of a redcedar tree and then pull it up and down the chimney with me on the roof and her by the fireplace.

Eastern redcedars are used as Christmas trees, most often in the South.

The fruit of eastern redcedar are small pale blue berries with a strong flavor that can be used as a spice and when chewed are reputed to heal canker sores.

Wildlife benefits provided by eastern redcedar include shelter (it is very cozy nestled within the branches of a redcedar) and food. Many birds eat the berries, the seeds of which pass unharmed through their digestive tract.  Thus redcedars use birds as effective dissemination agents.  Redcedars are among the first trees colonizing abandoned farm land.

Check out the Tree of the Month in Village on the Green Park.  This underutilized, open park is ideal for activities such as dog walking, kite flying and Frisbee™.

The purpose of the Ewing Township Tree of the Month is to call attention to Ewing Township trees of note based on their beauty, size or historical significance and thus engender a greater appreciation by residents for the fine trees in our community.

Let the Ewing Township Environmental Commission know about your favorite trees in Ewing Township and perhaps one will be selected for Ewing Township Tree of the Month.

Pawpaw – September Tree of the Month


Troy Evans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park,

This native tree has the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) known as “wild banana,” or “prairie banana,” derives its name from the Spanish, “Papaya.” It has almost no insect or disease pests.

An endangered species in New Jersey (threatened in New York), it is native to the East, South and Midwest. First mentioned by the Spaniard deSoto while on expedition, he found Native Americans growing it in the East. It was a favorite dessert of George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson planted it at Monticello and shipped seeds to France.

Pawpaw has a pale, custard-like fruit with spoonable flesh and easily removed black seeds. Usually eaten raw and chilled, it tastes similar to a mixture of banana, mango, cantaloupe and cherimoya. High in antioxidants and fatty acids, it is supposed to have more nutrient value than apples and peaches, and more protein than bananas, apples and oranges. Once picked the fruit spoils quickly, so it does not ship well and is usually found only at farmer’s markets. It is also used in ice cream, pancakes and juices. It is especially revered in Southeastern Ohio.

The fruit, with colors from yellow-green to brown, matures from mid-August to October and is up to 2-6” long and 1-3” wide. It is eaten by raccoons, foxes, opossums and squirrels, but seldom by deer or rabbits.

Pawpaw is not self-pollinating. Growers often use a brush to pollinate the flowers to ensure a good crop, or spray them with something smelly, like fish emulsion, to attract pollinating insects. The leaves, twigs and bark have a disagreeable odor and contain a natural insecticide, “acetogenin,” which probably contributes to the pollination difficulties. The larvae of the native Zebra Swallowtail butterfly ( dark, striped caterpillars), eat Pawpaw leaves as their only food.

Pawpaw’s alternate leaves, which are among the last to appear in the spring, cluster symmetrically at the ends of branches. The delicate leaves are 10-12” long and 4-5” wide, dark green above and lighter below, and prefer non-windy areas.

The flowers are 1-2” across, bloom in March through May, with colors ranging from red to purple to maroon.

The tree, which prefers full sun after the first few years, grows naturally in patches, spreading mainly by root suckers as an understory tree in well drained, fertile and shady bottomlands or floodplains.

Ann Farnham, Licensed Landscape Architect

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Tree of the Month from all Ewing residents. Email suggestions or questions to

To calculate the value that trees add to your property, go to

Two New Members Added to EEC Roster

The Ewing Township Environmental Commission is pleased to announce that it has recently added two new members, bringing its membership to the full complement allowed by law of nine.  They exemplify the EEC’s efforts to attract and appoint qualified new commissioners that add depth of experience and expertise in relevant fields in order to better carry out its mission.

bruceblackBruce Black

Bruce Black of FMC Corp. in Ewing has a PhD in Virology. His broad career spans much agricultural research at FMC. In addition to holding many patents, he is involved in several major research programs, and is responsible for reviewing new technology entering FMC, as well as long term strategic planning. A resident of Yardley, PA he enjoys studying nature, and is an enthusiastic birder, and advocate for butterflies.

passeswearinginJeff Passe

Jeff Passe (shown here receiving his appointment certificate from Jennifer Keyes-Maloney, Pres. of the Ewing Township Council, who administered the oath of office at the May meeting) is Dean of the School of Education at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). Since arriving two years ago he has been responsible for adding a minor in Educating for Environmental Sustainability to the curriculum. When he lived in Maryland he became a certified Chesapeake Bay Steward, studying environmental challenges to the health of the Bay, and doing projects to promote sustainability by residents of that watershed.