Jeff Dement gives a lesson in tree identification during Saturday’s walk through the Fair Haven Fields Natural Area. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)


The Fair Haven Fields Natural Area Committee is engaged in a quiet, prolonged battle, one of forest versus invasive vines that have become familiar in Monmouth County.
About 20 people turned out Saturday to witness the ground gained in the war on a walk guided by Jeff Dement of the American Littoral Society. He pointed out the different types of invasive plants, including Oriental bittersweet and Japanese honeysuckle.
“The way vines kill is by robbing trees of sunlight,” he said. “The forest is all about competition, usually for sunlight.”
Dement also talked about identifying trees, and pointed out trees which are remnants of the nursery that once occupied the 40-acre borough-owned preserve.
The tussle with the vines has been underway for seven years, and it’s never-ending, said committee co-chair Rich Fuller.
“It’s not something you complete,” he said, noting that he and others spend hours every week pulling vines. “We’re trying to get to the stage where it can be maintained with a reasonable amount of work.”
Volunteers have cleared four to five acres of multiflora undergrowth, freeing up precious sunlight for native plants, he said.
On the offensive, the group has planted 300 trees of more than 10 kinds, including beach plum, chestnut ash, dogwood and juniper.
Fuller explained the committee’s role in the area: “The borough DPW maintains the trails. The Natural Area Committee manages the natural habitat.”
More information can be found on the committee’s Facebook page or by email.