out Jersey’s natural species. The state spends millions
of plants she had poisoned.
This spring, the swallow-wort was
back for yet another faceoff with Gould. It
is a small battle in a wider war being waged
all over New Jersey. Unwanted, uninvited
and unloved plants—as well as animals,
insects, fish and microscopic pathogens—
have muscled into every corner of the state,
crowding out native species and altering the
forests, rivers, meadows and marshes integral to New Jersey.
THE SCALE OF DESTRUCTION in the state
is enormous, costing more than $290 mil-
lion a year, according to one estimate. New
Jersey spends more than $100,000 a year
to combat the spread of just one plant—
“There is little doubt that we have al-
ready lost much to invasive species,” con-
cludes the 2007 New Jersey Strategic
Management Plan for Invasive Species.
The battle is not abating. Fifty new
plant species have turned up in the state
over the last 25 years, with two or three
new exotics continuing to establish themselves on New Jersey soil every year.
Scarred battlefields testify to the
intensity of this war. In Union and
Middlesex counties alone, some
21,000 mature trees were lost to
the Asian longhorned beetle before
it was declared eradicated in 2013. At the
Shore, MSX disease has reduced the state’s
oyster harvest to less than 15 percent of
its 1950s peak. Feral hogs roam parts of
Gloucester County. The woolly adelgid,
an insect, has wiped out entire stands of
hemlock trees in Northern New Jersey.
And since the first emerald ash borer was
found last summer in Somerset County,
the tiny insect has also been trapped in
Mercer and Burlington counties and is ex-
pected to move on to other locales. Near-
ly every ash tree it infests dies.
Popular state landmarks like
Jockey Hollow and parts of Al-
lamuchy State Park are over-
By Anthony DePalma Illustrations by Golden Cosmos