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View north from a fire tower on Apple Pie Hill, the highest point in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

Pine barrens, pine plains, sand plains, or pinelands occur throughout the U.S. from Florida to Maine (see Atlantic coastal pine barrens) as well as the Midwest, West, and Canada and parts of Eurasia. Pine barrens are plant communities that occur on dry, acidic, infertile soils, dominated by grasses, forbs, low shrubs, and small to medium-sized pines. The most extensive barrens occur in large areas of sandy glacial deposits (including outwash plains), lakebeds, and outwash terraces along rivers.




The most common trees are the jack pine, red pine, pitch pine, blackjack oak, and scrub oak; a scattering of larger oaks is not unusual. The understory includes grasses, sedges, and forbs, many of them common in dry prairies, and rare plants such as the sand-plain gerardia (Agalinis acuta). Plants of the heath family, such as blueberries and bearberry, and shrubs, such as prairie willow and hazel, are common. These species have adaptations that permit them to survive or regenerate well after fire.


Pine barrens support a number of rare species, including Lepidoptera such as the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and the barrens buck moth (Hemileuca maia).

Fire ecologyEdit

Barrens are dependent on fire to prevent invasion by less fire-tolerant species. In the absence of fire, barrens will proceed through successional stages from pine forest to a larger climax forest, such as oak-hickory forest.

European settlers found extensive areas of open game habitat throughout the East, commonly called "barrens". The American Indians used fire to maintain such areas as rangeland.[1] Open barrens are now rare and imperiled globally. Suppression of wildfires has allowed larger climax forest vegetation to take over in most one-time barrens. In North America, the largest natural pine barrens exist primarily in parts of the American Midwest and in dry sandy areas along the East Coast.

In popular cultureEdit


John McPhee's book, titled The Pine Barrens (1968), explores the history, ecology, and geography of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. His account is also infused with his personal memoirs.[2] His book contributed to a reappraisal of the ecological role of pine barrens; in New Jersey and on eastern Long Island, they contribute to preserving the amount and quality of vital groundwater supplies in underground aquifers.

The New Jersey Pine Barrens is the setting of Aurelio Voltaire's 2013 horror novel Call of the Jersey Devil.[3]


Season 3, episode 11 of The Sopranos, titled "Pine Barrens" (airdate May 6, 2001), is purportedly set largely in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, although filming of the forest scenes actually took place in Harriman State Park in New York.[4][5][6][7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Brown, Hutch (Summer 2000). "Wildland Burning by American Indians in Virginia". Fire Management Today. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 60 (3): 30.
  2. ^ McPhee, John (1968). The Pine Barrens. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-51442-6.
  3. ^ Voltaire, Aurelio (May 28, 2013). Call of the Jersey Devil (1st ed.). Spence City. p. 352. ASIN B00CXWC7I6.
  4. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (January 19, 2011). "The Sopranos: "Pine Barrens"". Onion Inc. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  5. ^ "The Sopranos banned from County Property". The New York Times. December 17, 2000.
  6. ^ Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""This Thing of Ours": Creating The Sopranos Universe". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 178-. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
  7. ^ Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). "Welcome to New Jersey: A Sense of Place". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.