Flora and Fauna of the Mid-Atlantic Region

I took a trip to New Jersey (the Garden State!) and Maryland recently and encountered many new plants. New Jersey and Maryland, despite being further south in latitude than Portland, are colder in the winter. NJ and MD are USDA hardiness zones 6 and 7, respectively, as compared to Portland’s zone 8. Additionally, they are known for having a more humid climate with more rainfall in the summer.

Because I was curious, I looked into why the mid-Atlantic region’s winters are colder than those of the PNW. It has to do with wind. Wind tends to travel from the west to east across the US (the “westerlies”). So, in the PNW, wind is coming in from the ocean. The ocean holds onto heat better than land, so in the winter, the ocean is warmer than the land in the middle of the US. Thus, the winds coming into the PNW in the winter are moderate in temperature. As the wind travels over the cold continent, however, it cools down, leaving the East Coast with colder air than the West Coast.

Why the mid-Atlantic is so much more humid than the PNW in the summer? It actually isn’t, as it turns out. Portland and Washington D.C. have roughly the same humidity. The PNW gets humid air from the Pacific Ocean, and D.C. gets its humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. The reason why D.C. feels more humid has to do with dew point and the temperature of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The waters along the Pacific Coast tend to be much colder than the beaches of the Atlantic. Water currents along the Pacific Coast travel north to south. In the Atlantic, water currents travel from south to north bringing warm tropical water up the East Coast. Thus, winds in the PNW are cooled by the Pacific Ocean, whereas air in the Atlantic is warm from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Additionally – for reasons that I don’t understand – dew points on the West Coast are much lower than on the East Coast which means. Thus, you feel more water droplets in the air at a given temperature on the East Coast than on the West Coast. (I think….I’m not a meteorologist, and I don’t totally understand this.)

Cool facts, huh? Anyway… we visited the Freylinghuysen Arboretum in New Jersey, Brookside Gardens in Maryland, and Mount Vernon just across the Potomac in Virginia (more to come later…) Onto pictures of neat East Coast plants….

I saw these berries everywhere – they’re like the East Coast version of Himalayan Blackberries.

They’re called “wineberries.” Tasty.

There is also a lot of lawn on the East Coast.

I guess it’s more reasonable to have a lawn on the East Coast as they get a good amount of rain in the summer and would require less irrigation. But still….seems excessive….

There is also a lot of really beautiful echinacea. I don’t think these photos really capture just how beautiful these flowers are.

Echinacea is native to Eastern/Central US.

Another perennial flower that I saw a lot, but wasn’t super familiar with, was the Stokes Aster.

This flower is native to the Southeastern US (a little further south than where we were), but it is hardy down to zone 5, so it is well-suited to the mid-Atlantic region too. It’s not particularly drought tolerant, so it probably wouldn’t do too well on the West Coast.

One more flower that was new to me is the balloon flower – so named because as the buds mature they form a balloon-like structure before they bloom.

This flower is actually native to East Asia, and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it on the West Coast before….maybe it’s there, I just haven’t noticed it.

Lastly, this was a common site:

These dead leaves were caused by the recent 17-year cicadas. They lay their eggs in the tips of the branches causing the very distal leaves to die. I didn’t see any living cicadas while I was there (fortunately or unfortunately), but they definitely left their mark. It kind of reminds me of the burned leaves I’m seeing on plants after those crazy 110°+ days we had!

It was a great trip!

Big Time Happy Re-Blooming Daylily

One thought on “Flora and Fauna of the Mid-Atlantic Region”

  1. Interesting information about the two coasts’ humidity. And now I’m rethinking our lawn . . . .

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