New Jersey Butterfly Club

A chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

Willowwood Arboretum & Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center

by Joe Burgiel and Marge Barrett

County: Morris, with a small portion of Willowwood in Somerset.

Municipality: Chester Township and Bedminster Township.

Directions: From the south: From Exit 22B on I-287 North take U.S. Rt. 206 north about 4.9 miles to the traffic light at the intersection of 206 and County Route 512 (Pottersville Rd.). At the light go left on Route 512 for about half a mile and angle right onto Lisk Hill Road. This is a small road, easily missed. After a short distance, at a T intersection, turn right onto Union Grove Road. Proceed about 0.3 miles to a fork and bear left onto Longview Road. Willowwood Arboretum is about 0.5 miles farther, on the left. Take the long, unpaved driveway to the parking lot. Bamboo Brook OEC is about 0.5 miles farther still on Longview Road, also on the left.

From the north: Traveling south on Rt. 206 from the traffic light at Main St. and Rt. 206 in Chester, proceed 3.65 miles to Spring Lake Drive on the right. Follow Spring Lake for 0.35 miles to a left on Bamboo Lane. Follow Bamboo to a T at Longview Drive. Turn right and follow Longview for a little less than 0.1 miles to the Willowwood entrance on the left.

Parking: Yes. At both facilities.

Nearest sizable town: Chester Borough (about 4 miles north on Route 206) has gas stations, food markets, and restaurants.

Habitats: Dry and wet meadows, coniferous and deciduous forests, several small streams, and one of moderate-size. Both facilities have formal gardens in addition to natural meadows, and these also attract butterflies.

Maintained/Marked trails: Yes. Mowed-grass trails are easy; off-trail walking through meadows is moderate. A Trail Map is available.

Restrooms: Yes. At both facilities.

Picnic tables: One at Willowwood. At the time of this writing the one normally at Bamboo Brook was not present.

Notable species: Swallowtails, especially Eastern Tiger; Coral, Banded, Juniper, White M, Gray, and Red-banded Hairstreaks; Variegated and Great Spangled Fritillaries; Baltimore Checkerspot; anglewings; Mourning Cloak; Red-spotted Purple; 9 species of Spread-wing Skipper including Northern and Southern Cloudywings, Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskywings, and occasionally Common Checkered-Skipper; 17 species of Grass-Skipper including Swarthy, Fiery, Indian, Crossline, Long Dash, and Sachem. Also seen—but only rarely—Cloudless Sulphur, Common Sootywing, and Ocola Skipper.

Best time to visit: Anytime May through October. Greatest diversity butterfly diversity is in midsummer.

Exploring Willowwood and Bamboo Brook: Follow the mowed, grassy trails through the meadows, though also going off-trail is usually rewarding. The habitats in the two parks are sufficiently different that visiting them both is well worthwhile. Note that a trail connects Willowwood and Bamboo Brook, so if you’d like a nice, long walk you can explore both sites from a single starting point.

At Willowwood, check the edges of the area of natural vegetation beyond the strip of lawn next to the parking lot. Most of the hairstreaks have been seen on flowers here, and this area is also excellent for swallowtails, fritillaries, and spread-wing skippers, while the trail around it passes through wetter ground where moisture-loving species such as Baltimore Checkerspot may be found. Other wet areas include one along the driveway about midway between the first clump of trees on the left as you enter the park and the hedgerow that follows it, also on the left. The area about halfway down-slope has been good for Long Dash. Another damp area is the small meadow about 100 feet to the right of the office building (which looks like a large, formal residence). The drier meadows produce Viceroys, swallowtails, and a good variety of grass- and spread-wing skippers. Late in the season, when it is breezy and cool, and most areas have very few butterflies, you may find some seeking warmth in the sheltered Rosarie garden beyond the nursery area to the left of the office building,

At Bamboo Brook, be sure to visit the low, wet area at the far end of the meadow directly behind the barns. This has been one of the more productive areas in this park. Another worthwhile wet area is just beyond the small building at the lower end of the formal gardens to the left of this same meadow. The vegetation on the downward slopes around the second parking lot has often produced hairstreaks, while the meadow above is good for grass-skippers. After passing through the gate below this second parking lot, the meadow on the right and uphill has been one of the most reliable areas for Swarthy Skipper in northern New Jersey. And don’t forget the other dry meadows.

Special precautions: Ticks are present in season, though generally not in large numbers.

Notice: Horses and pets are not permitted in either park.

You might also want to visit: Fairview Farm (about 2 miles south on Larger Cross Road); Kay Environmental Center (about 3 miles north on Pottersville Road); River Road Park.

Additional information and trail maps for Willowwood Arboretum and Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center may be found through the Morris County Parks website at

To view a larger map, click on 'View larger map' icon in upper right hand corner. (Tip: The satellite view may also suggest good potential butterfly habitat to explore.)

Formal garden and office building

Formal garden and office building.

Rosarie garden

Rosarie garden.

Path through fields

Path through fields.