Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway National Recreation Area

Natural World

Natural Features & Ecosystems


Phragmites grasslands cover vast areas of Gateway, and are subject to frequent burning. Remnants of other more diverse grassland types, particularly at Floyd Bennett Field, are significant remnants of former habitats.

Throughout Gateway, barrier beaches like Breezy Point and sand spits like Sandy Hook and Crooke's Point are constantly being sculpted and changed by long shore currents and storms.



Phragmites, Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, is an aggressively growing species, which outcompetes many other native plants. It can grow to a height of ten feet, and often grows in disturbed areas. It forms a "monoculture," which lowers biological diversity. Phragmites reproduces mainly by underground runners, with one plant often giving rise to dozens of shoots. It is also the main fuel for fast-moving and dangerous grassland fires at Gateway.

Poison Ivy

First written about in North America by Captain John Smith in the Jamestown colony, Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, is a misunderstood and often maligned plant. It is also one of the most common plants at Gateway. It provides cover and food for a wide variety of animals, and in many places its roots stabilize critical sand dunes. It is important that visitors be familiar with this plant's three leaves, which can vary from bright green to reddish in spring and fall, with white berries in summer and fall. Poison Ivy at Gateway can grow as a low, trailside plant, as an aggressive tree-climbing vine, as a shrub, and even as a small tree. All parts of the plant contain the oil urushiol, which causes a skin rash in about half of the U.S. population.


The Golden-crowned Kinglet is a common migratory species at all units of Gateway. Located on the Atlantic Flyway, over 300 resident and visiting bird species have been recorded at Gateway.