With a wonderful photograph and alpine ecology book written by the same friend, Nancy Slack, I was able to identify many of the dwarf alpine plants and other native specialties, including a deep pink rhododendron in its prime, Rhodora. It was hiding behind a rock in a boggy area on the way up, so that I didn’t see it until I was almost back down to the road. The icing on the cake that day.
Not far from Halifax and right on the coastal bedrock, I identified many other dwarf plants, including one that had me stumped for a whole year because arctic-alpine experts could not help me. No wonder — it is a “barrens” species, one which also thrives in harsh conditions—constant wind, cold, sterile rock or sand, and even salt spray — but not on the top of mountains.
Right near there but in a slightly protected bog area were dozens of my favorite wild orchid — Arethusa, or Dragon’s Mouth. These were all smaller than ours but one was ridiculously tiny — 2 inches instead of the average ten or 12 inches high though it was perfectly formed.
On the drive home a few days later my new cell phone was not working in the deep valley near Mt. Washington. So despite the prediction of thunderstorms, I “had to drive up it” again, where, sure enough, cell coverage was excellent. And so were the flowers on the Alpine Garden trail, which is very difficult walking because of the loose rocks and boulders that cover the whole mountain. But with the help of a walking stick, very slow, careful walking, and Nancy’s book (which all the other botanists were using too), I was able to identify dozens of plants, blooming or not. It was a blast.
Just after the drizzle started, I headed back up the steep, difficult climb to the car, lacking just a couple of species that should have been blooming. Aha—there the pink beauties were, visible from the trail going in this direction. A totally successful hunt, and the downpour didn’t start until I was in the car!