A Walk in a New Hampshire Woods…

Lately temperatures have been unseasonably warm and snow has been slowly turning to mush.  This weekend, it seemed mild enough for family and dogs to have a little stretch of the legs. Instead of a powdery snow covered trail, we found a mess of slippery slush with muddy puddles along the path. I watched ahead as the dogs romped and slid through the wet snow and humans trod carefully watching where they planted their boots.

human and canine prints

I was curious to see what was growing in this zone 5b pine forest. Would I see many alien species?  Well, no, not really. At first I stepped over a familiar fern looking very much like it was out of the moist woods of Virginia. This could be one of the wood ferns although I’m not sure. I need a field guide for ferns!

Then, here, there and everywhere, covering rocks and fallen trees I saw the soft Cypress-Leaved Plait Moss (Hypnum cupressiforme), abundant to the woodlands of Virginia.

Cypress-Leaved Plait Moss

Where the snow had melted away, we spotted the tiny woodland creeper, Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens L.), the acid loving groundcover we find in Virginia.

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens L.)

Even the waterway at the end of the trail had a familiar look. The Oyster River could double for one of the rivers in Gloucester County, Virginia.

The Oyster River

The landscape that was so like Virginia had things we would never see in Tidewater… like moss and lichen-covered boulders rising out of the earth looking much like giant alien eggs!

And the beautiful bark of the white birch tree (Betula papyrifera), the state tree of New Hampshire shone like lights under the pine canopy.

And, of course, there were the white pines, one of my favorite trees in Virginia. But in New Hampshire they don’t look at all like the white pines I loved in Virginia. Here, the Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), thrives in this cool and humid climate of the Northeast. Growing straight and unbelievably tall, these trees were perfect as masts for sailing ship in colonial days. They were so perfect that in 1772, King George III passed a law that any white pines over 12″ in diameter were to be used as masts for the British naval ships… eventually leading to the Pine Tree Riot, the colonist retaliation against the king’s chosen representatives. It was a little like the Boston Tea Party being the outcome of the tea tax.

Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

I’ve got much to learn about gardening in zone 5 but I’ve got the rest of the winter to decide how to design my New England garden!