Bald Mountain Preserve in Marlow, New Hampshire is a great place to see many wildflowers, including purple trillium (Trillium erectum), painted trillium (Trillium undulatum), blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), violets, and others. It is north of Keene and is called “the icebox of Cheshire County” because it often boasts the lowest temperature in winter.
Can you see the trail? There it is just to the left of the fallen birch. You have to climb over the stones to follow it.
You also have to use stones to cross a stream that winds its way through the preserve.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many hobble bushes (Viburnum lantanoides) in one place, and they were almost ready to bloom. I’ve got to remember to get back here soon because all of these bushes in bloom must be quite a sight. They are one of most showy and beautiful native shrubs.
False hellebore (Veratrum viride) plants grow all along the stream banks here and I’ve seen many bear flowers in the past. This tells me that they have been here for a while because this plant doesn’t begin to bloom until it is at least 10 years old.
People often mistake false hellebore for skunk cabbage, but the leaves of skunk cabbage aren’t pleated like these are. Confusing the two isn’t an issue because people don’t eat skunk cabbage, but unfortunately people do confuse false hellebore with edible ramps, also known as wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) and have been poisoned by doing so.
False hellebore is one of the most toxic plants in the forest and if you forage for edible plants, you should know it well. In 2010 five campers in Alaska nearly died from eating its roots. Thanks to being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital they survived. There is another account of an entire family being poisoned by cooking and eating the leaves. It is said that the plant was used by some Native American tribes to select a new leader. All the candidates would eat the root, and the last to start vomiting would become the new leader. I think I would have been comfortable with just being a follower.
Though I didn’t find them at the Bald Mountain preserve I’m including a photo of ramps here so people can compare them to the previous photo of false hellebore. Personally, since even the color is different, I don’t see how anyone could confuse the two plants, but it has happened.
Some kindhearted soul built a bench to sit on. There isn’t much of a view from it but you can sit and catch your breath.
The most impressive sight here is this monolithic granite outcrop that has to be at least 60 feet tall. It would soar above a two story house and it is a large part of the reason that this place is so popular with rock climbers.
By pacing off this broken slab I got rough measurements of 30 feet long by 15 feet wide by about 4 feet thick. At 168 pounds per cubic foot that equals over 150 tons, which is more than a diesel locomotive. What a sound it must have made when it fell from the cliff face! Even more remarkable than its weight is how one face is almost perfectly flat.
It’s clear that these boulders have been here for a very long time. This one was all decked out in mosses and polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum.) They are also called rock cap ferns, for good reason. Grouse, deer and wild turkeys feed on their evergreen fronds in winter.
Other ferns like cinnamon fern were just out of the soil. It is interesting how plants that have just come up out of often wet soil can look so clean. The muddy soil doesn’t seem to stick to them at all. If I could discover their secret it sure would save me a lot of laundry and vacuuming time.
In the end I didn’t find any wildflowers but that doesn’t bother me because I know that when they’re finished blooming in Keene they will still be blooming here, so I’m glad that I made the journey.
I was surprised to see the waterfall in the above photo on my way home-surprised because it is in a spot that I’ve driven by hundreds of times without ever seeing a waterfall. It’s amazing what we miss.
On the path that leads to nowhere
I have sometimes found my soul.
~Corinne Roosevelt Robinson
Thanks for stopping in.