Eastern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Androscoggin Ranger Station
Forest: White Mountain National Forest
District: Androscoggin Ranger District
Description: In the shadow of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains a new native plant garden has put down some roots. Over the past three years at the Androscoggin Ranger Station on the White Mountain National Forest, District and Forest staff has worked tirelessly to renovate a traditional commercial landscape into a botanical reflection of the native species occurring on the White Mountain National Forest. The facility was constructed in the early 1990s and when it came to landscaping, it got the standard commercial mix of a few native plants smattered amongst masses of non-native species. Luckily, only a few of the non-natives were later deemed to be invasive and in the harsh climate of this location did not spread readily into the surrounding forests.
The Androscoggin Ranger Station site can be broadly divided into three “garden” areas each providing a wonderful opportunity to observe native species and their interactions with pollinators. The gardens directly around the building itself are irrigated and actively maintained. Typical maintenance includes weeding, signing, and addition of new plant materials annually. Two distinct areas can be found here. The wildlife gardens consist mainly of shrubs with a few wildflowers and grasses for diversity. Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), sweet gale (Myrica gale), rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), and New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are some of the highlights.
The second area near the building is a small woodland garden in which wild oats (Uvularia sessilifolia), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) can be found growing. Over the course of the renovation project more than 200 pots, plugs, and balled and burlaped shrubs were installed to complete the renovation. The garden is now cared for by district staff and members of the local garden club. The non-invasive plants that were removed as part of the renovation were donated to staff and local residents for use in their home gardens.
The third area is slightly different – it is a bit wilder and relatively untended. It consists of a series of openings between the office and Route 16. The only regular maintenance occurring in this area is occasional battles with the western Lupine, a non-native and very aggressive species, and periodic mowing to retain their open character. Goldenrods (Solidago sp.), asters, meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) dominate these areas making them excellent places to observe pollinator interactions with native plants. With the abundance of milkweed in these areas monarch caterpillars and chrysalis are often discovered here.
An attractive educational feature of these gardens is the presence of interpretive panels providing information on woodland wildflowers and meadow wildflowers. These signs were originally developed by the New England Wild Flower Society and noted botanical illustrator Gordon Morrison. Each sign highlights roughly twenty species and their pollinators, and provides an overview of that habitat type. Additionally, each individual species planting is signed with the common and scientific name, range of the species, and a list of potential pollinators of that species.
The garden is a valuable resource to visitors to the Androscoggin Ranger District and also serves as a nectar source for local pollinators, some of which may be struggling. Furthermore, because the plants growing in the garden are of local genetic type, the seed they produce can be collected, dried and stored to be used on restoration projects on the White Mountain National Forest.
Directions: The Androscoggin Ranger District is located at 300 Glen Road in Gorham, New Hampshire. Glen Road is also Route 16. From Route 2 in Gorham proceed south on Route 16 for several miles. The Ranger Station is located on the west (right side) of the road. For detailed directions call (603) 466-2713, extension 0. The gardens are located in front and on both sides of the Ranger Station office. Meadow areas are located to the right and right rear of the office.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest.
Closest Town: Gorham, New Hampshire.