Eastern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Red pine rocky ridge community on Black Mountain. Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Red spruce-heath-cinquefoil ridge on the summit of Black Mountain. Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Fire scarring on uphill side of red pine trunk. Photo by Chris O'Brien.
Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata). Photo by Peter Ellis.
Forest: White Mountain National Forest
District: Pemigewassett Ranger District
Description: It is sometimes necessary to do a little leg work to enjoy the beauty of the native wildflowers and observe interesting natural communities in the White Mountain National Forest. It is a rare occasion that does not involve some sort of hike. As the name implies this National Forest is filled from east to west with mountains: some big, some not so big. It never fails that many of our most interesting plants and plant communities are located on or very near the summits of these mountains. From experience I have learned that it is well worth the effort of making the trip. Black Mountain is one of the smaller mountains and shorter hikes and well worth the trip. Along this short 3.6 mile round trip hike you will observe a number of forest community types but the real treat is two State of New Hampshire exemplary natural communities: red pine rocky ridge and red spruce-heath-cinquefoil ridge. Both communities have a relationship to past and/or on-going fire regimes.
During the latter 19th and early 20th century wildfires were common in the White Mountains. The largest of these fires often changed the ecosystem on the summits that were burned. Prior to these fires the summits of most mountains, other than truly alpine peaks, would have been completely forested. Many summits were burned off and some so violently that the fires actually consumed the thin layer of organic matter that did exist. Any remaining soils were then either washed away or washed into isolated pockets by subsequent rain storms.
The red spruce-heath-cinquefoil ridge on the summit of Black Mountain is a result of such an event and this community has developed since the last fire. Fires were so prevalent in this area that the summit of Black Mountain once held a staffed fire tower and residence. The majority of the species in this community are actually fire intolerant including the framework tree species, red spruce. However the same fire that may kill off red spruce also creates an empty ecological niche for red spruce and its cohorts in this community type to colonize and ultimately dominate. In the absence of fire, litter and soils would accumulate and this natural community type would become forest much as it had been prior to the above mentioned forest fires. Today, the summit is exposed with a patchy cover of red spruce (Picea rubens) intermingled with sparse paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and mountain ash (Sorbus americana). The exposed ledges are ringed by a heath community consisting of sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronatus), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and a scattering of herbaceous species primarily three toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata) and common hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa). From the summit the views of Long Pond and Mount Moosilauke to the east and south are tremendous on a clear day.
A bit down slope, this community trends into a red pine rocky ridge. This community type has its own albeit in a slightly different relationship with fire. Red pine communities are dependent on fire and its rejuvenative effects. In its absence red pine (Pinus resinosa) will decline and the natural community itself may unravel. Fire suppression efforts, of both natural and human induced fires, in the wake of the turn of the century forest fires have caused red pine communities to decline dramatically. Today the use of prescribed and wildland use fire is striving to maintain and promote these communities where they would historically have occurred.
On Black Mountain, the steeper western slopes contain little vegetation other than mature red pine, but on more gentle slopes and the bench formations found on the southern and eastern slopes red pine co-mingles with a small amount of white pine (Pinus strobus) and paper birch. The shrub and herbaceous layers contain black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), mountain holly, lowbush blueberry, cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare), pink lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium acaule) and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). On the numerous exposed ledges and boulders in this community pale corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens) and rock polypody (Polypody virginianum) can be observed.
Directions: From Plymouth, New Hampshire, follow route 25 west through the Town of Warren and Village of Glencliff. Approximately 5.2 miles north of Glencliff and 0.4 miles north of the major power line crossing, turn right onto Lime Kiln Road in East Haverhill. Follow Limekiln Road bearing left at the major fork at 1.4 miles and continue on to the trailhead parking area which is 3.1 miles from Route 25. A small parking area is located at the base of a large hill with spaces for a few cars. There is a wooden trail sign and the trail is blazed in yellow.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest.
Closest Town: Glencliff, New Hampshire.