2006-06-03 05:32:42.000 – Jim Salge,  Observer

Alpine flowers at 4800 feet!

After the fog lifted early yesterday afternoon, we managed to squeeze out a few nice hours of pleasant weather between the storm systems. I took advantage of the break in the clouds to find out if the alpine flowers had started to bloom. Nothing at 6000 feet, a few at 5000 feet, and suddenly at 4800 feet of elevation I was amongst a sea of flowers!

The picture at right shows the three most common early blooming alpine flowers of the Presidential Range. They are Diapensia (white), Lapland Rosebay (purple), and Alpine Azalea (pink). These three species are plants that were essentially ‘left behind’ by glaciers in the past ice age, and thrive in sub arctic environments, like this island in the sky above the trees. To see similar plants in normal elevations, one would have to drive nearly 1000 miles north to the tundra in Canada. However, in some ways, they aren’t that dissimilar from valley plants around the valleys. Rosebay is a close relative of the Rhododendron, and the Alpine Azalea blossoms appear as exact miniatures of the azaleas in many yards!

During this summer, you can help scientists in the White Mountains track the alpine flowers through a program run by the AMC. Mountain Watch allows hikers to become citizen scientist to report their observations while on the trails, leading to a database of Alpine Botany. To find out more about this program, click here. You can also talk about the alpine flowers and share your pictures in our new Mount Washington Observatory online forums!

As always, when observing alpine flowers, please keep to the trails and rocks, as these plants are extremely fragile and slow to regenerate!


Jim Salge,  Observer

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