The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








Kevin Martin with the Bradford Pine. Courtesy photo.

Tree Terminology

Coniferous, softwood, evergreen: Often used interchangeably, most coniferous trees keep their foliage year round. They produce cones and most have needle-like leaves, such as pine, fir and spruce.
Deciduous, hardwood, broadleaf: These are the trees that lose their leaves seasonally. Their leaves are wider and their wood is harder. They include species like oak, maple, hickory, birch and beech.
12 Forests and Trees worth visiting
On April 8, dozens of families gathered at the 10th Annual Earth Day Celebration at the Massabesic Audubon in Auburn. The coup de grace was the release of a rehabilitated barred owl back into the wild. Parents and small children watched, fascinated, as the bird’s handler, Maria Colby with Wings of the Dawn, opened a large black box and, with a little coaxing, the raptor emerged and flew to the nearest tree cover.
For the bird, the forest is its home. For us humans, it can be a nice place to visit. But to those of us who are not regular hikers, it can be hard to switch off Netflix and go experience nature. 
What we need is a purpose. To that end, here are 12 destinations to check out with various points of interest that make these wooded places extra special. 
Pawtuckaway State Park: Located at 7 Pawtuckaway Road in Nottingham, this forest is unique from most other places in the state for a number of reasons. Pete Bowman, wildlife biologist at the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau, said it’s one of the best forests for finding rare plants. “[Pawtuckaway] has some of the highest concentrations of rare plant species in the state because of its unusual geologic history,” Bowman said. He said the ground beneath the forest is what gives it its unique characteristics. The ring-shaped mountain formation within Pawtuckaway, known as a ring-dike, was the core of an ancient volcano. That lent the area richer soils because of the mineral nutrients released by the old volcanic bedrock. Some plant species need richer nutrient diets to survive. According to ecological inventory reports by the Heritage Bureau, most of the rare plant species in the park are found within the ring-dike. During surveys, Natural Heritage Bureau researchers found pockets of what are called “rich mesic forest,” which provide for a wide variety of herbacious plants. Some are common, like Christmas fern or red baneberry. Others are rare, like bur sedge, sickle-pod and climbing fumitory. In 2002, surveyors there found the first occurrence of Hitchcock’s sedge in the state. The dominant forest type in Pawtuckaway is a hemlock-beech-oak-pine (HBOP) forest, which is one of the more common forest types in the state. But there are also trees more commonly found in Appalachian oak forests. The park is always open for recreation but is only staffed full-time from May 1 through Oct. 31.
Coleman State Park: Located at 1166 Diamond Pond Road in Stewartstown, Coleman State Park is another rich mesic forest with excellent soils for growing a wide variety of plant species, according to Bowman. The ecological inventory of the park published in 2009 states the park is home to a number of rare species such as Goldie’s fern, squirrel corn and others. The forest is a northern hardwood and spruce-fir forest. The park is always open for recreational use and the operating season for the campground goes from May 5 through Oct. 16.
Cape Horn State Forest: Located in Northumberland, this forest contains a “rich mesic forest” that can support a number of rare plant species. The geology of the land balances out the pH and increases the nutrient content in the soil. The forest at the highest elevation is classified as a red pine rocky ridge community, which is dominated by red pine with the occasional red oak and red maple dotting the landscape. At lower elevations, in the rich mesic forest area, hardwoods like sugar maple and white ash dominate. Herbs like northern maidenhair fern and blue cohosh are common, as well as rare plants like Goldie’s fern, beaked sanicle and showy orchis. And in the basin near Dean Brook is a northern white cedar-balsam fir swamp, which also includes black ash. Herbs in the swamp include common species like small enchanter’s nightshade.
Tamworth Big Pines: The Big Pines in Hemenway State Forest in Tamworth are reachable by trails maintained by the Tamworth Conservation Commission, according to the Division of Forests and Lands. The trail starts at the parking area off Route 113 and it leads to some of the largest white pines in New England. To get there, travelers must walk over a wooden pedestrian bridge over the Swift River and a loop trail leads to the grove with the giant trees. Another trail that branches off the main trail leads to an observation tower at the top of Great Hill.
Madame Sherri Forest: Access Madame Sherri Forest through an entrance on Gulf Road in Chesterfield. Inside, you will find not one but four “exemplary natural communities” (the name used by the state to describe distinct and thriving forest ecosystems), an Appalachian oak-pine forest and the ruins of the titular mansion. The 516-acre forest is owned partly by the N.H. Forest Society and the state Department of Resources and Economic Development. The stone ruins are not a feature of a long-lost civilization, but a relic of a prohibition-era socialite who went by Madame Antoinette Sherri. The foundation and stone staircase is all that remains of her French chateau with Roman influences, which burned down in 1962 after Sherri became destitute and abandoned the property. Still, it might be fun for kids to imagine the ruins belonged to a fairy kingdom.
Biggest Bigtooth Aspen: Kevin Martin with the NH Big Tree Program said the bigtooth aspen found at Kingman Farm in Madbury is the 2016 national champion, making it the biggest known tree of its species in the country. Martin said it’s accessible by a 1/4 mile trail accessible from a parking area off Route 155 in Madbury. The exact GPS coordinates are 43°10.263’N, 070°52.026’W.
Biggest Shagbark Hickory: The largest shagbark hickory tree in the state is found in Adam’s Point, Durham, near the coast of the Great Bay. Martin said if you take the main trail into Adam’s Point for about a 1/4 mile. It is in a field on your left as you approach it. The exact GPS coordinates are 43°05.514’N, 070°52.026’W.
Big Bradford Pine: One of the biggest eastern white pine trees in the state is the so-called Bradford Pine in Bradford. To get there, Martin said to take Exit 9 off Interstate 89 in Warner and take Route 103 to Bradford. Pull over to the trailhead parking area on the left. There are a number of large pines in the same area as the biggest. The exact GPS coordinates are 43°15.974’N, 071°57.588’W.
Dame Forest: This Forest Society property in Durham includes a mix of HBOP forest and a little bit of Appalachian oak-pine forest, according to Gabe Roxby at the Forest Society. Roxby recommends the Sweet Trail which cuts through the forest with a round trip distance of 8 miles. The trail can be accessed from parking areas on the Dame Road side and the Longmarsh Road entrance on the north side. Dame Forest includes a mix of wetland forest and upland habitats where all kinds of wildlife can be spotted, from waterfowl, beaver and turtles.
High Watch Preserve: This property, owned by the Forest Society, surrounds Green Mountain in Effingham and Freedom. “It’s an interesting one because as you go up in elevation you transition from different forest types. So you might start out in like a hemlock, hardwood forest and by the time you’re at the top of the mountain you’re in a spruce forest,” Roxby said. There are multiple paths to the summit with a round trip distance of two to  three miles, but the climb can be strenuous. Blueberries are usually abundant near the summit when in season. There is a fire tower at the top.
Rocks Estate: The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem is a reserve that serves as the Forest Society’s North Country Conservation and Education Center, with 13 buildings on the historic register. Roxby said a couple different forest types intermingle there; Northern hardwood forests co-exist with spruce-fir forests. Elevation plays a role in the concentration of the latter type since spruce-fir forests are better adapted to colder climbs.
Your backyard: Angie Krysiak at the Massabesic Audubon recommends families take the time to do what she calls a “microhike” in some nearby woods, perhaps in your own backyard if you have any. “The big thing that we want people to realize is that if you just go look in your backyard, there’s some amazing stuff going on right there,” Krysiak said. Then she recommends marking off a one-foot-by-one-foot area with popsicle sticks and monitoring it for a little while. This will help young ones learn how to observe the tiniest forms of life that live in forests. “If you pay attention really closely, you can see that there’s all kinds of things going on in the dirt, there’s all kinds of things going on with the plants that are growing there, there’s all kinds of things going on with all the little wildlife and all the little insects,” Krysiak said. “Even a handful of dirt can have … lots of activity.”

Forest Adventure
The stories behind NH’s woodlands, plus where to find the state’s coolest trees

By Ryan Lessard

 With 84 percent of our state covered in forests, New Hampshire is the second-most forested state in the nation after Maine, according to the state Division of Forests and Lands. That’s about 4.8 million acres of land, with an estimated 4.2 billion live trees — and much of it goes regularly unexplored. 

The state’s greenery and forest types vary from one place to the next. Some forests even have hidden treasures, from rare plant species to ancient trees.
Forest types
New Hampshire’s forests are broken down into five major categories: Appalachian oak-pine, hemlock-beech-oak-pine (or HBOP), northern hardwood conifer, lowland spruce-fir and high-elevation spruce-fir.
According to Gabe Roxby, a field forester with the New Hampshire Forest Society, Appalachian oak-pine forests are only found in southern parts of the state and are relatively less common than the other forest types.
“New Hampshire is kind of at the northern edge of the Appalachian oak-pine forest type,” Roxby said. 
It includes species like red oak, white oak, black oak, hickory and pine.
The HBOP forest type is the most common in the state and can be found in large swaths from the Lakes Region down. 
Further north and in parts along the west of the state, you’ll find a higher concentration of the northern hardwood forests. These include the trees with the brightest color leaves during the fall foliage season, such as beech, sugar maple, yellow birch and other birches and maples. 
Spruce-fir forests thrive in colder temperatures so they’re found in the northernmost parts of the state and at high elevations like in the White Mountains. For that reason, these forest types are divided into lowland and high-elevation categories. They include mostly red spruce and balsam fir. While these are mostly up north, one notable exception is the top of Mount Monadnock, according to Roxby.
Compared to other nearby states, New Hampshire’s soil is more acidic. Vermont soil, by contrast, is more balanced due to calcium released by more limestone in the bedrock, which makes it better for vegetation. But there are some places in New Hampshire that have richer, moister soils that provide a habitat for more herbaceous plant life. These are called “rich mesic forests” and they include places like Pawtuckaway State Park, Coleman State Park and Cape Horn State Forest (see page 15). 
Different forests are also in varying stages of growth. Old growth forests, mature forests and transitional young forests known as “early successional” forests all exist in the state.
Right now, the state’s forests are in a period of significant regrowth and most forests are neither very young nor very old.
“A lot of the forests in our state have been cut over and cleared. Almost all of them. There’s very little old growth left in the state,” Roxby said.
While most trees are relatively younger, aged around 100 years on average, there are some notable exceptions. A few years ago, state researchers discovered the oldest tree found anywhere in eastern North America. It was a black gum tree (also known as a tupelo) aged about 700 years old. Pete Bowman, wildlife biologist at the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau, said the tree is located with a few other ancient black gums in a swampy basin on private land in Deerfield. 
Animal life
The age and composition of a forest can affect what kinds of animals might take up residence in a forest. For example, some birds like Grey Jays or Spruce Grouse require spruce-fir forests and can’t be found outside of one. Lots of mammals require significant tree cover for their habitats, so as forests grow back, the state sees an increase in deer, beaver and bobcats. Other species like porcupine and turkey have been doing well as a result of a number of factors from conservation efforts to shifts in predator populations. 
Canine species like gray fox, coyote and fisher have reached such high population numbers they are now being affected by natural population controls such as canine distemper. 
But while some species thrive in mature forests, others prefer young transitional forests. 
Forest historian Tom Wessels of Antioch University of New England said when abandoned farms in the state gave way to rebounding forests, it provided ideal habitat for species like New England cottontail, grassland bird species and warblers that need small, “shrubby” trees.
“Now, we’re seeing them really decreasing because we don’t have those those really early successional ecosystems much anymore,” Wessels said.
Making way for sheep
The current formation, age and composition of the state’s forests was largely the result of human intervention.
According to Wessels, there were two significant historical developments that shaped our forests, the ripple effects of which are still felt today.
The first big wave of deforestation in New Hampshire, and much of central New England, was to make room for sheep pastures, according to Wessels. But for a strange turn of history, this might have never happened. 
Farmers in New England had some sheep already, but they didn’t produce very good quality wool. That changed when a diplomat from Vermont named William Jarvis performed an act of international theft.
In the early 1800s, Spain was exporting high quality wool from a special breed of sheep called merino sheep. They grow long hair at faster rates than other breeds and their wool could be woven into higher-quality garments known for being more water resistant and itch-free. Wessels said that while Spain sold the wool, they had an embargo on the sheep itself, hoping to hold onto their merino monopoly. 
While serving as consul in Portugal around 1810, Jarvis took advantage of Napoleon’s invasion into Spain and smuggled 4,000 merino sheep out of the country through Portugal, according to Wessels. He even gave a few to his buddy Thomas Jefferson.
Around the same time, after the War of 1812, new tariffs on wool imports protected local wool producers from international competition and by 1814 the power loom was invented, allowing for mass industrial production.
Merino sheep were a sure money-maker for New Hampshire farmers. The only catch was land; sheep need a lot of it. The obvious solution was to clear out huge areas of forest. Wessels said by the middle 1800s, about 80 percent of the state’s forests were cut down, the bulk of them for sheep pasturage.
“It changes the landscape because it’s sort of the first large-scale market farming opportunity for farmers in New Hampshire. Up to that point most farms were self-reliant farms where people were growing enough food for themselves and if they had a little bit left over it would get sold,” Wessels said. “It vaulted the central portion of New England — which would have been all of New Hampshire pretty much south of the Notches — to become one of the major woolen textile producing regions of the world.”
The wool industry would experience ups and downs, usually caused by changes to tariff laws. From 1845 to the 1960s, Wessels said the state experienced a gradual period of farm abandonment, which allowed for reforestation.
“The bulk of our forests today are all generated from that farm abandonment,” Wessels said.
Ironically, almost all the trees cut down for pasturage wasn’t used for timber. They were burned. Farmers could still make money off of the ashes. Pot ash was a key export for making gunpowder and soaps back then.
Timber industry
The second historical development that helped shape our forests today was a significant clearcutting operation that almost wiped them out altogether, especially in the White Mountains. 
Wessels said timber was a key industry in the state even during colonial times, when the British would use our trees to construct their navy.
“Really the basis of the New Hampshire economy at the start was timber, because although New Hampshire’s soils were not as fertile as, let’s say, Vermont … New Hampshire soils grew really good pine and oak and both [were] valued for shipbuilding,” Wessels said.
The large pines were used for masts and the oak was used for framing. But those trees were cut selectively.
“They were going after the best trees and they weren’t really clear cutting,” Wessels said.
But by the late 1800s, the timber industry was clearcutting forests in the White Mountains, and it lasted into the 1920s. This gave rise to groups like the Forest Society, which sought to preserve the forests, and new federal conservation policies.
Another thing deforestation did was reduce forest diversity. Historical records suggest a much wider variety of tree species co-existed before the wholesale removal of forest areas, according to Wessels. Today, forests have become more homogenous.
New Hampshire’s state tree
In a way, this clearcutting might have had a significant impact on which tree was chosen to be the official state tree. In 1947, the legislature named the white birch (also known as paper birch) the state tree. White birch is an early successional species and it’s not very tolerant of shade, according to forester Gabe Roxby. This means they thrive in open, sunny areas, but they struggle when tree cover gets too dense. Their boom in populations was a result of the clearcutting and its prevalence may have played a hand in the legislature’s choice.
“I wouldn’t doubt that the clearcutting of the White Mountains had a big impact on that choice because paper birch was one of those trees that came back like gangbusters after that clear cutting,” Wessels said.
Now, the white birch is in sharp decline, according to Roxby, who keeps track via the annual reports put out by the U.S. Forest Service.
A few other things have affected forest composition over the years. Bowman said the state used to have a lot more elm and American chestnut trees. Dutch elm disease was introduced to the region from diseased logs in the 1930s, according to the UNH Cooperative Extension. Chestnut blight did away with most of the chestnut trees in the region around the same time. The trees now can only grow to a point and die off to the roots, repeating this cycle, never to reach maturity.
The next big change in the state’s tree composition may be the loss of the ash tree. New Hampshire is home to white, black and green ash (white being the most common) but all are susceptible to a deadly invasive insect called the emerald ash borer. Ash have been wiped out in other parts of the country exposed to the beetle, so the state has attempted to slow its progress by banning cross-county transport of firewood, which ash borers can hitchhike on. 
Environmental officials are also experimenting with different ways to fight back against the bugs, but the demise of the ash seems otherwise inevitable.
“Ash doesn’t have a super bright future,” Roxby said. 

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