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Plants I’m fond of: Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) December 14, 2012

Posted by Jenny in hiking, plants, White Mountains.
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lapland-rosebay-close-up

Lapland rosebay

I took this picture along the Boott Spur trail on Mt. Washington. It was in June, at an elevation of 5000′. I had just connected with this trail via the Boott Spur Link, which comes straight up from the floor of Tuckerman Ravine.

Although I’m not usually into “trail-bagging,” such as becoming a “900-miler” (doing all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), one year I just happened to notice that I’d been on all the trails that take you up to the summit of Mt. Washington, directly or indirectly, except for Boott Spur Link. I thought I might as well fill in my “missing link,” especially since the steepness of the trail made it look interesting. (Its upper section climbs 500′ in about a quarter mile.)

Once I arrived on the broad Boott Spur ridge, I began to encounter pockets of Lapland rosebay nestled in among the screefields. You notice that the leaves have a downy texture. It’s as if they need to have a little extra fur to keep warm in that harsh environment. The headwall of Tucks still had snow at that point in the season. The photo below was taken on the same hike from the other side of the ravine.

Tuckerman Ravine headwall

Tuckerman Ravine headwall

Lapland rosebay grows only in isolated alpine environments, such as around Katahdin, Washington, and Marcy. It finds pockets of soil between the sharp-edged talus rocks to grow in. And during a brief period in early summer, it comes into its glory. Those beautiful flowers, although tiny in comparison with those of Rhododendron maximum and other more familiar species, are among the largest blossoms that you find in this environment.

As this article explains, the “felsenmeer” is a tough place for a plant to live in.  But if you look closely at the wind-blasted stone piles of this northern above-treeline environment, you start to see how plants of all kinds thrive in the crevices, the tiny seeps of high streams, the leeward sides of boulders. I can’t help but see it as a metaphor for human life amidst adverse circumstances.

Life among the rocks

Life among the rocks

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