Article by Fred Shirley reproduced from the Summer 2007 issue of Heart of New Hampshire magazine. Back to: NH Mountain Hiking
Some flowers are very small, such as Blue-eyed Grass with its half-inch diameter blossom. This flower is so precise in its detailed perfection that when I first came upon it I wished I had a magnifying glass with which to explore more closely. Other flowers are larger and so numerous they paint the mountainside in color when nature gives them the nod and it is their turn to preen. Sheep Laurel is like this -- an individual flower is nothing special, but come July when masses are in bloom together the landscape is dressed in pink.
After the flower completes its transient life, it wilts and is replaced by a fruit -- the end goal of the whole process. Sometimes the fruit is more noticeable than the flower, such as Blue-bead Lily whose flower is obscure (small and yellow-green) but whose fruit is a striking metallic-blue sphere. Hikers who miss the flower in May can't help but notice the fruit in July. Other fruits are edible (be sure you know which before sampling!), such as blackberry, raspberry and blueberry. In the right season, at the right location, my hiking plans have sometimes been sabotaged by the more pressing opportunity to stop and snack.
Some of my hiking friends have gotten deeply into wildflower identification. What starts as a simple question "what flower is that?" grows into a curiosity about nature, then into a challenging voyage of education. If you would like to know more about the flowers you see in New Hampshire's mountains, I recommend the excellent pocket guide Wildflowers of the White Mountains by John Hession and Valerie Michaud. You can also see more NH mountain flowers on my website at www.nhmountainhiking.com.
Additional photos included in the digital (on-line) edition: