“To be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring”

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
― Gary Snyder


Yesterday I spent three hours with a group of people exploring the Lyme Hill Conservation Area in Lyme, NH, a 237.4- acre property with about 4 miles of trails (and adjacent to 183 acres that are privately held, conserved by the same land trust). In our group were a certified wetlands scientist who has evaluated this property and mapped its wetlands, a botanist who helped us identify many plants along the way, and a stewardship assistant from the Upper Valley Land Trust, which owns this property, who talked about management considerations.




The area is unusual in New Hampshire for its Ammonoosuc volcanic boulders, which contain mineral-rich amphibolite. (These were under-sea volcanoes during the Ordovician Period, 430-500 million years ago.)


Wetlands are abundant here —


— seeps,


Quite a lot of (invasive) Phalaris arundinacea (reed canarygrass) here
Quite a lot of (invasive) Phalaris arundinacea (reed canarygrass) here

former (and possibly future) beaver ponds,



red-winged blackbird on stump in former beaver pond
red-winged blackbird on stump in former beaver pond

slow-moving and fast-moving brooks —


and it’s got a rich mesic forest habitat with some unusual plants.


Among the plants that might grow here  — all of which we saw — are sugar maple (Acer saccharum), basswood (Tilia americana), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), bellwort or wild oats (Uvularia sp.), plantain-leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea), dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)


northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum),


blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides),


rattlesnake-fern (Botrychium virginianum),



wild ginger (Asarum canadense),


downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens) … or some yellow violet, anyway,


mountain sweet-cicely (Osmorhiza chilensis),

(cicely is the plant with the more carrot-like leaves)

sharp-lobed hepatica (Anemone acutiloba),



goldthread (Coptis trifolia) in bloom,


miterwort (Mitella diphylla) in bud,


myriad large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum),



and the eastern leatherwood shrub (Dirca palustris).



We also saw eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), alder (Alnus incana, speckled alder, I think), silky dogwood (Cornus amomum), a bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), white pine (Pinus strobes), red oak (Quercus rubra), sarsaparilla (Aralia sp.), and many others.


“Show me a healthy community with a healthy economy and I will show you a community that has its green infrastructure in order and understands the relationship between the built and the unbuilt environment. ”
― Will Rogers, Trust for Public Land


It was hard to find a place to plant one’s feet, with so much of interest growing underneath. Ferns are plentiful; not only the maidenhair, as noted above, but Christmas (Polystichum acrostichoides), wood ferns (Dryopteris spp.), ostrich (Matteuccia struthiopteris), sensitive (Onoclea sensibilis), and either a silvery glade fern (Diplazium acrostichoides) or a narrow-leaved glade fern (Diplazium pycnocarpon), both fairly rare in our area, I believe.



We also saw American walking fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum), a first for me.




To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” ― John Burroughs, Leaf and Tendril


As we were first standing in a wet meadow, a mouse (deer mouse? field mouse?) with a very long tail rushed by me and then stopped, frozen, under grasses, doing its best to hide from us.


Later, by the beaver meadow, I saw this little bird’s nest sitting low in a shrub, exposed.


Having learned about and experimented with swales as part of my permaculture study, it was good to see how water bars, used for erosion control and to keep water off a trail, look and work. They’re different tools: Water bars divert water, while swales — a ditch-mound combo — hold water; but to build either you need to understand contours. I imagine my dad built a lot of water bars in his trail maintaining days.


All in all, an educational, fun time with a great group in a bewitching spot.



In the name of the bee
And of the butterfly
And of the breeze, amen!
― Emily Dickinson



  1. Sorry, Merry, this walk (and some others) was as a member of an Osher class (Dartmouth College’s adult ed program). I believe the same class is being offered this spring. You might also contact the Hanover Conservation Commission for any activities they plan, and check out the Upper Valley listserv for many area activities, including walks.

Leave a Reply