George Bucknam] [Dorr.

The Acadian forest online

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019 315 310




The Acadian Forest





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0. of D,
NOV 30 1917



George B. Dorr

The Acadian forest, using the word Acadian in its
early French sense, stretched dense and nnbroken in
de Monts' and Champlain's time over the wide coastal
territory now occnpied by eastern Maine, by Noya
Scotia and New Brunswick. Plundered of its wealtli and
existing- but in fragments now, no forest of a temperate
zone clothes with more \'ig(n-ous growth the land it occu-
pies, none has greater charm or shelters a wild life more

This forest is typically represented, with singular com-
pleteness, upon Mount Desert Island, where land and
sea conditions meet and where a unique topography
creates a correspondingly exceptional range of woodland
opportunity. To establish on the Island, in connection
with its now realized national park, a permanent ex-
hibit of this forest growing under original conditions,
lias been from the tirst a constant aim with those who
sought the park's creation.

Such an exhibit has extraordinary yalue. A forest is
far more than the mere assemblage of its trees ; asso-
ciated with them it contains, in regions of abundant
moisture such as the Acadian, a related life, both plant
and animal, of infinite variety and richness, whose home
and sheltering habitat it makes. If it perish, the plants
tliat dwell beneath its shade and draw their sustenance


in part from its decay, together with the multitudinous
other life that haunts it, largely perish with it. Such
a forest is a wonderful complex of mutually dependent
forms, a complex anciently established which once oblit-
erated in a region can never be restored. It passes
quickly, too, destroyed by axe and fire. No forest now
exists in Europe, botanists say, that shows the early,
natural condition of the European woodland ; its very
type is matter for conjecture.

The typical trees of the Acadian forest, those that
give it its peculiar character, are the northern evergreens,
the cone-bearing pines and firs and spruces, the hem-
locks and the arbor vitae. It is of these one thinks in
picturing to oneself the region. Maine itself is called
the Pine Tree State; its eastern coast, "The Land of
Pointed Firs." Longfellow sets the Acadian scene for
us in Evangeline with "This is the forest primeval,
the murmuring pines and the hemlocks," and far out
to sea in early, long-voyaged days the approaching sailor
welcomed witli delight the pungent forest fragrance.

But mingled with these evergreens which give the for-
est its prevailing character there are abundant other
trees that lend their beauty to the scene. Champlaiu
describes the oaks growing as in a park upon one side of
the Penobscot River, when he ascended it in 1604, with
pine forest on the other. Deer and bears grow fat in
autumn on the beechnuts in the wilder woods. The two
noblest birch trees in the world, the Canoe Birch, with
its pure wliite trunk, and tlie Yellow Birch, which in
the North outstrips tlio oak itself in size, find here their
native home. Ash and maple are abundant. Poplars,
mingled with Paper Birches, turn into rivers of gold
amongst the somber evergreens in fall, and nowhere is
the autumn coloring more brilliant or of richer contrast.

Underneath the taller trees, wherever an even partial
break occurs, shrubs and lesser trees spring up in wide
variety; thorns and wild plum trees, beautiful in flower



and fruit; momitain ash and elder, with red, clustered
berries ; vihiirniuiis tliat would grace the finest pleasure
ground ; dogwoods of northern species ; sumach, beauti-
ful at e\ery leafy season; blueberries in the open, rocky
places ; wild roses by the streams and roadsides ; l)lack-
berries with splendid flowering stems ; witch hazel with
its strange autumnal bloom ; rhodora, spreading out great
sheets of pink in spriug ui)on the peaty marshlands, min-
gled with the fragrant labrador tea ; brilliant-berried
ilexes, sold in the cities at Christmas time for holly ; and
a host of others.

No inch of ground, in sun or shade, is left unoccu-
pied. The very rocks are lichen-clad and ferns mat over
them in shady places. Trilliums and wild orchids bloom
in the forest depths, with white-flowered hobble-bushes;
clintonias and the fragrant northern twin-flower that
Linnaeus loved extend themselves as in wild garden beds
upon tlie woodland floor.

Everywhere there is life, spreading mats of crowberry
and the beautiful coast juniper where they are deluged
l)y the ocean spray in winter storms ; clothing wind-swept
granite heights, wherever there is crack or cranny soil
can gather in, with partridge-berry, blueberry, and
mountain cranlierry ; penetrating the forest shade and
profiting by the dense northern covering of leafy humus
that it finds there; and rich, wherever nature has not
been disturbed, in infinite variet}^ — of mosses, fungus
growths and ferns as well as flowering plants. Few
forests in the world, indeed, outside the rainy tropics,
clothe themselves with such abundant life, and there are
none that bring one more directly into touch with nature,
its wildness and its charm.

"Whilst W'C folloived on our conrsc. there came from the land odors
incomparahle for sweetness, brought with a warm wind so ahundantly
that (III the Orient parts eould not produce the like. We did stretch out
our hands, as it loere. to take them, so palpable were they, ivhich I
have admired a thousand time since."

Marc Lescakbot. 1609.

Purchas translation.


Sicur <!<< Monts Spring road, passing through a rare

in the national park

hit of Primeval Forest



019 315 310



Online LibraryGeorge Bucknam] [DorrThe Acadian forest → online text (page 1 of 1)