I mentioned a few times in posts last week that I had taken a long weekend away. The Spoiler and I drove up to Maine, specifically to Ogunquit (which, to some New Englanders isn’t even far enough into Maine to really be Maine, but it’s far enough for me!)
What was interesting was that although we’ve gone up there several times before, we’ve never gone up there at this particular time of the year, so it was interesting to see the different plants in bloom. The mountain laurel (kalmia species)in particular, especially along the highways in Connecticut was stunning. It may have been a dreadful winter but it was kind to the mountain laurels. (And no, I have no photos of the highway vegetation–the Spoiler’s not one for stopping for photo ops).
So I asked the Spoiler, who’s been making this drive for many years longer than I have, if he noticed the way the landscape changes, even as we leave Hartford County in Connecticut, but more particularly as we get up into Massachusetts and Maine. He of course gave me a blank look.
It’s not as pronounced when the leaves are on the deciduous trees, because you don’t see the white barks of the paper birches standing out so clearly. They start to show up in Tolland County, CT and become more prominent the further north you go.
In Massachusetts, some conifers begin to take over the roadside landscape, and once you get to Maine, conifers are the predominant roadside tree–although many of them are dead or dying now because of the pine and spruce beetles that are eating their way through the state, just as they are doing out west. In fact, as I was walking across the parking lot of our hotel, one flew down and landed right in front of me. It’s quite a striking beetle, large, elongate and spotted, almost like the invasive asian long-horned beetle.
Here’s a link to a UMass Fact Sheet showing the native beetle and the invasive Asian long-horned. Our native beetle’s “horns” or antannae are curved downward, while the invasive species point upward. And the invasive is more brightly marked as well.
The beetles have a lot to dine on–there are four native pines (plus a few imported ones), 3 natives spruces (and 2 imported ones) and 3 native cedars, a hemlock and a juniper just for evergreen conifers alone. The beetles that are involved are spruce beetles and white spotted and northern pine sawyer beetles. The devastation is not quite as severe as what has happened out west but it is quite visible. It is changing the landscape from coniferous to deciduous.
And what is filling in for deciduous trees are bottlebrush buckeyes (aesculus species–a lovely native) and black locust (an invasive species).
Perhaps what struck me most this time is that oriental bittersweet (celastrus scandans) is becoming the kudzu of the north. It was quite prevalent everywhere we went, but especially along the Marginal Way, that great seaside walk in Ogunquit. It lined every roadside we drove on or through and it too will change the landscape as we know it.
Finally, it really was lovely to spend some time in Ogunquit. It’s a relaxing place to be and we were there just before the crush of summer tourists arrived. That is how we try to plan our trips–either before or after the madness of summer (and sometimes in the dead of winter even, since the beach can be lovely any time of year–but never in July or August!)
We spent just enough time in Freeport to get a couple of things on sale and we were able to meet an old friend in Portland for dinner and to see her lovely garden and to meet her rescue dog, Woodrow. These are the sorts of things we like to do on vacation–relax, reconnect with old friends and perhaps find a bargain or two in the shops–simple things.
And now that we’re back it’s as if we’ve never left–the garden needs weeding and every day cares intrude. How long until that next vacation?