Visiting New Hampshire's Biodiversity


Mt. Cardigan: Subalpine Heath - Krummholz Rocky Bald System



Description:
With its open, 3,155 ft. summit and expansive views of west-central New Hampshire, Mt. Cardigan is an extremely popular destination for hikers. When the trail emerges from the trees of the spruce-fir and hardwood forest, it enters a red spruce - heath - cinquefoil rocky ridge community, which consists of extensive areas of exposed bedrock and patches of scrubby vegetation. These patches are generally characterized by short red spruce trees, shrubs in the heath family such as lowbush blueberry and sheep laurel, and an herb layer with three-toothed cinquefoil and common hairgrass.

As the trail approaches the Mt. Cardigan summit, at roughly 2,800 ft. elevation there is a transition in the vegetation to the subalpine heath - krummholz/rocky bald system. Here, the tree species are only present in the stunted and twisted krummholz form, and a suite of plants appear that are indicative of subalpine habitats. These include mountain cranberry, black crowberry, and Labrador tea. In addition, there are three rare plant species in this subalpine system: mountain firmoss, Bigelow's sedge, and head-like sedge (which is known in NH only from Mt. Cardigan and Mt. Washington).

Along the ridge between Mt. Cardigan and Firescrew, hikers will pass by several montane level fen/bog communities, small wet areas with a variety of mosses and peatland plants.

For a detailed report on the ecology of this site, see
Ecological Inventory of Cardigan Mtn. State Forest (2007).


Directions: From the AMC's Cardigan Lodge on the mountain's east side, the easiest route to the top is via the Clark Trail. From the summit, a loop is possible if you descend via the Manning Trail over Firescrew.

Landowner: State of NH - DRED /
Appalachian Mountain Club

Site Guide and Map

Images (hold mouse over image for caption)

Summit of Mt. Cardigan as seen from the south summit (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Subalpine heath/krummholz rocky bald system on Mt. Cardigan.

montane level fen/bog along the ridge north of the summit of Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Sheep laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in bloom on Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
      a small fen along the ridge                Sheep laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Firescrew and the exemplary montane rocky ridge system from Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Firescrew and the exemplary montane rocky ridge system from Mt. Cardigan

Mountain firmoss (Huperzia appalachiana) on Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata) amongst lichens on Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
         Mountain firmoss (Huperzia appalachiana)      Three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata)

Fire tower at the summit of Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)  wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) flower along the trail at Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
    Fire tower at the summit of Mt. Cardigan    wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)       

Wet area in the montane rocky ridge system on Firescrew (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
a montane level fen/bog in the montane rocky ridge system on Firescrew
(photo by Ben Kimball)

Mt. Cardigan from above (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Mt. Cardigan from above (Rimrock and South Peak in foreground) (photo by Ben Kimball)

Cardigan loop trail map (click for larger pdf map)
(click on map for pdf version)

Mt. Cardigan site guide (click to link to brochure)
site guide


link
: www.outdoors.org/lodging/lodges/cardigan/index.cfm

link: http://nhparks.state.nh.us/explore/state-parks/cardigan-state-park.aspx


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