|The tree directly in front is a gray birch, with its characteristic “chevrons” appearing below each branch. Next to the gray birch are several smooth barked poplars. Both these trees are “pioneer” species; they are the first to move into an open or disturbed area. Their motto is “live fast, die young.” These trees take advantage of being first to arrive by soaking up lots of sun, putting on a lot of wood, and getting tall fast. This means their wood is not as strong and they have weaker roots (the “die young” part). They will be replaced by “grow slow, live long” species such as the oaks and maples.|
A 3 ½ inch diameter paper birch is growing up among a group of grey birches. Notice that the bark of the paper birch is a much brighter white and peels away horizontally. The gray birch bark does not peel and is gray, as its name suggests. Remember to look for the chevrons on the gray birches.
|Look at the two large white pines, one directly in front of the flag and a second one off to the right. Since these two trees are much larger than the trees around them, we can assume they were left along the stone wall to provide a little shade. The pine weevil is an insect that attacks the leader (the topmost new addition) on a white pine. When the leader dies, the other branches in that year’s whorl all try to become the leader. Look at the two trees, about 30 feet up from the ground. They were both weeviled at about 30-40 years old and now have multiple trunks, corresponding the branches that competed to take over from the weeviled leader. Look higher and you will see that these two trees were weeviled a few more times as well.|
This is the last point of interest marker of the trail at its southern end. You are but a few steps away from the Irving Station’s rest rooms and the good food at the Red Arrow Diner. Once again, you see that the rail trail has both recreational and commercial benefits—the rail trail is “good for business”!
The large evergreen just off the trail at the bottom of the slope is an Eastern White Pine. You can see the large, even-aged stand of white pines across the wetlands in front of you. This tree is quite common in southern New Hampshire; its wood is valued for being easy to mill and having smooth grain.
Eastern White Pines have five needles in each bunch. The branches grow in “whorls” all starting at the same height along the trunk. The distance between whorls represents a year’s growth. Check some of the smaller white pines near the trail to your left to see how old they are.
Behind the marker you will see a small, vertical sign standing about four feet high. It reminds people that fiber optic cable is buried along the rail trails. Railroads provide an ideal place for communication cable: they aRe straight, easy to access, and go to population centers. This is a good example of how rail trails serve multiple uses, both for recreation and our economy.
The large basin beyond the side of the trail is full of royal fern. Even though this basin appears dry for much of the year, its soil is often saturated, making it ideal for the ferns. So, not all wetlands are wet!
|Notice all the logs and branches that have fallen into the stream below. This “coarse woody debris” is important habitat for juvenile fish and for the insects they eat. It also slows down the water when it is running hard and fast after a heavy rain or spring snowmelt, which prevents erosion of the stream banks.|
These young white pines alongside the trail are taking advantage of the sand and mineral soil that was exposed when the Park & Ride was created; they also thrive on the sun that the trail has opened up for them. White pines “show their age,” because each year’s growth has a single leader stem, with a “whorl” of 5 to 8 lateral stems at its base. Count the whorls on one of the young white pines, and you will know how long ago the work on the Park & Ride took place!
Look at the vines crawling up the tall trees. The vine on the tree on the left is a native plant called Virginia creeper. The vine on the tree on the right is oriental bittersweet, an extremely invasive plant that does not belong in North America. Like all vines, it uses its host tree for support to climb up to the sunlight it needs. However, oriental bittersweet becomes so lush it overloads the host tree and deprives it of light. As it sprials upward the vine constricts the movement of nutrients up and down the tree. Look farther right and you will see a tree that has collapsed under this extra burden.