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Wildflowers Downeast

From the time the first Mayflower blooms between the patches of melting snow on the sunny hillsides until late in the fall the great natural lands of Washington County are filled with hundreds of varieties of wild flowers and greens. Plants have structures and abilities which suit them for living in particular environments and therefore each distinct area of seashore, woods, fields and roadsides brings forth its own individual bouquet.

In the dense woods the forest becomes a living green carpet woven of Teaberry, Ferns, Partridge Berry, Moss, Lily-of- the-Valley and Ground Pine. In the patches of sunlight between the trees, Clintonia, Violets, Bunchberries and Solomon's Seal unfold their delicate blooms. Of these, the Bunchberries are found in great profusion everywhere in the county. They resemble miniature Dogwood trees to which they are related. Their white crowns, not true blossoms but modified bracts, are replaced by clusters of brilliant red fruit to form a pleasing contrast with the surrounding grey Lichen and green Moss. To the careful observer in the woods will come the thrill of discovering the rare and beautiful Twinflower. Only a few inches high, each evergreen plant bears a pair of short erect stems, each topped with a single fragrant bell.

In moist hollows and a long the banks of the streams grow lush Blueflags and here and there can be found the startling Cardinal flower with its crimson spike. Along the beaches just above the high tide mark other forms thrive and bloom nursed by the fog and salt spray. Around the twisted heaps of bleached driftwood twines the Beach Pea, with its purple and lavender flower and Bindweed with its pale pink trumpets.

Further up the beach on land not yet eroded by the waves grow Rock Cranberries and Blueberries. In season their fruits are found on the tables of Downeast natives.

Even on the most inhospitable cliff, seemingly growing directly out of the rock, are found nests of Harebells. Their nodding blue flowers supported on slender stems withstand the heaviest sea storms. One region of special interest lies along the road to West Quoddy Head, known locally as the "flying place." It presents an isolated example of Arctic tundra and contains several highly specialized plants. The tundra is formed by a heavy springy layer of Sphagnum Moss growing on a bed Once the site of a lake, the area was originally formed by a large glacial block of ice left behind by the retreating ice field over 12,000 years ago. As the ice melted, a shallow lake was formed which slowly filled in to become a peat bog. Evidence of the ancient clay lake bed and peat strata can be found where wave action from the sea has cut away the shores.

Growing on the present tundra are two varieties of insectivorous plants: the Pitcher Plant and the Sundew. The common Pitcher Plant is recognized by its yellow and red umbrella-like flower. This is borne on the top of a tall stalk rising from a circle of leaves formed like milk pitchers. The inside of these hollow leaves are lined with downward-pointing soft spines. A nectar secreted at the edges of the leaves provides an attraction for the unwary insect who easily slides down inside the pitcher but finds it difficult to climb back out. Rain water collecting in the leaf forms a pool where the trapped insect drowns. Digestive cells lining the leaf absorb the dead insect, thus adding to the plant's food supply.

The Sundew is a small, harmless-looking plant with flat round leaves covered by hairs tipped with glistening dew-like drops. Each hair is in reality a gland which secretes a sticky mucilage making the tiny pin cushion into lethal weapons.

Insects caught on the leaves are enfolded by the hairs and eventually digested. On the moist peat bogs also grow Rhodora which blooms purple-pink in the spring; Labrador Tea and Sheep Laurel.

Don't pick either the Pitcher Plant or Sundew however. They are both protected by law.

During July and August the fields and road sides blaze with color like an impressionist canvas. Former pasture lands are filled with Bittersweet, Bluets, Yarrow, Thistles, Vetch, Clover, Wild Strawberries, Columbine, Devil's Paint Brush, Buttercups and Daisies. Old rotting fences are brightened with Wild Roses and Woodbine, while Lilacs mark the spot where a long-forgotten house once stood.

The county highways are edged with Day Lilies, Tansy, Evening Primrose, Black-Eyed Susans, Loosestrife, Mulleins and Meadow Rue.

In the fall with the changing colors of the leaves, the ground color becomes purple and yellow with Asters and Goldenrod.

Masses of Pearly Everlasting wait to be gathered for decoration in the home during the long winter.

Even where man has scarred Nature with burning and careless cutting, bright Fireweed grows to cover the blackened earth with waving stalks of orchid-colored flowers.

The up-turned face of Washington County, colorful, delicate and constantly beautiful, is recognized with intense pleasure by anyone who takes the time to look closely.

And that, in fact, is the secret of enjoying every one of the many faces of this Downeast county. Washington County Maine - Washington County - A Look At Downeast Maine

A Little Washington County History - At Machias the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought - a land and sea action which resulted in the British schooner "Margaretta" being captured by the American residents with the loss of only one man on the American side. The captain of the British craft died that night in the Burnham Tavern, a well-preserved example of a colonial inn now open to visitors. The oldest building east of Bangor, it's maintained by the local D.A.R.

Everyone Loves Blueberries - Washington County, responsible for more than 90 percent of the nation's blueberry crop, is the world's largest producer. The glacially formed "barrens", vast rolling plains of sandy soil, are perfect for raising wild, lowbush blueberries. Thus, the growing, harvesting and processing of the blueberry is a major industry in Washington County. Nearly a quarter million acres of barrens yield an average of 30 million pounds of blueberries annually, all of which are canned within the county.

Sport Hunting in Washington County - The face of this land is a succession of valleys with ridges between, stretching from the Narraguagus to the St. Croix and beyond. The rivers that drain the valleys are born of spring-fed lakes and ponds that lie embossed in the highlands to the north, hidden away in the forests of pine and spruce, of balsam fir and hemlock. These are the haunts of the whitetail deer, the black bear and the moose, and this is the land where they are sought by the hundreds of hunters who venture forth come fall.

Native American Indian History - Although the earliest European settlers found Indians of the great Algonquin stock throughout Maine, evidence unearthed and correlated in the last fifty years has firmly established the belief that these Algonquin tribes had been preceded by an earlier, different group of men who are called Pre-Algonquin or Red Paint People. Red Paint People have been so named because each of their ancient graves contains from less than two quarts to a bushel of brilliant ocher, usually red but occasionally yellow or brown. The burial with the bodies of ocher (a mineral from which paint may be made) and stone implements, which are unlike Indian implements, distinguishes these people.

Natural Wonders - TIDES: The greatest rise and fall of tides on the shores of the continental United States occur along the Washington County coast. The tall pilings at Jonesport, Lubec and Eastport attest to the gigantic fluctuations of the ocean's level where 18-foot variations are average. Actually, the greatest tides occur way up the St. Croix River at Calais where the average is 20 feet. At certain times of the year, however, the water level will vary 28 feet every six hours or close to one inch every minute!

Beaches And Tidal Pools - No visit to Washington County would be complete without the thrill of discovering the beauty of the beaches and rocky cliffs that form the boundary between the pounding sea and the land. This narrow band between the low and high water mark is a world of its own populated with plant and animal life peculiarly adapted to living part of each day submerged by the ocean water and the rest of the time exposed to the drying sun and wind. The scene is an ever changing one as each tide slowly rearranges the pattern of the rocks, the sand and the residue from the sea.

Campobello Island - Campobello Island, N.B. is nine miles long and about three miles wide. It has two fishing villages, Welshpool and Wilson's Beach, both of them home port to many colorful vessels which go out many miles to catch fish. After you go through customs and get a friendly nod you'll climb a hill. When you get to the top, stop and turn around so you can take in the view of Lubec, Maine across the "Narrows", where, according to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the strongest tidal currents on the east coast flow --around 12 knots or 15 miles an hour.

Ten Exciting Places To Enjoy Yourself Absolutely Free - There are several excellent facilities in Washington County which are open to the public at no charge. All that is asked is that visitors leave the areas clean and unspoiled. Depending on the location of the site, provisions have been made so that people of all ages may enjoy picnicking, tenting, boat launching ramps, fishing, hiking and swimming.

Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge - The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, an area comprising 28,686 acres, was established in 1937 for the protection, study, perpetuation and management of certain species of wildlife, particularly waterfowl and other migratory birds, in the area. Moosehorn is the only one of more than 540 national wildlife refuges that is devoted to the study and management of the American woodcock.

Five Great Places To Hike - If you're looking for some interesting hiking trails, you've come to the right place. Here are five locations you might want to try some of these.

Washington County Wildflowers - From the time the first Mayflower blooms between the patches of melting snow on the sunny hillsides until late in the fall the great natural lands of Washington County are filled with hundreds of varieties of wild flowers and greens. Plants have structures and abilities which suit them for living in particular environments and therefore each distinct area of seashore, woods, fields and roadsides brings forth its own individual bouquet.

Points Of Interest - When the phrase Down East came into common usage is unknown but some historians feel the description goes into the early 1600's. It is rather a puzzling phrase but as you can see from examining a map, the coast of Maine does go east but, at the same time, it runs northward too, or up. However, what early explorers quickly found out was that the prevailing winds blew from the southwest, as they do today. Therefore, they most frequently sailed with, or down the wind, as they moved to the eastward. Thence, Down East.

The Glaciers Did It - A million or more years ago the world grew very cold. Great sheets of ice formed over the northern lands, retreated, grew again, drew back and for the third time advanced far south of what is now Maine. As recently as 15,000 years ago there were tongues of the huge glaciers extending into Washington County.

The Communities Of Washington County - St. Croix Island, set about midway between the United States and Canada in the beautiful St. Croix River, was the scene of the first white settlement in the New World north of St. Augustine, Fla. It was here, in 1604, that Samuel Champlain and his fellow French explorer, Sieur de Monts, led a band of about 100 soldiers and traders and spent the winter. It was from this island that Champlain explored the coast of New England as far south as Cape Cod.

Boat Launch Sites - Washington County has some pretty good boat launching ramps on lakes and the salt water. Here is a fairly complete list of the fresh water launching sites.

Salt Water Fishing - A salt water sports fisherman, to borrow author Kenneth Roberts' words; "has always with him the clean, salt tang of the sea, the roar of waves on the ledges, the fatalistic scrutiny of clownish seagulls and is never annoyed by mosquitoes, black flies, midges or horseflies." A description which should knock fresh water fishing into a cocked hat, but won't. Nevertheless, salt water fishing in the county can offer every member of the family some wonderful thrills whether you cast from a ledge or wharf or dangle a line from one of the charter boats that ply from Red Beach, Jonesport, Cutler or Eastport. The fish to be caught include flounder, sculpin, cod, pollock, smelt, mackerel, halibut, sea bass or "stripers" and tuna, although tuna are very rare. In fishing for flounders, we notice that the most successful fishermen use worms, either the garden or sand variety; this keeps the bait from being eaten by the sculpins.

State Parks - Washington County offers several nice public parks including the ones listed on this page.

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