I stumbled across this lovely video today – it doesn’t matter which September it was. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont has a timeless quality that they caught very well in their short film.
You’ll notice a twin-topped mountain in some of the shots. It’s called Camel’s Hump, and I was lucky enough to climb it with a botanist back in the 80s. The top part is rocky, and you have to do a combination of trail walking/rock climbing in some sections.
In one section, I was just putting down my boot when the botanist warned me not to step on the tree. Now we were above timber line and there weren’t even any bushes around, so what was going on?
It turned out that the 2- or 3-inch-high leafy plant nestled in a rocky crack near my foot was a dwarf willow tree.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me that day. This Wikipedia image is close, though the one I saw had leaves that were more spear-like, I recall, than this specimen:
That is a full-grown tree, believe it or not.
The botanist told me that dwarf willows and other Alpine plants followed the retreating continental glaciers, greening up the land as the last Ice Age ended. After they had prepared the soil and the climate had become more hospitable, other plants moved in.
The dwarf willows and other pioneers only survived the now-intense competition for light, air and nutrients on mountain heights where nothing else could grow.
Camel’s Hump now has one of the few Alpine zones left in Vermont – or did in the 1980s. I don’t know how things are there now.