The snow sparkled in the sunlight and crunched under foot. Gulls periodically punctuated the wintry hush. At Moose Point State Park in Searsport, on New Year’s Day a few years ago, we chose to take a trail that remained close to the ocean’s edge. Soon we discovered two curiosities: one of human making and the other a mysterious wonder from the plant world.
The first curiosity was a young balsam fir (Abies balsamea) adorned with a half dozen or so non-breakable ornaments. Although a delight to see, it seemed out of place.
Not far from this first discovery came the second and more puzzling encounter. Green was protruding through the snow, when most other plants had withered into dry brown lifeless remnants of their former selves. Yes, there are forest floor evergreen plants, such as trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). However, those were well insulated by the snow cover; the snow keeping the temperature around 32 degrees Fahrenheit at ground level. These puzzling three leaves were exposed to the crisp wintry air. When standing next to the three leaves, I could see they were blades of a fern.