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Meet this Mossy Canyonland

August 30, 2023
Mossy old forest at the headwaters of the Lamoille

This summer we protected a 14.1-acre property at the headwaters of the Lamoille River – a place filled with pillowy mosses, spongy soils, and seeps. It’s home to unique ecological communities and it helps communities by storing rainwater, especially important during droughts and floods.

Previously owned by the Meyer family’s E.B. Hyde timber, which over generations managed logging projects on many large forest blocks across the watershed. Family patriarch Hugo Meyer was fond of this particular property and never logged it, instead allowing the forest to age undisturbed. Today, towering hemlocks shade the river and the steeply sloping land that rises up from its banks. Pillowy mosses, spongy soils, standing snags, and rotting logs brim with life in the cool, moist understory – niche old growth habitat features that took time and the interplay of natural processes to accumulate in this ancient-feeling place.

Recognizing the unique ecological values here, we took things a step further than usual and conducted a full ecological assessment. Standout findings include:

  • Native species diversity. From bobcat to bluebead lily, from mountain wood fern to blackburnian warbler, from phoenix feather moss to milky cap mushrooms, over 150 unique plant, animal, and fungi species have been observed at the site to date.
  • Nooks and crannies. Bedrock ledges with caves, crevices, and overhangs; standing dead trees full of holes and hollows; fallen branches and toppled trunks; tunnels in the ground and hideaways in the moss – these features provide dens and nests for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
  • Mosses upon mosses. Left alone from logging or recreation, the forest floor has developed thick carpets of moss species rarely seen thriving in more frequented sites. Each patch of moss is a miniature ecosystem in and off itself, inhabited by countless microbes, insects, and other invertebrates that support the forest food web.
  • Forest seeps. These unique wetland habitats exist in places on the slope where water emerges from underground aquifers. Important feeding grounds for wildlife as the seasons change, these seeps are among the last parts of the forest to freeze in the winter and the first to green up in the spring.
  • American Chestnut saplings. Restoring the American chestnut population has been an ongoing conservation puzzle since a blight ravaged this iconic species over a century ago. Dozens of saplings observed at Canyon Lot may offer clues, especially if any matures to produce viable seeds.
  • Intact plant communities. Unlike so many forested and riparian lands in Vermont, Canyon Lot is virtually free of invasive plants, leaving native plant communities free to grow and thrive.

We’re looking forward to stewarding this special place for generations to come – especially caring for the unique ecological communities that make this little corner of the Lamoille headwaters so special.

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