Mount Desert Island is a wonderful place to explore the wonders and bounty of nature. With our special mix of mountains, marshes, lakes, ocean, tidal areas, fields, and forests, our island is home to a wide variety of plant species. Just take a walk anywhere on the island and you will encounter a variety of trees, ferns, mosses, wild flowers, and fruiting bushes. We are by no means biologists or plant specialists here at Gift MDI, but are lovers of our island who want to learn more about what surrounds us. We were curious about some of the plants and flowers that seem to be synonymous with our piece of Eden, so we did some research and this is what we learned.

By Any Other Name

Whether you know them as beach roses, saltspray rose, or by their formal name, Rosa Rugosa are as hardy as Mainers. While not native to New England, these roses have proliferated across Maine’s coast for the last century and they certainly seem like locals. Rugosa Roses are actually native to Japan, China, and Korea, and arrived in the USA as an ornamental flower.

Rosa Rugosa are loved by Mainers for several reasons- they bloom almost continuously from late spring to early fall, they grow in what otherwise seem to be inhospitable spots, and they are resistant to most pests. Rugosa are very easy to grow and spread quickly. In fact, they sometimes spread too quickly and become invasive, so do take care if you plan on introducing this plant into your yard or garden.

Perhaps our favorite thing about Rosa Rugosa are their hips! Rose hips are the seed pods or fruits left behind after the roses stop blooming. Rugosa roses are known for having the largest, most abundant, and best tasting hips of all the rose varieties. Rose hips can be used for a variety of purposes, from herbal medicine, to food or teas, or as a seaside snack. For tips on how to harvest and use rose hips, visit here.


Lovely Lupines

The lupine is an iconic flower that proliferates here on Mount Desert Island. They bloom in fields and gardens across Maine in early June, often marking the arrival of summer. Wild lupines did once exist in Maine, but the type you see blanketing our fields and roadsides are almost definitely a related, introduced species. The proper name for this plant is Lupinus polyphyllus, or Bigleaf Lupine, and it was brought to Maine from the western United States.

Lupines come in a variety of colors, most often a range of pinks, whites, blues, and purples. They produce striking flowers on long spikes, and resemble pea pods after they are done flowering. Like Rugosa Roses, lupines prefer sandy, acidic soil, and grow very easily here on MDI. Bumblebees love lupine, so look carefully and you might spot these happy pollinators.

Maine’s State Fruit

The lowbush, or wild blueberry, is perhaps the favorite native plant on MDI. Wild blueberries are different from the cultivated blueberries you buy in most grocery stores. While cultivated blueberries grow on high bushes and have a larger fruit, lowbush wild blueberries grow on short shrubs in a relatively small range from Northern New England through eastern Canada.

Wild blueberries may be smaller than their cultivated cousins, but they are widely hailed as more delicious and nutritious! Wild blueberries have more than double the fiber and antioxidants as regular blueberries and have a more intense flavor. Most often picked or raked by hand, much of Maine’s wild blueberry harvest is flash frozen and sold around the world. For those of us lucky enough to be in Maine, bakers and trail-side snackers alike revel in our wild blueberry season (which typically runs from late July-August).

The beauty of lowbush blueberry shrubs doesn’t end when summer is over. In fact, many locals appreciate the fall colors of wild blueberry bushes almost as much as the fruits themselves. In the fall, blueberry fields turn a stunning red as the foliage turns color. It is an amazing scene to drive through wild blueberry barrens that almost appear to be on fire from their intense autumn colors.

 

Do you love wild blueberry baked goods and treats? Visit Bar Harbor Jam for a wide variety of speciality products that feature wild Maine blueberries!


Your Favorite Plants?

What are your favorite plants on MDI? Which do you consider most iconic when you think of our island? Please share  with us, we love hearing from our readers.

If you are interested in a biologist’s take on our local flora, check out these links:
List of common native plants in Acadia
Wild Gardens of Acadia

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