The ferns, flowers, shrubs and grasses of Cadillac Mountain have a tough enough time surviving the elements, but the biggest threat of all may be the pounding of constant foot traffic on Acadia National Park’s busiest and highest summit.
During a recent morning atop 1,530-foot Cadillac, Jill E. Weber, a botanist who consults for the park, surveyed areas close to the summit where she and other researchers are attempting to restore and protect common Acadia plants and some rare species such as mountain firmoss, Nantucket shadbush and boreal blueberries.
“We have a lot of years with a lot of feet,” Weber said. “There is no ill intent. There just has not been the maintenance of the vegetation. A lot of it is gone and we are trying to figure out if we can bring some of it back.”
On Cadillac, which receives about 700,000 visits by people a year, the Acadia plants are as fragile as those along the well-known Alpine Garden Trail of the much higher Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Botanists, park leaders and others are now close to completing a multi-year project to understand, protect and revive Cadillac’s fragile vegetation.