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May 2013: Willowy Paper Birches

From the Photographer...

Jerry Monkman

The paper birch, Betula papyrifera, seems to hold magical powers over nature enthusiasts and photographers in particular. The tree's white, peeling bark is unique among hardwoods and usually stands in contrast to the darker tones in most forests.

This grove in the Sieur de Monts area in Maine's Acadia National Park is a regular stop for me whenever I visit the park, and other photographers regularly ask me to take them to this spot after seeing my photos from there. The trees here don't grow very big due to the fact they are regularly standing in water or very wet soil as this is an area rife with beaver activity. This forested wetland is an important feature in the park, providing habitat for a large diversity of amphibians, insects, and migratory birds.

What draws me to this location is the contrast between the birches and the colorful grass that grows beneath them. This combination of features is not very common in New England, with the forest understory usually being thick with shrubby undergrowth in hardwood forests, and bare of most vegetation in thicker conifer forests. The crooked trunks of the trees, weakened by wind and poor soil, are nicely complimented by the swirling patterns in he grass.

I made this shot when spring buds were emerging and early morning light was filtered by light fog.

Jerry Monkman is a conservation photographer based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His work has been published worldwide and he has worked on more than 120 land conservation photo projects in New England since 2000. His newest book, The AMC Guide to Outdoor Photography won a 2012 National Outdoor Book Award. To see more of his work, visit

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