The Upper Saint John River is the only place in the world where you would find the endangered Furbish’s Lousewort (Pedicularis furbishiae). At this particular site, you will find other botanical rarities such as Cut-leaved Anemone (Anemone multifida), Alpine Sweet Broom (Hedysarum alpinum), Sticky False Asphodel (Tofieldia glutinosa), and others. Why is this area such a hot spot for these plants? Furbish’s Lousewort is not the type of plant that competes well with others for nutrients, moisture, and sun. The banks along this section of the Saint John (Wolastoqiyik) River can get scoured by ice flows during the spring break up so much so that the site remains free of trees and tall shrubs. Banks along the south side are even more popular as they do not dry as easily as those north side banks receiving the southern sun exposure.

The Anenome and Sweet Broom appreciate the site as its bedrock is a type of calcareous slate that tends to sweeten the soil so that the plants are able to take up more nutrients from the soil, just as liming our lawns tends to allow our grass to grow better. With the exception of Mt. Katahdin, the Saint John (Wolastoqiyik) River supports more rare species of plants than any other area in Maine. The New Brunswick side of the Upper Saint John (Wolastoqiyik) River also hosts populations of Furbish’s Lousewort. Furbish’s Lousewort was first discovered by botanist Kate Furbish in 1880, although it wasn’t until 1882 that professors at Harvard University declared it a new species of plant, and named it to honour Ms. Furbish. In 1975, the Smithsonian declared Furbish’s Lousewort as “probably extinct”. Thankfully, botanists from the Maine Natural Areas Program undertake surveys of hotspots such as this site to document the health of the population and to find out where they may spread from year to year. In turn, we protect these and other new populations as they spread out along the riverbanks of northern Maine.

Learn more about other unique plant sites below!