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Welcome to the Alpine Zone

Welcome to the Alpine Zone
Welcome to the Alpine Zone

The area above treeline in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is called the Alpine Zone. It is an inhospitable place for plant life which is exposed to extreme conditions including high wind, heavy cloud cover, high precipitation, low temperatures and a short growing season. Yet many of the plants that grow here are well-adapted to the conditions.

The best time of year to spot these rare plants is in June when they’re flowering. I was lucky to see some of these plants on the Appalachian Trail while traversing the Northern Presidentials and the Mahoosuc Range in New Hampshire and southern Maine.

Diapensia lapponica
Diapensia lapponica

This is Diapensia lapponica, just before flowering This photo was taken near Edmands Col just before my final ascent of Mt Jefferson in the Northern Presidentials.

Ledum Groenlandicum
Ledum Groenlandicum

This plant is known as Labrador Tea (Ledum Groenlandicum). It is found in bogs in the alpine zone. This photo was taken while traversing one in Maine on top of a mountain called Mahoosuc Arm.

Lapland Rosebay (Rhododendron Lapponicum)
Lapland Rosebay (Rhododendron Lapponicum)

I spotted these lovely purple flowers called Lapland Rosebay (Rhododendron Lapponicum) on Mt Madison in the Northern Presidentials.

As a budding naturalist, I hope I’ve identified the species here correctly. If this is something you’d like to learn more about, I recommend the AMC Field Guide to the New England Alpine Summits.

Written 2009. Updated 2015.

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  1. Just out of curiosity, what is the temperature at this time of year in the Alpine Zone?

    My family and I went to Shenandoah National Park today. It was a good 10 degrees cooler in the park then our home 45 minutes away. I was surprised to see so many flowers still in bloom…which, with the exception of only a few…are generally referred to by me as "the white one", "the purple one", "that one over there", etc. Course, I know what wild blackberries look like and watched handfuls of them go straight into my mouth.

  2. 60-70's during the day, depending on the wind, but the weather can change radically in just a few hours in the White Mountains (NH) and get downright nasty. It seems that the flowers are also out on the west coast in June. Calipidder and Trailcooking.com also have recent posts about mountain meadows in bloom.

  3. Hi,

    Was thinking of doing the presi traverse, whats the alpine zone in that area? Is there a set altitude? Or just go below treeline?



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