Martha's Vineyard, a parting look

This post is the last in my photographic trip back to Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. If memory serves, most of these pictures are from the Long Point Wildlife Refuge, but to tell the truth I'm not completely sure.

This was possibly my favorite part of the trip, even more than visiting the gardens. Here there was unadulterated, wild, natural beauty. The vicious mosquitoes were not a part of that beauty. I enjoy nature, but I'm not one of those "love all creatures" types. But the mons- I mean mosquitoes fell away once we broke through the trees and were shielded by the breeze off the ocean.

Martha's Vineyard offers many expansive views, from the high points...

and the lows.

Extensive flats and marshy areas provide ample habitat for wildlife.

I call this one: Shades of Green. Haha. Not really, but the three levels of vegetation, each a different shade of green, did make for an interesting effect.

Speaking of interesting effects, coastal winds always produce such beautiful, twisted branches on the trees. Before visiting Martha's Vineyard, I had really only seen this effect in the shore pines, salal, Pacific wax-myrtle, and other mostly evergreen species on the coasts of Oregon and Washington. Walking under this canopy of twisted limbs, with the light shining through the leaves, was a very different and beautiful experience.

Someone, at some time, made these small cairns of stone on the larger rocks along the beach. It made a nice scene, a beautiful beach with just a tiny human touch.

So many beautiful scenes can be found on this island.

And lots of cool plants. The evergreen ground cover growing over this weathered stump is Epigaea repens, a beautiful native of the East Coast. The pink, fragrant flowers fade to white, and bare some resemblance to a small azalea flower. In fact, Epigaea is a member of the same family, Ericaceae. The state flower of Massachusetts, Epigaea repens, or Mayflower, grows slowly and requires conditions similar to many other members of the Ericaceae family, namely moist and acidic.

The contorted, dwarfed oak woodlands of the island were endlessly fascinating. So many scenes caught my eye that my shutter finger proved rather itchy. The following is a small selection of the photos I took.

Oh look! Swans! Well, I do occasionally notice things besides plants. I had never actually seen wild swans before. The parents were so graceful, gliding across the water and guiding their rather fluffier young.

The channel the swans were traveling down led all the way out to the Atlantic.

The oak woodland broke up gradually. Eventually the oaks were reduced to islands in a sea of low, windswept shrubs and grasses, and then the shrubs gave way almost entirely to the grasses.

By far the most spectacular bloom to human eyes on the island was the native Lilium philadelphicum, or wood lily. We found these growing near the edge of the oak woodlands and continuing out into the meadows. The fiery, up-facing flowers on this compact species are the equal of any modern hybrid for sheer beauty.

But to insect senses, this Pycnanthemum (P. verticillatum, I think) was far more attractive. Swaths of this plant literally vibrated with buzzing bees and wasps of all kinds. Personally, I love Pycnanthemum for the scented foliage, minty but also with a hint of woodsy or pine-like scent.

We also drove out to the Gay Head Lighthouse. Built in 1796, it may be smaller than most of the lighthouses I've seen on the West Coast, but it certainly has a much longer history. Once there was a whole set of other buildings around the lighthouse, but today only this venerable beacon remains.

The Gay Head Lighthouse was built to warn ships about the underwater rocks known as the Devil's Bridge off the western tip of Martha's Vineyard. The bluff is quite beautiful and this, our last day on Martha's Vineyard, was a gorgeous sunny day, a nice send-off to end a great trip.


  1. Beautiful photos, Evan. Nature is the best landscaper. That wood lily is stunning - I love the green color at the center. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday!

    1. Thanks, Kris! I sometimes wonder which I like more, nature or human-made gardens. Happy holidays!

  2. Beautiful photos Evan, just shows why Martha's vineyard is such a world renowned place.

    1. Thanks guys! It is a beautiful place.

  3. Always hearing about Martha's Vineyard, and now I know why. Thanks for this tour. We see wild swans in the Columbia slough at certain times of the year.

    1. I had never heard of Martha's Vineyard before I went to Massachusetts. Lots of reasons to visit!

  4. As the others have said beautiful photos, I especially like the one of the stone cairns. So I wonder about the air, is there a scent of the sea? Any of the deep woodsy smell of the PNW?

    1. That's a good question, Loree. The dominant scent was definitely the sea, with a bit of oak leaf mould smell in the wooded areas. Very different from the moist, mossy, conifer scent of the PNW. The only place I've been with air that smelled as good as the PNW so far was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens was pretty close, though.


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