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Natural History

Carter Creek cuts between two steep hillsides that are dissected by small tributaries. The altitude rises from approximately 1200 feet at Carter Creek to 1940 at the top of Doll Hill. The vegetation is upland forest in different stages of maturity: old growth, second growth and young forest. The western tract is 120 acres, the eastern tract is 146 acres.

In the western tract, the land use history as well as the age, size and species composition of trees is quite variable. The community type is typical hemlock-northern hardwoods forest, with hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), beech (Fagus grandifolia), sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and white ash (Fraxinus americana) being the most common species.  Where there is evidence of disturbance, red maple (Acer rubrum), red oak (Quercus rubra) and hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) are more common.

In the southwest of the property, beyond a small stream that cuts diagonally through the area, is a beautiful, pristine old-growth forest that is one of the showpiece forests in Tompkins County. Typical forest composition is as above. Typical species in the herb layer are partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), club mosses (Lycopodiaceae), goldthread (Coptis groenlandica) and Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense).

In the northwest part of the property is a stand of white pine (Pinus strobus) and hemlock with a very sparse understory. In the middle of the property is a lowland near the creek with rich forest dominated by white ash, basswood (Tilia americana) and black cherry (Prunus serotina).

In the eastern tract, the vegetation shows very much a history of human use – fire, farming and timber cutting.  In 1929 D. Rankin produced a map of the vegetation, which provides a historical reference to successional changes here (reproduced in Cook 1975). The species composition of forest re-growth is notably varied.  Aspen (Populus spp.), white pine, white ash and red maple are all abundant, any one of these species may dominate a stand.  Also present are paper birch (Betula papyrifera), hemlock, beech, mountain maple (Acer spicatum) and shadbush (Amelanchier spp.).  Understory species include low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) and striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum). Oaks are more common on the northern hilltop and the steep southeastern slope.

Cook, John Calkins.  1975.  The Cornell Natural Areas:  A Preliminary Inventory and Proposal for Management.  M.S. Thesis, Cornell University.

Ecological Communities

Pine-hemlock forest

This conifer dominated forest occurs on gravelly glacial outwash of the Howard soil series, and is usually adjacent to the larger gorges of the region. Dominants are hemlock, white pine, red pine, often with some red oak, white oak, black oak, or red maple. Tree reproduction is scant and the herb layer is depauperate.

Beech-maple mesic forest

A hardwood forest with sugar maple and beech codominant. Found on moist, well-drained soils, on north and east facing slopes, and on gently sloping hilltops of any aspect, this type rarely occurs in ravines. Common associates are basswood, American elm, white ash, yellow birch, hop hornbeam, and red maple. Characteristic species in the sub-
canopy are musclewood, striped maple, witch hazel, hobblebush, and alternate-leaved dogwood. There typically are few herbs and shrubs, but tree seedlings may be abundant. There are many spring ephemerals.

Hemlock-northern hardwood forest

A forest that typically occurs on lower slopes of ravines, on cool, mid-elevation slopes, and at the edges of drainage divide swamps. Hemlock is a codominant species with one to three others: beech, sugar
maple, red maple, black cherry, white pine, yellow birch, black birch, red oak, and basswood. Shrubs have low abundance, but striped maple may be present. Herbs characteristic of northern and montane areas are common.

Successional northern hardwoods

A forest that occurs on sites that have been cleared or otherwise disturbed. Dominant trees are usually two or more of the following; red maple, white pine, white ash, gray birch, quaking aspen, big-tooth
aspen, and, less frequently, sugar maple. Tree seedling and saplings may be of more shade tolerant species. Shrubs and ground cover species may be those of old-fields. In abandoned pasturelands apples and hawthorns may be present in the understory.

Appalachian oak-hickory forest

A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites, usually on flat hilltops, upper slopes, or south and west facing slopes. Dominant trees include one or more of red oak, white oak, and black oak. Mixed with oaks, are one or more of pignut, shagbark, and sweet pignut hickory.Common associates are white ash, red maple, and hop hornbeam. Small
trees include flowering dogwood, witch hazel, shadbush, and chokecherry. Shrubs and groundlayer flora are diverse. Shrubs include maple-leaf viburnum, blueberries, red raspberry, gray dogwood, and beaked hazelnut.

Conifer plantation

A planted stand of commercial hardwood or conifer species, usually for timber purposes. Usually a monoculture, but they may be mixed stands with two or more species.

Rocky headwater stream

The aquatic community of a small to moderate sized rocky stream with a moderate to steep gradient. The cold water stream flows over eroded bedrock near the stream origin and contains alternating riffle and pool sections. These streams typically have mosses and algae present, but few larger rooted plants.

Midreach stream

The aquatic community of stream that has a well-defined pattern of alternating pool, riffle, and run sections. Waterfalls and springs may be present. Typical aquatic macrophytes include waterweed, and linear leaved pondweeds such as sago pondweed.