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Small elevational changes in the undulating topography near Cascadilla Creek result in significant changes in hydrology and vegetation. Upland forest, swamp forest, shrub swamp, small patches of rich fen, wet meadow and marsh are all found here. Beech-maple forest is prevalent on the low rises with cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), red oak (Quercus rubra), white pine (Pinus strobus) and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) present.  

Hemlock, red maple (Acer rubrum) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) dominate the swamp forest. American elm (Ulmus americana), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), swamp buckthorn (Rhamnus alnifolia), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), cranberry viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) and swamp gooseberry (Ribes hirtellum) are other characteristic species. Speckled alder (Alnus incana ssp. rugosa) dominates in the shrub swamp.

In the wet meadows and marsh, characteristic species include: cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), swamp aster (Aster puniceus), common bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and various sedges (Carex spp.).

Ecological Communities

Shallow emergent marsh

A shallow marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 15cm to 1m during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid- to late-summer and the substrate is exposed. Characteristic plants include bluejoint grass, reed canary grass, cutgrass, manna grass, spikerushes, bulrushes, sweetflag, wild iris, and water smartweed. Marsh communities occur on mineral soils or fine-grained organic soils that are permanently saturated. They are often found near the Finger Lakes or in wetlands near a drainage divide. Because water levels may fluctuate, exposing substrate and aerating the soil, there is little or no accumulation of peat.

Conifer Plantation

A planted stand of commercial trees species, usually for timber purposes. Usually a monoculture, but they may be mixed stands with two or more species. Species typically planted include white pine, red pine, Scotch pine, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, European larch, and Japanese larch.

Successional Forest

A forest with more than 60% canopy cover of trees 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 and white ash. Tree seedlings 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.

Hemlock Hardwood Swamp

A swamp on mineral soils in depressions which may receive ground water discharge. The swamp may be flooded in spring and dry by late summer. The forest commonly occurs on very acid (pH<4.2) woody peat at margins of small rain fed basins. The canopy is usually fairly closed and there is a sparse shrub and groundcover layer. Characteristic trees are hemlock, yellow birch, and red maple, black ash, and, formerly, American elm. Locally, white pine is usually one of the dominant trees. Tall shrubs of acid wetlands such as highbush blueberry, black huckleberry, and wild raisin are present. The herb layer may be sparse and species poor. Characteristic herbs are false lily-of-the-valley cinnamon fern, and sensitive fern.