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Natural Heritage

Most sites where fringed gentians are found show evidence of recent landscape disturbance, including land previously used for agriculture, roadside ditches, pond banks, and sterile hillsides. For example, at the Radio-Astronomy Lab, topsoil was removed to level the site. Formerly, fringed gentian also was found on steep, gravelly banks, such as those along Fall Creek, where continuous erosion and bank slides exposed mineral soil.

The roadside adjacent to the Fringed Gentian Natural Area, where gentians are abundant, is mowed every 2 to 3 years in June or early July before the second- year rosettes form flowering stalks. This schedule is designed to promote the gentian population by reducing late-summer competition with other meadow species, such as wild carrot (Daucus carota). Other common associated species include self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), sedges (Carex spp.), asters (Aster spp.), and goldenrods (Solidago spp.).

The exact location and density of the gentian population varies considerably from year to year, depending in part on the weather and in part on the success of other vegetation. The Fringed Gentian Natural Area has grown up to dense arrowwood and gray dogwood thicket, and gentians do not persist under these conditions. Cutting back the shrubs to promote gentians has not been successful. The large deer population in the area also poses a problem as deer seem to favor fringed gentians as a food.

The fringed gentian is a biennial, forming small rosettes the first year. The plants are rather inconspicuous until they reach nearly full size late in the summer or early autumn of the second season. The best time to see the bright blue-violet flowers is usually from early September to early October. The flowers open only in bright sunlight.

Reference: Robertson, Heather J. 1992. A Life History Approach to the Study of Plant Species Rarity: Gentianopsis crinita in New York State. Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University.

Ecological Communities

Deep emergent marsh

Deep marshes have a water depth ranging from 15 cm to 2 m. The substrate is almost always wet and there is usually standing water in autumn. Characteristic vegetation includes emergent aquatics such as yellow pond lily, white waterlily, cattails, bulrushes, burreed, and arrow arum. Disturbed marshes may have purple loosestrife, reedgrass, or reed canary grass. 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.

Farm pond/artificial pond

The aquatic community of a small pond constructed on agricultural or residential property. These ponds are often eutrophic and may be stocked with fish.

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 co-dominant 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.

Impounded swamp

A swamp with at least 50% cover of trees where the water levels have been artificially manipulated or modified. Red maple is a characteristic tree. Often there are many standing dead trees. Purple loosestrife and duckweed may be dominant in the understory.

Red maple-hardwood swamp

A swamp that occurs in poorly drained upland depressions usually on acidic muck over clay. The bedrock is usually shale. Red maple or silver maple may dominate alone or with yellow birch. Black ash, white pine and hemlock may also be present. The shrub layer is quite dense and includes spicebush, winterberry, black chokeberry, highbush blueberry, red-osier dogwood, arrowwood, and nannyberry. The herb layer is often dominated by cinnamon fern. Herbs include skunk cabbage, jewelweed, and sedges.

Sedge meadow

A wet meadow with permanently saturated and seasonally flooded organic soils in wetlands that receive mineral nutrients via groundwater or streams. There is usually little peat accumulation and floating mats are not formed. Sedge meadows typically occur along streams and near the inlet and outlets of lakes and ponds. The dominant species is a tussock-sedge, Carex stricta, usually with about 50% cover. Other characteristic herbs include sedges (C. lacustris and C. rostrata), bluejoint grass, sweetflag, joe-pye weed, tall meadow rue, and bulrushes.

Shrub swamp

A shrub dominated wetland that occurs along a lake or river, in a wet depression, or as a transition between wetland and upland communities. The substrate is usually mineral soil or muck. Alder, willows, or red-osier and silky dogwoods are common dominant species. Other characteristic shrub species include gray dogwoods, meadowsweet, highbush blueberry, winterberry, spicebush, viburnums, and buttonbush. A few red maple trees may be present. The herb layer is lush and diverse, and typically includes species found in sedge-grass meadows.

Successional northern hardwoods

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.

Successional old field

A meadow on sites cleared, plowed, and then abandoned. The ragweed type occurs on fields 1 to 3 years after last cultivation; ragweed, daisy, Queen Anne’s lace, crab grass, golden foxtail, and chickweed are common. The goldenrod subtype occurs 3 – 15 years after last cultivation. Dominant species are perennial composites: goldenrods and asters. Other herbs include timothy, orchard grass, smooth brome, bluegrasses, quackgrass, sweet vernal grass, evening primrose, old-field cinquefoil, wild strawberry, and hawkweeds. Shrubs and trees represent less than 50% cover but include gray dogwood, arrowwood, raspberries, blackberries, sumac, red maple and white pine.