The Biological Station is the last remaining vestige of the great wooded and cattail marsh which once covered the area from the lighthouse pier as far south as Falls Street and with arms of the marsh reaching up as far as Court Street.”
– Peter Paul Kellogg, 1964
The floodplain forest and marsh are located on a delta built of sediments deposited by the Cayuga Inlet and Fall Creek at the mouth of Cayuga Lake. In the hardwood forest, sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), cottonwood (Populus deltoides), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), box elder (A.negundo), red ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica), and swamp red maple (a red maple x silver maple hybrid, A. freemanii) are dominant. American elm (Ulmus americana) was once a dominant species in swamps and floodplains like this one, and a few scattered trees remain.
Trees are festooned with vines, including Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), poison ivy, and grape (Vitis riparia). Red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and cranberry viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) abound in the understory. Characteristic herbs are sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum), and spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).
This site used to include one of the last vestiges of a large cattail marsh that once dominated the mouth of the lake. What little cattail marsh remains is near Fall Creek near the golf course and at Hog Hole, a wetland at the southwest corner of the lake. Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), wild black currant (Ribes americanum), and arrow arum (Peltandra virginica) are found there.
A hardwood forest found on alluvial gravels on low terraces of floodplains of larger creeks and creek deltas. Characteristic trees include sycamore, cottonwood, box elder, silver and red maple, butternut, crack and white willow. American elm was once present. Characteristic vines and shrubs are Virginia creeper, poison ivy, and spicebush. Characteristic herbs are white snake root, green dragon, jewelweed, ostrich fern, and jumpseed.
Main channel stream
The aquatic community of a large, quiet, base level sections of streams with clearly distinguished meanders and no distinct riffles. The middle of the main channel stream is too deep for aquatic macrophytes, but the shallow shores and backwaters typically have rooted macrophytes. There, mosses in the genus Fontinalis are characteristic as is an exotic weed, Eurasian milfoil. Persistent emergent vegetation is lacking.
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.
Reedgrass/purple loosestrife marsh
A marsh, common along roadsides and railroads, that has been disturbed by draining, filling, road salt, etc. Dominant species are reedgrass, reed canary grass, cut grass, or purple loosestrife.
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.
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.
Summer stratified monomictic lake
The aquatic community of a lake that is so deep that it has only one period of mixing or turnover each year, and one period of stratification, during the summer. Because these lakes usually do not freeze, the water circulates and is isothermal during the winter. Characteristic aquatic macrophytes include pondweeds, horned pondweed, naiad, waterweed, tapegrass, and coontail (Cayuga Lake).