The old-growth forest is located on a highly-dissected, steep east-facing slope, which is probably the remains of a hanging delta. Numerous streams have cut steep-sided valleys into the soft, sandy material of the main slope. One stream has cut all the way to bedrock, to form a small gorge and waterfall. The site is so topographically complex that it gives the impression of being larger than it is.
The upland forest ecological community types include hemlock-northern hardwood forest on steep, north-facing slopes and in ravines, and Appalachian oak-hickory forest on the upper slopes and ridges. At the base of the slope is a marsh and shrub swamp. The upland forests are extremely heterogeneous and species-rich. Perhaps this is because of the topographic complexity, but the high inherent soil fertility of the site may also be a factor. Oddly, the herb layer of the site is generally very sparse.
The upland meadows are dominated by grasses, goldenrods, and shrubs, and was used for agriculture until recently. Old plow lines, stone walls, and larger trees along historic fence and property lines remain evident in the landscape.
The Bandler Family Tract is characterized by herbaceous and shrub-dominated old fields and young successional forests. These habitats, together with historic stone walls and old plow lines, evoke the past agricultural uses that reshaped this landscape. The addition also provides an important buffer to the old growth forest, which now collectively protects a one-half mile stretch of small gradient stream within the Cayuga Inlet Valley.
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 choke cherry. Shrubs and groundlayer flora are diverse. Shrubs include maple-leaf viburnum, blueberries, red raspberry, gray dogwood, and beaked hazelnut.
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.
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.
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.
A shrubland with at least 50% cover of shrubs that occurs on agricultural fields 10 – 25 years after abandonment, following other disturbance, and especially on sites with restricted drainage. Characteristic shrubs include gray dogwood, raspberries, hawthorn, serviceberries, chokecherry, sumac, nannyberry, arrowwood and buckthorn. Herbs are those of old-fields. Seedlings of white pine, red maple and white ash are usually present.
Shallow emergent marsh
A marsh that is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 15 cm to 1 m 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, rice cutgrass, mannagrass, three-way sedge, bulrushes, sweetflag, wild iris, and water smartweed.
A wet meadow with permanently saturated and seasonally flooded organic soils in wetlands that receives 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, spotted joe-pye weed, tall meadow rue, and bulrushes.
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.