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Fall Creek Plateau

The Fall Creek Plateau was once a floodplain of Fall Creek, but now the creek bed has been eroded to a lower level, and the site is rarely subject to flooding. The rich and gravelly soils, typical of floodplains, support a diverse forest. On the Fall Creek Plateau, the species composition with ancient beeches, hemlocks, and sugar maple dominant is archetypal of pre-settlement forests in the Northeast. Some of these trees may be over 300 years old. Other species found here that are typical of rich, well-drained sites include red oak, white oak, cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), and basswood. Near the water’s edge, sycamore is abundant. The herb layer is rich and diverse. A number of locally rare or scarce plants grow here, as well as in the gravelly floodplain of the Mundy Wildflower Garden.

Arboretum Slope

The steep north-facing slope between Fall Creek and the arboretum is magnificent mature forest. Hemlock, basswood, sugar maple, white pine, and red oak are dominant. Black cherry (Prunus serotina) and beech are also abundant. There is a small section planted with Scots’ pine (Pinus sylvestris), red pine (P. resinosa), and Norway spruce (Picea abies). A patch dense with sassafras (Sassafras albidum) sprouts is found at the western edge of the forest, near the stairway. The herb layer is surprisingly rich throughout this forest; blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), ferns, and mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) are very abundant.

Ecological Communities

Beech-maple mesic forest

A hardwood forest with sugar maple and beech co-dominant. Found on moist, well-drained soils, on north and east facing slopes, and on gently sloping hilltops of any aspect, this ecological community 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.

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.

Erosional slope/bluff

A sparsely vegetated community that occurs on vertical exposures of unconsolidated material, such as small stone, gravel, sand and clay, that is exposed to erosional sorces, such as water, ice, or wind.

Floodplain forest

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.

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.

Intermittent stream

The aquatic community of a small ephemeral streambed with a moderate to steep gradient where the water flows only during the spring or after a heavy rain. The streambed may be covered with mosses such as Bryhnia novae-angliae.

Maple-basswood rich mesic forest

A hardwood forest that typically occurs on fertile, moist, well-drained soils. It is often associated with limestone or deep glacial gravels. Dominant trees are sugar maple, basswood, and white ash. Common associates are bitternut hickory, tulip tree, musclewood, alternate-leaved dogwood, and witch hazel. The shrub layer is sparse. Spring wildflowers are usually abundant. Characteristic species are trillium, white baneberry, spring beauty, toothwort, trout lily, and bloodroot.

Midreach stream

The aquatic community of a 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 pondweeds. Persistent emergent vegetation is lacking.

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.