On the floodplain, much of the forest is dominated by sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and cottonwood (Populus deltoides), but sugar maple and basswood are dominant in some sections. Formerly, American elm (Ulmus americana) was an important component of forests such as this. Here, large gaps in the canopy left by the demise of elms are rapidly being filled in by small trees.
Hemlock and beech are the most common tree species in the forest on the shady, north and east facing slopes above the wildflower garden. At the base of the steep slope there is an oxbow of the creek, a low wet area where the creek once flowed. Here, marsh species such as skunk cabbage, cattail, and yellow-flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) are found. A meadow, dominated by goldenrods (Solidago), asters (Aster), and other native and naturalized field flowers, is located near the creek on gravelly soils that are regularly flooded. This pattern of recurring disturbance periodically washes away the vegetation, but the Cornell Botanic Gardens staff also now mows the meadow at regular intervals to suppress trees and shrubs and to keep the herbaceous community open and diverse.
Along the path leading from the parking area to the wildflower garden, native plants are displayed. Horticultural conditions play an important role in determining the size, habit, vigor, and ornamental value of native and naturalized plant species. Differences in growth form and appearance can be compared between plants grown in a horticultural setting and the same species growing in wild conditions in the wildflower garden.
Glacial gravels were carried by Fall Creek from upstream sites and deposited at the wildflower garden. One of the largest glacial erratics (a boulder) in the area is found here. The material of the erratic, anorthosite, is a type of granitic rock composed almost exclusively of soda-lime feldspar, and suggests that the boulder, mixed with other gravels, was transported from the Adirondacks by continental glaciers. Later, the smaller pieces of gravel were washed downstream, leaving behind this heavy, rather immobile erratic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.