By admin


The vegetation along Upper Cascadilla varies considerably in composition and quality; it includes upland forest, shrub thicket, wetland and floodplain forest. South of the Cornell Orchards, on the dry, south-facing slopes, there are several good examples of mature oak-hickory forest.  Some of these hickories were planted and grafted by L. H. MacDaniels and his students.  Some rare, important old nut tree cultivars still exist here. Click here for more information.

South of the railroad right-of-way, about mid-way between Pine Tree Road and Game Farm Road, there is a beautiful mature floodplain forest with sycamores and cottonwoods and a very rich herb layer.  On the north-facing slopes, white pine and hemlock are abundant.  Red maple and white pine dominate the forests on areas that were once agricultural fields.
Along parts of the recreation way, the vegetation is weedy and scruffy.  In places the creek bank is severely eroding.  The large grassy open area along the trail was once a Cornell landfill and has been capped relatively recently.  The wetlands on the north side of the trail were probably first drastically altered when the railroad was built.  Recently one of the wetland areas along the trail was re-constructed, removing accumulated sediments and re-introducing native plant species.  Although not very diverse, such constructed wetlands can be of significant value in protecting water quality.  The high water quality in Cascadilla Creek makes it an important resource for research and teaching.  Aquatic entomology and stream ecology classes use it regularly.  Because the creek is so clean, it has great biodiversity: many species of freshwater insects and fish.  The ponds near the fisheries lab are an especially good area for birding.

Ecological Communities

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.

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.

Eutrophic pond

The aquatic community of a shallow, nutrient-rich pond. The water is usually green with algae and the bottom is mucky. Aquatic vegetation is abundant. Characteristic plants include coontail, duckweeds, waterweed, and pondweeds, water starwort, algae, yellow pondlily and white waterlily.

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

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, well-drained land. Soils are rich and moist. Dominant trees are sugar maple, basswood, and white ash. Common associates are bitternut hickory, tulip tree, musclewood, and alternate-leaved dogwood, 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.

Mid-reach stream

The aquatic community of 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 linear
leaved pondweeds such as sago pondweed.

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.

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 represent less than 50% cover but
include gray and silky dogwoods, arrowwood, raspberries, sumac, and
eastern red cedar.

Successional shrubland

A woodland community that commonly occurs on abandoned agricultural
fields and pastures, particularly on fertile soils, on slopes along the
lakes, and occasionally on well drained soils of alluvial valleys. The
dominant tree is usually red cedar. Gray birch, hawthorn, buckthorn,
white ash, and black walnut are common associates. Shrubs and ground
layers are similar to that of successional old field.

Successional forest

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.