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.
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.
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 common.
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.
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.
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.
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.