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South Hill’s Natural Area an in-depth look at the land First Edition

To be used as an informational guide for South Hill Natural Area and Nature Trail PHOTO: CARTER RAINES


Authors: Andreava Kasianchuk Communication Management and Design & Environmental Studies ‘11 Jason Hamilton Ithaca College: Associate Professor of Environmental Studies & Sciences Co-Chair and Faculty Manager of Ithaca College Natural Lands Contributors: Pauline Layton A long time neighbor to Ithaca, New York’s South Hill Kevin Gill Environmental Studies, Artist ‘12 Brittany Longhetano Environmental Studies, Artist ‘15

Introduction: Informational Guide This book is an expanded version of Ithaca College Natural Land’s self-guided nature trail brochure—a brochure that was created to be used while walking Ithaca College’s nature trail. The following book provides and in-depth look at the species, historic patterns and biological communities on South Hill. This book will reference the features of Ithaca, N.Y.,’s South Hill and nearby areas where a specific species can be seen, but the material is not exclusive to someone visiting this region. This book addresses categories specific to this area (see below) and provides background information on a species’ “history,” “web of life,” “products and uses,” “habits” and identification traits (“description”) where applicable. This book is not just a resource for naturalists, but can also be a guide for curious readers or nature enthusiasts.

Many Thanks To:

Natural Land Categories:

Gigi Marks Ithaca College: Writing Professor

•Shrubland Community •Utility Poles •Deer Enclosure •Human Activity •Invasive Species •Ecotone/Forest Edge •Multiple Trunk Trees •Ferns •Rare Species •Pine Plantation •Tracking Box •Healthy Forest Community •Pitch Pine Heath Barrens •Snag Habitat •Pileated Woodpecker Holes •Edible Species

Jacquelyn Simone Journalism and Politics ‘11

Introduction: Icons Icons





Important To Native Cultures


Icons will be used throughout the book to indicate the following information about a species or biological feature: endangered, native, edible, poisonous, important to native cultures, medicinal, invasive (see table for icons). NOTE: Please be cautious when considering whether or not to eat a plant that is indicated as edible. You must consider the five “rights:� (1)Are you positive you have the RIGHT PLANT? (2)Are you eating the RIGHT PART? (3)Are you harvesting at the RIGHT TIME? (4)Have you done the RIGHT PREPARATION? (5)If it is rare, is it RIGHT TO EAT IT?

Introduction: South Hill To most people, there is the belief that Ithaca College’s campus ends at the edge of the buildings, but it does not stop here. In fact it extends 356 acres, creating a “natural campus.” Not only does this area consist of a trail system, but also unique, natural, invasive, and state listed endangered species. In addition this area is known for a number of rare ecological communities, one of which is designated as a Unique Natural Area. While exploring South Hill Natural Land, it is also not uncommon to spot an abundant mix of wildlife species, such as red tailed hawks perched on the utility poles or deer scampering and creating their own trails. Some students do make use of this living laboratory, so don’t’ be surprised if you run into a class or even a jogger or two. The South Hill Natural Area has multiple uses. This area includes two recreational trails [blue and gold], which provide a variety of terrain for athletes, who use the paths for training and practice. Many classes use this area for rich experiential learning opportunities, such as the Biology Department’s initiative to plant and reintroduces chestnut trees to South Hill. Students take to walking the trails in the warmer months as well. If you are intrigued by astrology, Ithaca College’s Observatory is also located on this site and is opened to students and the community. In addition to utilizing the area for recreational and educational purposes, the rare plant communities offer attractive opportunities for research. The South Hill Swamp on this site was selected as a Unique Natural Area by Tompkins County.

Red = ICNL Self-Guided Nature Trail Blue = Blue Trail Yellow = Yellow Trail Black = West Entrance & North Entrance Trail

Introduction: History For a better understanding of South Hill, it is always best to talk with someone who is familiar with this fascinating area. Pauline Layton, a local who was born and raised on Ithaca, N.Y.,’s South Hill, explained in an interview how her own background history connects to the unique features and species present on South Hill today. Pauline’s vivid memory, curiosity of the land, interest in local history and love for recreational walking relates to her vast knowledge about this area. Pauline can recall Ithaca’s cold winters during her childhood, including the harsh winds from the lake that would cause large snowdrifts. Before she was born, when the area was less developed, people who lived on the hill would commute to Danby for goods, as it was not easy for a horse and buggy to go up and down South Hill to the city of Ithaca. It wasn’t until the late 1960s when South Hill had access to Ithaca City water and when Ithaca College became well established in this area and other houses were built nearby. In addition, traffic increased in the 1980s when the railroad tracks near the base of the hill were removed and the road was widened. Prior to the construction of Ithaca College, Pauline recalled a forest of shorter trees that allowed her to still see a view of the lake. This forest is known as a post-agricultural forest—forest that grows back on abandoned, clear-cut land. As Pauline later explained, South Hill was clear-cut during the 17th century for farming purposes. Stonewalls were built to contain sheep during the 1830s and 1840s for the production of sheep wool. The soil on South Hill was not right for growing crops, and it was easier to keep land for grazing instead of plowing. Farmers used this area for cattle, on which they relied for meat, milk and leather production. After the Civil War, barbwire was invented to contain these livestock. Remnants of barbwire can still be found on South Hill today. Wealthy cattle farmers built older homes that still exist on the lower parts of South Hill today. Farmers would plant oak and shagbark hickory trees to provide shade for the cattle, and they would align these trees with the stone fences. At the peak of WWII, there were many cattle, but after the war, the cattle seemed to decline and the forest began to grow in. Clear-cut trees began to grow back, and the trees planted by farmers grew taller. Some farmers continued to rent out their land, but South Hill was becoming developed. An airstrip existed on what is now Ithaca College’s Circle Apartments, and the college later relocated from their downtown location to South Hill. Developments continued, such as Ithaca College’s soccer and baseball practice fields, which were originally marshes with maple trees. The natural areas that remained consisted of post-agricultural forests with unique features, such as the perched swamp white oak swamp. Today, a nature trail exists where students, locals and visitors can walk to learn about the area’s natural features. We hope this booklet serves as a guide for your own exploration and understanding of South Hill.

Shrubland Community The ecological community under the power lines is known as a shrubland. In New York, most shrublands are transitional areas forming after disturbance (e.g. fire or wind storms). Plants common here include many wildflowers, low woody shrubs such as blueberries, and edible & medicinal herbs such as yarrow & goldenrod. There are also many invasive shrubs such as shrub honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Habitats like this are important for many songbirds and mammals. The golden-winged warbler, for example - a small yellow and black songbird - may soon be listed as a threatened species in New York state.

Tall Goldenrod Solidago altissima HISTORY

There are anywhere from 60-125 species (depending on how you count) of goldenrod native to North America. The goldenrod is an iconic wild flower of this area with at least six species native to South Hill. At the same time, it is considered to be an invasive species in parts of Europe and Asia. Blooming between July and September, many people blame their late-summer allergies on goldenrod, but the showy yellow flowers of this plant are insect-pollinated, and therefore the pollen does not blow around. The goldenrods are taking the blame for the wind-pollinated common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia). Ragweed has inconspicuous yellow-green flowers that most people don’t even notice.


Some people view the goldenrod as an aesthetically pleasing late-flowering part of their home gardens, but to others, this species is seen as a weed. Beekeepers rely on the Canadian goldenrod as a source of nectar for their bees, and they consider it an important wildflower that allows the bees to survive through the winter. Goldenrod is also used as a companion plant in many gardens since it is beneficial for some insects and can repel pests. A tea can be made from the goldenrod’s flowers to treat diarrhea, body pain and fevers. The yellow flowers can also be used to dye fabrics.


The tall goldenrod requires bright sunlight and survives in moist to dry soil. It is known to thrive in dry prairies, thickets and openings in both floodplain and upland forests. It can also persist in abandoned farmlands, infrequently grazed pastures, waste areas and tall grass prairies. Additionally, it sometimes grows PHOTO: JENIFFER DARRELL along roadsides and fence lines and in dry open fields, open woods and damp meadows. A variety of insect species visit the flowers for pollen or nectar, such as long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, beetles and various butterflies and moths. Caterpillars and moths feed on many parts of the foliage. Additional insects that feed on the goldenrod include the black blister beetle, goldenrod scarlet plant bug, tarnished plant bug and other leaf beetles and leafhoppers. Prairie chicken, eastern goldfinch and swamp sparrow birds eat the seeds, while the white-tailed deer and eastern cottontail rabbit occasionally eat the foliage.

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The tall goldenrod is known for its galls, round swelling in the stems. At the center of these galls is the larva of the fall fly (Eurosta solidaginis). Galls usually are formed when certain parasitic insect species lay eggs on or in plant tissue. The insect’s larvae hatch and begin to feed on the host plant. Biochemical interactions between the plant and the developing insect lead to formation of the gall. Galls come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes depending on the specific plant/insect pair. Often you will find galls on tall goldenrod that have been torn open by woodpeckers looking to snack on a tasty morsel.


The tall goldenrod looks like a furry, yellow, tall shrub from a distance, with its curved, tenticle-like flowered stems. Up close, this plant contains short stems of yellow branches at the top and longer branches as you move down. Height: 2-6’ Leaves: Alternating, 4-6” long and 1” wide, broad, linear, lined with small teeth, becoming shorter toward top of the shrub Flower: Each head is less than ¼” across

Exotic Honeysuckles Marrow’s Honeysuckle: Lonicera morrowii HISTORY


Some parts of exotic honeysuckles are edible, while others are poisonous. The flowers of the honeysuckle are never poisonous. Children typically like to suck nectar out of the flowers, which is a perfectly safe thing to do. Honeysuckles are also frequently used for landscaping.

A variety of non-native shrubby honeysuckles have been introduced to North America. These upright deciduous shrubs are widespread in the upper Midwest and in pockets of the Northeast. Exotic honeysuckles are native to Asia and Eastern Europe and were introduced to the United States in 1752 as ornamentals. These species are known for their rapid growth, reaching 20 feet tall.


Distinguishing features of exotic honeysuckles vary from species to species. These plants share some common traits: Height: 9-18’ Leaves: Opposite on stem, oval, short. Produce leaves one to two weeks before native trees and shrubs in the spring, and hold their leaves later in the fall. Flowers: Abundant, pink to purplish red, or white fading to yellow with age. Tubular, in pairs protruding from the leaf axis, bloom in May and June, fragrant. Fruit: Abundant, red or orange paired berries, ripen in the early summer. Stems: Multiple, several branches, arching and sometimes developing roots where they touch the ground. Bark: Gray or tan, shaggy. Older branches are hollow.


These species thrive in sunny, upland sites, which include forest edges, roadsides, pastures and abandoned fields. Exotic honeysuckles are also found in fends and bogs, and on lakeshores. These honeysuckles are relatively shade-intolerant. Some birds eat the fruit of exotic honeysuckles and are known to disperse seeds over great distances.

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Exotic honeysuckles are invasive, often inhibiting the growth of native shrubs and ground layer species. Open woods are particularly vulnerable to these species if the area has been disturbed. Their vigorous growth can lead to reduced food and cover for wildlife. Researchers believe that nests placed in these non-native shrubs are more vulnerable to predators, compared to nests placed in native species. Honeysuckles can be manually removed by hand-pulling the plants or using a leverage tool, depending on the size of the shrub. This is easy in the spring when the soil is moist. Pulled plants or cut stems of honeysuckles will reroot if the plants are in contact with the soil. Plants should be placed in piles for burning and easier monitoring. For control of these species, this method must be repeated for three to five years to deplete the seedbank

Leaves, Stems & Fruit of the Marrow’s Honeysuckle PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK

Marrow’s Honeysuckle Shrub PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK

Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera HISTORY

The golden-winged warbler, an endangered species, breeds from Canada to northern New York, southern Vermont, eastern Massachusetts, west to Minnesota and south to Iowa, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. It is migratory and winters in southern Central America and neighboring regions, such as Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The golden-winged warbler is known to hybridize with the blue-winged warbler, which has led to Brewster’s and Lawrence’s warblers. The difference between these two types of warbler is their plumage. The Brewster’s warbler looks like a blue-winged warbler with a white chest, and the Lawrence’s warbler looks like an all-yellow, golden-winged warbler. Hybrids do not sing a song that is reflective of both birds’ singing, but instead they sing either normal blue-winged warbler or golden-winged warbler songs. Some birds sing both, and occasionally a pure warbler parent will sing the “wrong song.” Despite increasing its abundance and spreading into New England in the last century, the golden-winged warbler is a near-threatened species and is on the federal list of species of special concern. Declines are related to loss of shrub habitats because of succession and reforestation, as well as to the expansion of the blue-winged warbler. Loss of winter habitats in Central and South America may be related to its decline as well.


The golden-winged warbler breeds in patchy shrubland and forest edges like shrubby fields, swamp forests, marshes and bogs. In addition, the golden-winged warbler also prefers abandoned farms and clear-cuts for breeding. In the winter, the golden-winged warbler lives in the canopy of tropical forests. It feeds on larvae, small bugs, spiders, ants, beetles and caterpillars, such as the gypsy moth caterpillar.


The golden-winged warbler has two types of songs. One of the songs consists of a high-pitch buzzy phrase followed by one to six short buzzy phrases.This song is particularly used to attract males. The second song is characterized by three to five low buzzy phrases ending with a higher buzzy phrase, and it is used to defend the bird’s territory against other males. Their song sounds like the phrase “zee bee bee bee.” The golden-winged warbler usually arrives in the United States in early May. The males claim their territory, which ranges from one to five acres, and they sing to attract mates and defend their territory from other species. Males tend to return to the same site year after year. After pairing takes place, the females build bulky nests near the ground, using grasses, leaves, vine tendrils and other fine material. These nests are also supported by bushes and goldenrod stems. From mid-May to midJune, one egg is laid each day, and the female will incubate the egg for 10 to 11 days. Both parents care and feed the chicks. The parents tend to care for the chicks for several weeks even though the chicks can leave the nest after 10 days. The chicks acquire their winter plumage within one month and reach full maturity after one year. When foraging for food, the golden-winged warbler often searches in the upper half of trees and shrubs, and it often hangs upside-down while peering around branches for insects. Golden-winged warblers migrate in late August and early September and have a life expectancy of two to three years.

DESCRIPTION Small bird with a yellow forehead, slender short bill, black mask and throat, white streaks across sides of the face, grayish-white underparts, yellow part on the wings, dark legs and white outer tail feathers. The female golden-winged warbler has the same feathers but a slightly duller shade. Length: 5” Weight: 0.3-0.4 ounces Clutch size: Three to six eggs


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Utility Poles The utility poles are favored perches for red-tailed hawks as they scan the ground for their next meal. Standing dead trees called “snags” serve this function in undeveloped areas. In this field you can also spot wild carrot, a flowering plant with a root that can be eaten when young. Wild carrot has clusters of very small white flowers that form the top of the plant. It is also called Queen Anne’s lace or bird’s nest.

Red-Tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis HISTORY


The red-tailed hawk is present throughout North America, from central Alaska and Canada south to Panama. The red-tailed hawk is known for its raspy scream, which is often recorded and used as a bird sound for a variety of birds in films. The oldest known red-tailed hawk was 28 years and 10 months old. Red-tailed hawks tend to survive 10 to 15 years in the wild and 20 to 23 years in captivity.

The red-tailed hawk is large and very broad, with rounded wings and a short tail. It can often be mistaken for an eagle. The feathers on its back are brown, and the feathers below are streaked white and brown. Underneath its wings, a dark bar exists between its shoulder and wrist. The tail is pale below and a brownish red on top. Colors of feathers can vary between age groups and among color morphs.


Length: 17-22” Wingspan: 44-53” Weight: 24-46 ounces

Red-tailed hawks are typically found in open areas, such as fields, pastures and swamps. They are also commonly seen along fields or perched on telephone poles, fence posts or trees standing alone or at the edges of fields. The trees they tend to perch on typically belong to deciduous and coniferous forests. They tend to put their nests in the crowns of tall trees where they can have a view of the entire landscape. They are known to nest on cliff ledges and on artificial structures, such as window ledges. Both the male and the female construct the nest or improve the nest they used the previous year. Nests consist of piles of dry sticks up to six and half feet high and three feet across. The interior of the nest is lined with bark strips, fresh foliage, leaves and dry vegetation. This nest construction can take four to seven days. More broadly, their habitats include deserts, scrubland, grassland, roadsides, pastures, parks and broken woodland areas.

Young Hatch: After 28 to 35 days Incubation period: 28 to 35 days Nestling period: 42 to 46 days Clutch Size: One to five eggs

The red-tailed hawk’s diet depends on the region, and they typically feed on voles, shrews, moles, mice, squirrels, chipmunks and cottontail rabbits. Their prey also consists of redwinged blackbirds, pheasants, starlings, snakes, carrion and various insects. Individual prey can weigh anywhere from less than an ounce to more than five pounds. Small mammals are usually swallowed whole.



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Red-tailed hawks are typically seen soaring over open fields and are known to be aggressive when defending nests or territories. Their raspy scream sounds like kee-eeeee-arr. It lasts two to three seconds and is usually given while soaring. During courtship, red-tailed hawks make a shrill chwirk, sometimes giving several of these calls in a row. Red-tailed hawks breed during the late winter and early spring. These birds are known for their unique mating habits, which take place while soaring in the air. The males put on a display first by flying in circles at great heights and then diving steeply and shooting up again at an angel that is nearly as steep. After several swoops, he soars above the female, extends his legs and touches her briefly. Sometimes the pair grabs onto one another, clasps talons and plummets in spirals toward the ground before pulling away.


Wild Carrot


Two parts of the wild carrot are a source of vegetables: the taproot and the shoot. The taproot is the parsnip-like carrot, and the shoots have a carrot like-flavor, but they are much sweeter and more tender than the root. The shoots can be consumed both raw and cooked.

Daucus carota HISTORY

The wild carrot, also known as Queen Anne’s lace, bird’s nest, and bee’s nest, is the ancestor of the domestic carrot. The great lace maker, Queen Anne, was wife of King James I of Great Britain. Many people at the time believe that the wild carrot’s flowers resembled a white lace or doily. At the center of the “lace” is a tiny purplish-red flower. The folklore suggests Queen Anne pricked her finger while making her lace, and a small drop of blood fell onto it, resembling the wild carrot’s flowers. The wild carrot is native to regions of Europe and southwest Asia and is naturalized across the United States and most of Canada. Wild Carrot Settlers brought seeds into the country for Victorian gardens DRAWING: KEVIN GILL and medicinal uses. People sometimes refer to this as a weed, and it is known to spread quickly. In ancient times, the wild carrot was valued for its medicinal uses. Ancient folklore views the wild carrot as a cure to epileptic seizures by ingesting the dark-colored middle flower. In the past, it was used as diuretic to prevent and eliminate kidney stones and to rid individuals of worms. Its seeds were also used as a contraceptive. It has also been used as a remedy for hangovers. Wild carrot is sometimes confused with poison hemlock, one of the most toxic plants in North America. So be careful! See below to distinguish the difference between these two species.

The wild carrot is an aromatic herb, which can function as a diuretic—it can soothe the digestive tract and stimulate the uterus. In addition, the wild carrot can support the liver and help to eliminate kidney waste. Wild carrot leaves are infused into treatments for patients with digestive, kidney and bladder issues. The root is used as a remedy for threadworms, and a warm water infusion of the flowers can be used in the treatment of diabetes.


This biennial edible species blooms from mid-summer to early autumn. This carrot is white, which means it contains very little carotene—the orange coloring associated with conventional carrot species. See the section Wild Carrot vs. Poison Hemlock to learn to recognize wild carrot’s distinctive features. Root: Thin, woody, cream-colored core, resembles small parsnips. Leaves: 5-10,” arranged alternatively on the stem with thick, short, erect hair, lay flat on bare soil or grow erect if competing plants grow near. Stalk: 3.5-6,’ light green and rounded in cross sections by the second year, branches near the top. Flowers: Tiny, white, five-petaled flowers tightly packed together to form a flower head 2.5-5’ across, sometimes a single dark purple flower exists at the center of the cluster of flowers.

Don’t kill yourself!: Wild Carrot Vs. Poison Hemlock


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Seed “Birds Nest”

The wild carrot resembles the poison hemlock*, and this confusion has led to deadly mistakes. It is important to distinguish between the two species to limit harm. The following table provides distinct features to differentiate between the two plants. ALL OF THESE NEED TO BE TRUE TO DETERMINE WHAT IS A WILD CARROT AND WHAT IS POISON HEMLOCK.

The wild carrot thrives in the sun and is usually found on agricultural sites, such as hayfields, pastures, meadows, roadsides, railroad rights-of-way, waste places and even in urban sidewalk cracks. Since the wild carrot is a biennial species, its abundance may fluctuate and peak on a site after a few years. It is also known to compete with other perennial plants and grasses. The wild carrot grows in almost any soil type, from heavy clay to sand or gravel. It can survive best in moderate levels of soil moisture and is absent from wet and very dry sites. The wild carrot has some benefits for other animals. Caterpillars of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly eat the leaves, and bees and other insects drink the nectar. The ruffed grouse and ring-necked pheasant are known to eat the plant’s seeds. The pine mouse eats the plant’s seeds and roots.

*Poison Hemlock has no relation to the Eastern Hemlock Tree

Deer Exclosure The fence you see is a deer exclosure, installed in 2001 with a research grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Students and faculty use this exclosure to study the effects of deer browsing on forest regrowth. Deer are capable of consuming all new tree seedlings in an area. The fenced-in area protects baby trees from the deer, as evidenced by the small white pine and oaks that are thriving inside the exclosure, but not outside. Dealing with the effects of deer damage is a major component of land management today.

Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus HISTORY The eastern white pine is also known as sapling, pumpkin or Weymouth pine, and it is the state tree of Maine. This tree is found throughout New England (except Cape Cod and Nantucket, Mass.) and is more generally present from Minnesota, east to Maine and heading south through the Appalachian Mountains into Georgia. This long-lived and fast-growing tree was known as a sacred species; it was influential in both American Indian and colonial lifestyles. Haudenosaunee Indians view this tree as a symbol of peace because its five needles represent the five conflicting nations that came together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. The united tribes created a powerful force until the European colonizers settled in the 18th century. Early settlers found pure stands of the eastern white pine when they first arrived and were amazed by the size of these trees, often extending beyond 150 feet. This tree was an important resource, particularly because of its use for ship masts. In 1605, Captain George Weymouth traveled up the Maine River, cut down some eastern white pine trees, gathered seeds and brought these materials back to England. The king was amazed by the 100 to 200 foot masts and wanted more timber, but the eastern white pine was not adaptable to the English climate, so he demanded more supply from New England. The Royal Navy claimed white pines by blazing the trunks with the king’s Broad Arrow. This created tension between the British and the colonists, who sought to use this resource for trading and developing their own lumber contracts. New Englanders had established the first mill in 1623 in York, Maine, to serve the needs of the colonies. Virgin white pines stands no longer existed in the 1900s except in the southern Appalachians. The eastern white pine was also pictured on one of the first flags of the American Revolution, and legend has it that a 240-foot eastern white pine with a circumference of 40 feet once stood on the present site of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.


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The eastern white pine grows on a variety of sites, from dry, sandy soils and rocky ridges to bogs. This tree occurs in pure stands, but is usually associated with eastern hemlock, northern red oak and other oaks, red maple, hickories, aspens, red pine and red spruce. Vegetation in white pine stands varies because it is present in many cover types. This tree offers a nesting site and a source of food for many birds, such as early nesting robins and mourning doves, whose first nests are made before hardwoods leaf out. Woodpeckers use decayed parts of white pines for nest and roost holes. Red squirrels and birds, such as crossbills and pine siskins, eat the seeds of the tree. Cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares occasionally eat the bark of young trees, and porcupines eat the bark as well, potentially causing damage to the tree. The eastern white pine comes in contact with several insect pests and diseases. The most common and serious insect that white pine is subject to is the white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi). The white pine weevil attacks the trunk of the tree, specifically the leading growth tip, but does not kill the tree. Instead, this attack can slow down the tree’s growth by two to three years. If the terminal shoot is attacked several times, it will die, and lateral branches from the highest whorl turn upward so that one becomes the new leader. Dying eastern white pines resemble bushes. The white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) affects young trees and can cause the tree to die if the disease travels from an infected branch into the trunk.

PRODUCTS & USES Historically, the eastern white pine has been one of the most valuable trees of the Northeast. In the past, the Algonquin Indian tribe was known to chew on the bark of the eastern white pine or use it for tea, which is rich in vitamin C. It was also one of their essential ingredients for cough remedies. In colonial times, it is also important to note that one of the major uses of the white pine was in the figureheads of sailing ships. These were carved from pumpkin wood, the smoothest and softest part of the white pine, which is usually found in very old trees. This type of wood could be carved easily in any direction. This tree was used for construction, millwork, trim and pulpwood. More specifically, in colonial times, its better grades of wood were used for paneling, doors and floors in elegant colonial interiors, and it was also used for furniture, bobsleds, matches, shingles, furniture and covered bridges, such as the bridge over the Charles River connecting Boston to Cambridge. This light and soft wood (24 pounds per air-dried cubic foot) is strong for its weight, and its variety of uses makes it probably the most versatile wood in the United States. Today, its uses are mainly associated with framing lumber, interior finish, furniture and window frames. In the past, its lumber was also used for fleets, railroads and cities, and it was valuable resource for trade. For more than 300 hundred years, the white pine was the greatest timber-producing tree in North America. Entire cities were constructed with the use of the white pine, The Cone & Needles of an Eastand before 1805, more than half a million homes were ern White Pine constructed between Maine and Florida with the use DRAWING: KEVIN GILL of the white pine. Today, the white pine is planted as an ornament and for creating healthy forest communities, and it is commonly used as a Christmas tree.

DESCRIPTION The distinguishing features of the eastern white pine include its broad and irregular evergreen branches protruding out of the central trunk. These branches include needles in clusters of five—the only fiveneedle pine native to eastern North America. Height: 75-100,’ formerly 150’ Diameter: 3-4’ or more Needles: Evergreen, 2 ½ -5” long, five in a bundle, slender, blue green. Bark: Gray, smooth, grayish-green when young, becoming deeply furrowed into narrow, scaly ridges with age. Twigs: Twigs transition from slender, green and coated with matted hairs, to becoming smooth and light brown, to finally becoming thin, smooth and green. Cones: Immature appearing in late May to early June, oval, yellowish-green. Mature cones are 4-8” long, narrowly cylindrical, yellow-brown, long-stalked, cone-scales thin, rounded and flat.

White-Tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus HISTORY The white-tailed deer’s genus name Odocoileus is from the Greek words odous, meaning tooth, and koilos, meaning hollow; this refers to the hollow teeth of the deer. The whitetailed deer can be found in southern Canada and most of the United States, except for the southwest, Alaska and Hawaii. The American Indians viewed the white-tailed deer as an “animal helper,” as opposed to the dark-tailed deer, which meant “danger.” When the Cherokee traveled during harsh winter weather, they would rub their feet in warm ashes and sing a song to obtain powers from animals whose feet do not get frostbitten. One of these animals was the deer. American Indians and colonists harvested deer for food and clothing. Deer hide clothing included leggings, shawls, dresses, breechcloths, moccasins, sashes, shirts, robes, skirts, headwear and mittens. Commercial trade in deer hides eventually developed in the 1700s, and the best buckskins were sent to England, leaving the colonists with the poorest hides. People also used the deer’s muscles and tendons to make thread and string. Its bones were used to make needles, awls, hoes, digging sticks, hide scrapers, fishhooks, arrowheads, clubs, arrow straighteners, corn scrappers, cutting tools and decorative beads. Hooves were used to make glue and rattles. The deer’s fur was used for the interior of moccasins and for embroidery. Today, deer and people are living closer to each other because of human development and increased deer populations. This can cause problems for both deer and humans. This close proximity leads to a lack of food resources for deer and the tendency for deer to eat food from gardens. Deer often have to cross the road to get to food and water, which can cause sudden car accidents. People are also prone to sicknesses, such as Lyme Disease, from the deer tick.


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White-tailed deer are herbivores, and they browse—eat the leaves, stems and buds of wood plants. Deer also eat flowers and weeds during the spring and summer. Fruits and nuts are a dietary staple as well. Grasses are also consumed but are a less substantial part of the deer’s diet. On average, a deer eats 2 to 4 percent of its body weight each day. Deer chew their food like cows do—softening its food within the first stomach and regurgitating the cud, and chewing it again, also known as ruminating. The deer have four stomach compartments to carry out this process. Deer are also prone to disease and parasites like lice, mites and roundworms, which can weaken or kill them. Young and old deer tend to get sick and die in the winter. The winter is a dangerous time of year for the deer, as they struggle to move their pointed hooves through the snow and ice. These conditions make it easy for predators like dogs to catch them.

HABITS Deer are most active in the early morning and evening. The deer’s home range is usually less than one square mile. White-tailed deer breed between October and January, and fawns are born in May or June. It is not uncommon for female deer (does) to give birth to twins. Fawns usually weigh seven to eight pounds at birth. After birth, the mother will keep her fawn wellhidden for hours while she feeds. If she happens to have more than one fawn, she will hide them in separate places. Female fawns typically stay with their mother for two years, while males usually leave after a year. The doe and fawns usually stay in a group, unless the doe does not have fawns. In this case, female deer are solitary when roaming. Male bucks are usually in groups of three to four deer, except in mating season, when they are solitary. If the white-tailed deer is alarmed or upset, it may stomp its hooves and snort to warn other deer. Other signals include raising its tail and showing its white underside. The mother might also show the underside of her tail while running to help her fawns follow. White-tailed deer are fast runners and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. They are also known for leaping high and for their ability to swim.


The white-tailed deer live in a variety of habitats but thrive best in agricultural or wooded areas. In some areas, like Tompkins County, N.Y., deer overpopulation is an issue. Gray wolves and mountain lions used to keep this population under control as the white-tailed deer’s predators, but because of hunting and human development, the wolf and mountain lion populations have greatly decreased. Other natural predators include bobcats or coyotes, but there are not enough of these to balance the deer population. Often, there are not enough resources for deer to survive, and they are left starving or hungry. Hunters help control deer populations in rural areas, but this is not possible in urban areas where hunting is often banned.

The white-tailed deer is known for its tan or brown coat in the summer and grayishbrown coat in the winter. Its other distinguishing features include the white fur on its throat, around its eyes and nose, on its stomach and on the underside of its tail. Males are recognized by their antlers, but only in the late spring to mid-winter.


Weight: Males weigh between 150 and 300 pounds, and females weigh between 90 and 200 pounds. Coat: Rust-colored with white spots at birth, spotted coat is shed in three to four months and is replaced by a grayish-brown coat for the fall and winter. Summer coats are reddish-brown. Tail, chin, belly and throat are always white. Antlers: Grow on males from April to August and are covered by a “velvet” layer while growing. This layer is shed before the fall, just in time for breeding season. Deer antlers are shed in mid-winter and grow in the following spring. Antler size varies depending on the nutrition, age and genetics of the deer. Hooves: Even-toe split hooves

Red Oak

Quercus Rubra HISTORY The red oak is also known as the northern red oak, mountain red oak and gray oak, and it is native to America. It ranges from western Ontario to Cape Breton Island, south to Georgia, west to eastern Oklahoma, and north to Minnesota. Red oak is also a provincial tree of Prince Edward Island. This tree is known to grow rapidly, more than any of the other oaks, and is long-lived. This tree was first cultivated in 1724 and is now a popular ornamental shade tree in eastern North American and parts of Europe. This is a valuable timber tree as well, and it is one of the most important oaks for this purpose—others include black oak, scarlet oak and pin oak.

PRODUCTS & USES The American Indians cherished the acorn. The red oak’s fruits were not as sweet as the white oak’s, but the American Indians were resourceful and would make use of this tree’s acorns as well; they would process the nut and grind it into flour. In addition, the abundance of acorns led to balanocultures—societies in which the collection, storage, preparation and consumption of acorns as a foodstuff played a large role—before agriculture existed. The wood of this tree was once considered inferior to the white oak, but it is now commercially valuable and used for furniture, general construction, interior finish, railroad ties and mine props. The red Red Oak’s Fruit oak is also high-quality firewood. In addition, this tree is highly sought after for growing shitake mushrooms. The red oak often lines urban streets, as it is tolerant of road salts and is also an ornamental tree.

WEB OF LIFE The red oak is tolerant of many soils but prefers glacial drift and the well-drained borders of streams. This tree is the most shade-tolerant among all oaks and is usually found with sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, red maple, white ash, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock and northern white cedar. This tree not only reproduces from acorns; it also grows from stump spouts. The nuts of this oak in particular are bitter-tasting and therefore not a primary source of food for squirrels and other animals, but some squirrels and deer eat the nuts. Birds that consume the nut for food include the bobwhite, red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, rednecked pheasant, wild turkey, blue jay, tufted titmouse, grackle, ruffed grouse and many others. The bitter taste of the nut leaves plenty of leftover acorns for germination. Old red oaks develop cavities that offer habitats for squirrels, raccoons and other mammals.

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Red Oak Leaf Diseases and pests known to be destructive to the tree include Summer 8/11/11 oak wilt, shoestring root rot, anthracnose, leaf blister, powdery PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK mildews and eastern gall rust. The oak bark beetles, carpenter worm, Columbian bark beetle, oak timber worm, red oak borer and two lined chestnut borer eat at the inside of the red oak, while the gypsy moth, oakleaf caterpillar and orange-striped oakworm attack the foliage of the tree. The acorns are often damaged by nut weevils.

DESCRIPTION The distinguishing features of the red oak include leaves with seven to nine pointed lobes, with each lobe wider than the base and each tooth of a lobe ending in a bristle. The leaf indents are more V-shaped than U-shaped. The bark has long ridges and shallow fissures, and the inner bark is pinkish-red. Its fruit matures during its second season, as opposed to the white oak’s fruits that mature after one season. Height: 70-90’ Diameter: 2-4’ Leaves: 4-9” and 3-6” wide, with seven to 11 pointed lobes. Leaves are thin, smooth and firm, with a dull green top and a pale green bottom with little hairs in the vein axils. New leaves emerging in the spring are pink or red. Autumncolored leaves are red, and the leaves of mature trees are brown. Bark: Dark gray. Twigs: Wide with light colored pores, smooth greenishbrown and eventually becoming dark reddishbrown. Flowers: Bloom between May and June, with both male catkins and female flowers on short, smooth stalks, bright yellow-green. Fruit: Acorns mature in autumn of the second season singly or in pairs, stalkless, cup shallow, enclosing the base of the nut, with tight, glossy, bright redbrown scales. The nut is ¾-1” long with a broad base and ½ - ¾” in diameter, red-brown.

Human Activity Embedded in this tree is wire fencing and near the base of the tree is evidence of an old rock wall. These relicts reveal something of the history of South Hill. Before this land was owned by I. C., it was used as farmland and pastureland by the settlers in the area. As time went on, rock walls were eventually replaced with barbed wire fences, evidence we see today of those who were here before us.

Human Activity

into forests. Many of these forests were dominated by white pines.

In order to survive, humans have transformed forests. Forests are characterized by change and are strongly related to human activity. It is important to look at history to understand the health and state of forests in the past and now. The following descriptions outline the condition of Eastern United State forests during different eras to provide this understanding.

“Old Field” White Pine Forests on Abandoned Farmland: 1910 A.D. “Old field” stands of white pine existed on abandoned farmland. As they reached middle age, these trees were recognized as a valuable source of lumber. This led to the development of portable sawmills across New England. The white pine was commonly used for “box boards”—shipping containers.

Pre-Settlement Forest: 1700 A.D. Natural variation existed in pre-settled forests, and natural and human disturbances allowed for differentiation in age, density, size and species of trees over a wide range of sites. Factors controlling the pattern and dynamics of the landscape included: Natural disturbances •Hurricanes •Other windstorms •Ice storms •Pathogens (insects and disease) •Fires (ignited by lightning strikes) Variation in soils and water availability •Sandy, drought-ridden soils, moist soils, shallow soils with bedrock outcrops •Flooding triggered by beavers •Annual fluctuations in the water table Human activity •Clearings for American Indian villages and fields •American Indian burning of forests to improve hunting

White Pine Forests Become More Diverse: 1915 A.D. As a valued source of lumber, the “old field” white pine was clear-cut, and mixed hardwoods joined the white pine stands. The white pine was unable to sprout after being cut, in contrast to the rapidly growing hardwood species. These patterns of succession enhanced the diversity of forest types, which offered many habitat sites for wildlife. Vigorous Hardwood Growth: 1930 A.D. Fast-growing species, such as red oak, red maple, white ash, birches and black cherry, replaced the “old field” white pines and began to outgrow other tree species. Modern Forest Landscapes Forests have continued to mature and extend across populated areas of the northeastern United States. Forests grow, mature and become more diverse as dead and decaying species cover the forest floor. In addition, more long-lived and shade-tolerant species increase as early succeeding species decline. Despite this growth and movement back to the pre-settlement forest, the history of human activity and land use persists with the distribution of species and abrupt transitions between forest types. Some stonewalls and barbed wire that remain in post-agricultural forests remind us of the past and how our land has transformed.

Settlers Clear Land for Homestead: 1740 A.D. European settlement occurred during the late 18th century, which led to forest-clearing, hunting and trapping. These choices affected surrounding species, and the wilderness was transformed into a domesticated rural landscape. Peak Forest Clearing and Agriculture: 1830 A.D. The majority of New England’s deforestation and agricultural activity occurred between 183080. New England’s landscape was transformed by massive deforestation for pasture, tillage, orchards and buildings. 60 to 80 percent of the land was cleared at this time. The areas where trees remained were often a source of wood for lumber and fuel. In the early 1800s, New Englanders would build zig-zag split-rail fencing to enclose and keep livestock in or out of open landscapes, but as forests declined and pastureland expanded, this type fencing was replaced by stonewalls, better known as stone fences. By 1840, the bulk of agricultural land was used for sheep pastures, which were enclosed by stone fences. Most stone fences were built between 1810-40. Colonists then shifted to using barbed wire to contain animals during the 1870s.

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Farm Abandonment: 1850 A.D. As of 1850, farming declined in New England, and abandoned pastures and fields developed

Barbed Wire Threaded Through Tree

Old Rock Wall

PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK Phases are driectly from Harvard Forest Diorama Slides. See “Human Activity” in References

Invasive Species Several plants that are abundant in the South Hill Natural Area are introduced species that are invasive and potentially ecologically dangerous. Invasive species or “invasive exotics� are plants & animals that did not originate in the region and that drive out native species. Invasive species can change habitat and resources and often must be managed so that they don’t adversely effect native species.

Multiflora Rose Rosa multiflora HISTORY The multiflora rose is native to Asia, specifically Japan, Korea and eastern China. Today, this invasive species infests 45 million acres nationally and can be found in most parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States.

PRODUCTS & USES The fruit of multiflora rose can be eaten and preserved. The fruit is rich in carotene and vitamin C. It is important to note that the seeds of the fruit have hairs that may cause irritation to the mouth and the digestive tract if ingested. The hairs can be removed from these seeds, and the seeds can be found just below the fruit’s surface. The young leaves and shoots of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked, and they are a good source of vitamin C. The seed of the multiflora rose can be ground up and added to flour or other food as a supplement, as it is high in vitamin E. Despite the minor chance of experiencing digestive issues, many people consider the species’ fruits a good trailside snack. The rosehips are used for tea as well.

This plant entered the United States in 1886 as rootstock for cultivated ornamental roses. In the 1930s, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service encouraged the use of multiflora rose to lessen soil erosion. It was most commonly used as a “living fence” for homeowners and to enclose livestock for farmers. Many seeds were distributed to farmers throughout the East and Midwest. Up until the 1960s, wildlife managers used this plant for food and cover for wildlife. Its uncontrollable growth eventually disturbed cattle grazing and was finally recognized as a problem.

The Stem, Flowers, and Leaves of a Multiflora Rose

WEB OF LIFE The multiflora rose prefers partial sun and moist conditions. It can survive in a wide range of soil conditions but thrives in well-drained soils. This plant can be found in old fields, thickets, weedy meadows near rivers, pastures, fence rows, roadsides and forests. Long-tongued honeybees, bumblebees, miner bees and anthophorid bees are attracted to the pollen of the flower of the multiflora rose. In addition, short-tongued halictid bees, syrphid flies, bee flies and beetles are also attracted to the pollen of the flower. The rose hips, the fruit of the multiflora rose, are an important food source for the greater prairie chicken and a minor source of food for the bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasant. The white-tailed deer eats the twigs and foliage of the multiflora rose, while the cottontail rabbit eats the lower stems and leaves. Gamebirds and small mammals that eat the fruit of the multiflora rose distribute its seeds. The dense foliage and stems of the multiflora rose also provide adequate cover and a nesting habitat for songbirds.

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The multiflora rose is a problem because it interferes with the growth of other woody species and can replace native vegetation in the forest. This plant can inhibit regeneration of trees and the growth of native trees, shrubs and ground layer species by monopolizing light, moisture and nutrients. This plant threatens native grassland and open woodland habitat. Multiflora rose also alters habitat structures, such as the nests of birds. Cattle farmers can face economic loss if this invasive species attacks their land because multiflora rose can diminish pasture forage. The growth of this plant is slowed when larger trees break through thickets of multirose and shade it. In addition, if the plants are monitored regularly, young seedlings can be pulled by hand as a way to control this invasive species. Small plants can be dug out, while larger plants may require a tractor and chains to remove it. Repeated mowing for two to four years can be effective as well. Irradiation is extremely difficult, and many plant managers to resort to chemicals.


DESCRIPTION The common characteristics of the multiflora rose are its thorny arching stems, and leaves that are divided into five to 11 sharply toothed leaflets. The plant is also known for its small, bright red fruit—rosehips. Height: 8-9’ Stems: Green or reddish, with short prickles that curve downward. Stems often arch down to touch the ground or extend higher than 9’ if supported by other branches. Leaves: Emerge in early spring, with 5-11 tooth leaflets that alternate on the stem. The leaf stock is fringed. Flowers: ½-¾” wide, appear in clusters at the end of branches in late May or early June. Fruit: Small red fruits lasting through the winter.

European Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica HISTORY

The European buckthorn was introduced to the United States in the mid-1800s as a hedge plant. It is now found as far north as Nova Scotia, and extends south to Missouri and east to New England. After it was discovered to be very invasive, Minnesota nurseries stopped selling the European buckthorn in the 1930s. The plant’s Latin name, cathartica, is related to catharsis, in that the fruits of the plant contain glycosides, toxins that will cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.

DESCRIPTION The European Buckthorn is known for its oval-shaped leaves that are shiny and smooth on both sides and pointed at the tip, with three to four pairs of up-curved veins. It is also known for its small black fruits that are present in the fall. Height: As high as 25’ Bark: Dark gray on the outside and orange on the inside. Twigs: Tipped, with a sharp spine. Leaves: 1 ½”-3,” dark green, oval and slightly curved, with three to four serrated veins. Flowers: Occur in spring, yellow-green, four-petaled and developing in clusters of two to six. Fruit: ¼” in diameter, small and black, which grow in during the fall. The fruit tastes very bitter.


The European buckthorn prefers mostly sun with some shade, and it typically invades open oak woods, openings in forests resulting from fallen trees, woodland edges, prairies and open fields. This plant can tolerate a variety of soil types, such as well-drained soil or clay.

The Stem, Fruit, and Leaves of a European Buckthron

The fruit of the plant is eaten by birds and mice. It is known to have a laxative effect on these animals, which aids in the distribution of seeds far from the plant. This invasive plant is a problem because it can out-compete native plants for nutrients, light and moisture. The plant can cast dense shade and alter soil conditions as well. The European buckthorn can also take over wildlife habitats and can threaten the health of future forests, wetlands and prairies. In addition, it contributes to erosion by shading forest floor plants that require light and would typically grow and absorb water. The European buckthorn is also a problem because it is a host for pests like the crown rust fungus and does not have any “natural controls” like insects and pests to decrease its growth.

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Effective methods to control European buckthorn include fire and hand pulling. Setting controlled fires between March and early May can manage buckthorn seedling, helping to decrease the likelihood of plant growth. Fire has the potential to kill the top portion of the plant, but the plant has the potential to grow back. In this case, the best option is to uproot seedlings that are a half-inch to one and a half inches in diameter by hand. When doing so, try to avoid disturbing the soil, since this could release buckthorn seeds stored in the soil.


The European buckthorn is sold as an ornamental plant in some states despite its invasiveness. A green dye can also be extracted from the European buckthorn’s immature fruit, which can be best used as a watercolor paint when mixed with gum arabic and limewater.


Japanese Barberry



People have used it to make a yellow dye that can be extracted from the roots and the branches. The fruit of the Japanese barberry is edible but variable in taste. This plant has many medicinal uses—the yellow berberine found in the inner bark is an herbal bitter that is used as an antibacterial or antiseptic. Next time you eat or drink something questionable, chew some of the yellow inner bark and see how you feel.

Berberis thunbergii

The Japanese barberry, native to Japan and Europe, is an invasive exotic in the United States. This shrub, which now ranges from Nova Scotia south to Tennessee and west to Montana, was first introduced to the United States in 1875 as an ornamental plant. Seeds sent from Russia were planted at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Mass. The resulting shrubs were later transplanted to the New York botanical garden in 1896. This species was used to replace the colonists’ common barberry (Berberis vulgaris), which was planted for hedgerows, dye and jam.


Japanese barberry prefers well-drained soils and partial sunlight at the woodland’s edge, but it will survive in wet areas and can flower and fruit in heavy shade. It is drought-resistant and adapts to wooded habitats, wetlands, closed canopy forests, pastures, meadows and disturbed areas, such as along fences and roadsides. The Japanese barberry is spread both by seed, and vegetatively when branches touch the ground and root to form new plants or from root fragments in the soil. Small mammals and birds (e.g. wild turkey, ruffed grouse, & ringnecked pheasant) help this plant establish in new areas by eating the fruits and depositing seeds in their droppings. The shrub’s flowers attract small insects in search of nectar and pollen. Insects that feed on the berries include berry aphids and moth caterpillars such as the barberry looper. The shrub provides prime habitat for birds because the thorny branches offer cover and protection from predators.

The Japanese barberry is used as an ornamental plant because its orange, red and crimson fruit make it an attractive hedge. It is also sometimes planted to provide food for birds and for erosion control.


The Japanese barberry is a spiny shrub with branches that are brown, deeply grooved and zig-zaggy in form and bear a sharp spine at each bump, with greenish, bluish-green or dark purple leaves and red, jelly-bean-sized fruit. Height: : 2-8” Leaves: 1/2-1 ½” Flowers: Appear mid-April to May in the Northeastern U.S. Pale yellow, about ¼” across and hang in umbrella-shaped clusters of two to four flowers each along the length of the stem. Fruit: Bright, oblong, red berries about 1/3” long that grow from narrow stalks. Mature in late summer or fall and persist through the winter.

Despite its benefit to some animals, this invasive species is an ecological threat since it can alter the soil’s pH levels, nitrogen levels and biological activity. Japanese barberry displaces many native plants and reduces wildlife habitat and food resources. For example, whitetailed deer prefer native plants and will avoid the Japanese barberry, giving it a competitive advantage. Hand-pulling is the most effective method to remove Japanese barberry. It is advised to wear gloves to protect against the sharp spines on the stems. The species should be bagged and disposed of quickly to prevent seed dispersal. Care should also be taken to minimize soil disturbance. If berries are not present, uprooted shrubs can be left in piles as cover for small animals. A weed wrench may be handy if larger shrubs exist.

Post #7 Japanese Barberry Leaves & Fruit DRAWING: KEVIN GILL

Japanese Barberry Leaves PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK

Japanese Stiltgrass Microstegium vimineum HISTORY

Japanese stiltgrass is also known as Nepalese browntop or Chinese packing grass. It is native to eastern Asia, specifically India, China and Japan. Japanese stiltgrass can be found from Massachusetts, south to Florida and as far west as Texas. Discovered in Tennessee in 1919, it probably arrived in North America as packing material used to ship Chinese porcelain. Japanese siltgrass invades native ecosystems and spreads particularly quickly after a disturbances, such as flooding or soil moving. Within three to five years, this species can form dense patchs that exclude native vegetation. Japanese stiltgrass was discovered on South Hill between 2005-06, and Ithaca College has held many “stiltgrass pull” events to remove the plant by hand before it produces seed for the year—the best strategy for controlling this invasive species. Unfortunately, this must be carried out intensively for at least seven consecutive years to be effective because stilt grass continues to propagate from the soil seed bank. “Stilt grass pullers” must be careful, however, because japanese stiltgrass is often confused with the native white grass (Leersia virginica). It is best to pull when the soil is moist so the whole plant can be removed. Pulling is easier and more effective in mid- to late summer, when the plants are much taller and can be easily grasped.

PRODUCTS & USES In the past, China used Japanese stiltgrass as packing material.


The Japanese stiltgrass has wide leaves (for a grass) alternating along a thick stalk. Its most recognizable feature is a narrow shiny stripe that runs down the center of each leaf. It typically forms dense patches on the forest floor. In the fall, its tops take on a purple-reddish hue that is recognizable from a distance. Height: 1-3’, sprawling in a mat-like manner. Leaves: Pale green, alternate along branched stalk, long and wide at the center, up to 3” long, lightly hairy, resemble delicate bamboo. Flower: Spikes are 1-3” long. Japanese Stiltgrass vs. Native Grass


Japanese stiltgrass prefers moist, acidic to neutral soils that are high in nitrogen. This plant thrives in low-light conditions, which, unlike many of our other invasive species, makes it able to invade the low-light conditions of a closed-canopy forest. This is particularly unusual because Japanese stilt grass uses the C4 photosynthetic pathway, which is typically better suited to high-light conditions. This plant can be found in the moist ground of open woods, floodplain forests, uplands, wetlands, thickets, fields, paths, clearings, roadsides, ditches, utility corridors and gardens.

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Japanese Stiltgrass

Japanese Stiltgrass Leaf, Stem & Node

Not all introduced species are major ecological threats, however Japanese stiltgrass is. This species produse copious amounts of seed each year. It spreads quickly and often forms dense patches that displace native species. Its rapid spread appears to be facilitated by White-tailed deer who selectively feed on native plants, giving the stilt grass an added boost. In addition to simply outcompeting native plants for light and soil resources, there is evidence that Japanese stilt grass alters soil chemistry, making conditions less-desirable for native plants. Stilt grass invasion doesn’t just affect the plants. For example, this species changes the habitat of the forest floor, thereby increasing rodents populations (such as rats), that then prey on baby birds. Native Grass PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK

Native Grass Leaf, Stem, & Node* *notice the furry node in this grass compared to the stiltgrass

Ecotone/Forest Edge A transition area between two plant communities is called an ecotone; an ecotone such as this – between shrubland and forest – is also called a forest edge. Forest edges are important habitats for many species because many animals like to browse on the small plants in the open and hide from their predators in the dense cover of the forest. This makes forest edges a site of high animal activity..

Ecotone Natural areas are made up of edges: the contact zone where the boundary of one feature meets the boundary of another feature. Examples include the edge between a pond and a field, or a meadow and a forest. Edges can be abrupt and contrast sharply between the adjoining patches, such as the joining of a forest and an agricultural field. Edges can also be gradual (e.g. 500 miles wide), such as between two major continental-scale forest types. The area within the boundary acts as a transition zone between the two patches of land, and is known as an ecotone. Ecotone Plant & Animal Species Ecotones often exhibit high plant and animal diversity, and are areas with high animal activity. In the ecotone we often find the intermingling of plants and animals from both areas, and we find organisms adapted to the ecotone transition in particular. These transition areas are particulary rich in a wide variety of resources and provide a place for courtship, nesting and foraging for food.

Where Edges Exist Natural edges are known as “inherent,” while other edges are considered “induced” because they are formed through natural or human disturbances to the land.

Examples of Inherent Edges include boundaries between

•Land and water •North-facing and south-facing slopes of mountains •Areas of different soil content •Different microclimates •Different rock-like features •Dominating growths of one species and the distribution of another

Induced Edges can result from: •Fire •Storms •Floods •Livestock grazing •Timber harvesting •Agriculture •Suburban development

Edge Development The existance, exact location, and nature of edges is transitory and changes over time. For example, induced edges may result from a sudden change in the environment and can create a variety of responses, such as tree exposure to more of less light. This might allow for enhanced growth in some plant species and suppressed growth in others. The altered light regimes will alter the competitive balance among species leading to changes in abundance. Over time, edge-oriented species like hawthorn, hickory, aspen and oak might replace the species that were dominant before the disturbance. Environmenal factors that change across edges include humidity, soil moisture, light intensity, temperture, and wind speed.

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Multiple Trunked Trees Many Red Maples and pine trees in this area have more than one trunk per tree. Like a scar on your body, multiple trunks are an indication of previous trauma in the life of a tree. Multiple trunking can be caused by anything that kills or damages the main stem of the tree: logging, fire, deer browsing, insects, disease. Multiple-trunked trees are common in formerly logged areas and in post-agricultural forests, such as the South Hill Natural Area.

Red Maple Acer rubrum HISTORY

PRODUCTS & USES In the past, the pioneers made ink and brown and black dyes from a bark extract of the red maple. Red maple is now used as an ornamental tree, but it has a variety of other uses as well, such as furniture, flooring, kitchenware, woodenware, boxes, crates, pulp, clothes hangers, clothespins, gunstocks, veneer and distillation products. This tree can also be tapped for maple sap, but in smaller quantities than sugar maple.

The red maple is also known as scarlet maple, soft maple, swamp maple, water maple and Drummond’s maple. Part of the red maple’s Latin name, rubrum, means red, which is associated with the tree’s most vibrant feature: its red-colored leaves. Originally, the tree spread to the eastern parts of North America, and it is now the most common deciduous tree in the Eastern United States. It is also found in the coastal prairies of southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, and in the swamp prairie of the Florida Everglades—which links to its name, swamp maple. This shade-tolerant, fast-growing tree is one of the most important members in the development stages of many forest types. It is known to be the first tree to prosper in an open space. The cultivation of the first red maple occurred in 1656. Folklore symbolism recognizes the red maple leaves as the icon of autumn. The red maple symbolizes reserve and retirement.

DESCRIPTION Large tree with a short trunk, narrow or rounded, compact crown and upward-arching branches. Flowers, fruit and leafstalks are red. Height: 60-90’ Diameter: 2 ½’ Leaves: Opposite; 2 ½-4” long and nearly as wide. Broadly ovate, with three shallow shortpointed lobes (sometimes with two smaller lobes near the base), wavy, with five main veins from the base, long red or green leafstalk. The leaf is dull green above; whitish and hairy beneath; turns red, orange and yellow in autumn. Bark: Fray, thin, smooth, becoming fissured into long, thin and developing scaly ridges with age. Twigs: Reddish, slender, hairless. Flowers: 1/8” long; red.

The red maple is the most common tree of post agricultural forests and is much more abundant today than in original forests.

WEB OF LIFE The red maple is known to grow best in moist or wet acidic soil, but it can also grow on dry, rocky, upland soils. This shade-tolerant tree typically grows in dense woods but can survive in openings as well. The red maple’s ability to grow on sites with very little moisture is due in part to its early development of roots, which can adapt to the environment to absorb needed nutrients and water. Wildlife uses the red maple for food and habitat use. The tree provides food in the form of nutritious browse for deer, cottontails and hares. Birds nest in its branches and cavities, and they feed on seeds and insects that live on the tree. White-tailed deer and elks like to eat the twigs. Young maples (3 to 6 feet high) are an ideal resting site for prairie warblers. The leaves of the red maple are deadly poisonous to horses if consumed from a damaged branch or when they are green. The red maple is affected by a variety of diseases and insects, none of which are extremely harmful to the species. The fungus Polyporus glomeratus forms sterile conks that protrude from a knot on the trunk and eventually cause the tree to rot and become hollow. Other red maple rot-related funguses include Fomes conatus, Daedalea unicolor and Hydnum septentrionale. In terms of pests, certain species can reduce tree growth, make the tree more susceptible to decay and hastensthe death of already-weakened trees. Common red maple pests include leaf-feeding moths, specifically the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), the linden looper (Erannis tiliaria) and the elm spanworm (Ennomos subsignarius). Red Maple Leaves Summer & Fall

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Ferns South Hill supports 13 different species of ferns, six of which are in this patch. Ferns are considered exploitable vulnerable in New York State. Ferns are ancient plants that have been around since before the dinosaurs. They do not reproduce by seed, but instead reproduce from spores that are housed in small structures on the underside of a fern frond.

Sensitive Fern

Onoclea sensibilis HISTORY

The first part of the sensitive fern’s Latin name, Onoclea, means “vessel” (onos) and “to close” (kleio), which refers to the fern’s closely rolled fertile fronds (large divided leaf). The second part of its Latin name, sensibilis, means “sensitive”. Colonists used this name because this fern is particularly sensitive to frost—the fronds die as soon as a frost occurs. Other names for the sensitive fern include bead fern and meadow brake. This plant is native to eastern North America and East Asia and can be found in eastern Canada, and in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest of the United States. Fossil imprints of fern fronds dating back to the dinosaur age closely resemble the modern sensitive fern, suggesting that this fern has changed little since then. The sensitive fern is also the only member of its genus. Fossil imprints that date back to the dinosaur age closely resemble the sensitive fern, which means this fern has changed little throughout history. The sensitive fern is also the only member of its genus.


The sensitive fern can survive in both sun and shade, but it requires moist soil if grown in the open. The sensitive fern’s typical habitat includes wet meadows, thickets and woods; open prairies, bogs and the edge of marshes; stream and riverbanks; swamps and bogs. The fern’s habitat makes it an indicator species of moist soil even if it does not seem wet to a human observer. This plant thrives best in lightly acidic soils.


The sensitive fern’s uncurled leaves, fiddleheads, can be cooked or eaten raw. The young The sensitive fern’s curled leaves (fiddleheads), can be cooked or eaten raw. The young shoots have been sold as delicacies in Asian markets. The sensitive fern is considered a famine food and is only used in times of scarcity. People will sometimes use the fronds for dry flower arrangements.


The distinguishing features of the sensitive fern include its greenish-yellow featherlike lobes, which extend from each leaf stalk. The adjacent lobes of this plant are larger near the bottom of the stalk and smaller near the top, which overall creates a triangular leaf.

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Height: 12-36” Fronds: A few loose leaves develop directly from the rootstalk. Infertile leaves 2-3’ tall and erect, light to medium green and pinnate (feather like). Fertile leaves are 1- 1 ½” tall and erect. The central stalk of each fertile leaf is winged with lobes that are feather-like and roll downward. There are gaps of space between each lobe, and each leaf has about eight pairs of lobes. The fertile leaflets form hard, bead-like structures. Stalk: Dull yellow and reddish-brown.

Sensitive Fern Fronds PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK

Rare Species South Hill supports several plant species that are very rare in New York. The native blue sedge is a small grass-like plant with wide blades. It is listed as an endangered species. This sedge grows low to the ground and has blue-tinted leaves with a white powdery finish. The sedge enjoys slightly disturbed areas and frequently makes an appearance on the recreational trails of South Hill in small patches, such as this one. This area is known as a Perched Swamp White Oak swamp and is rare in Tompkins County because of its unique biology, hydrology and tree composition. To study the hydrology of this area (the movement, distribution, and quality of water) groundwater monitoring wells were installed several years ago. These are the two five-foot tall pipes you see sticking out of the ground in the forest on both sides of the trail. Using these wells, students can monitor the level of water in this area and help manage this important forest community.

Perched Swamp White Oak Swamp

Blue Sedge

Carex glaucodea HISTORY

The blue sedge is also called glaucus sedge because of the white powdery substance on its leaves (“glaucus” means white powdery covering). The blue sedge is listed as endangered in New York State by the Department of Conservation, and occurs in five or fewer sites in the state. Because of its rarity, little is known about this species. In New York, two other sedge species are threatened and one is endangered: Carex bigelowii, Carex retroflexa, and Carex willdenowii, respectively. Blue sedge ranges from Canada, east to Maine, south to North Carolina, and west to Texas. It is not considered endangered in all parts of North America. While it looks like a grass, it isn’t! All grasses are in the family Poaceae; the blue sedge is in an entirely different plant family called Cyperaceae (the sedge family). There is another plant family that is also sometimes confused with grasses, called Juncaceae (the reed family). One way to tell the difference is through a little poem that refers to the grass-like stems of these plants: Sedges have edges, reeds are round, and grasses are hollow. Ok, the end doesn’t rhyme, but what can you do? On South Hill in Ithaca, N.Y., the blue sedge thrives right in the middle of the trails.


The blue sedge resembles long strands of grass. Leaves: Bluegray with a white powdery finish. Flowers: Flower seed heads develop in early April, and seeds remain on the plant through summer. PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK

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Blue sedge thrives in woods and meadows, and it is shade-tolerant. This species enjoys moist dry soils and slightly disturbed areas.


Produce and uses have not been discovered yet, but potential exists with more research.

Wetlands Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil and is above or near the surface of the soil all year or during some seasons, therefore wetlands are not wet all the time. Wetlands are defined by the following three characteristics: •Hydrology •Wetland Soils (aka hydric soils) •Wetland Plants The amount of water saturation in a wetland will determine the plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Many types of wetlands exist: •Marshes •Swamps •Bogs •Fens Swamps Swamps are wetlands dominated by woody plants. Many kinds of swamps exist. The last “swamp” in the title above refers to the wetland that the species, swamp white oak, is in. The term before “swamp white oak” (aka the species), “perched”—as in sitting on top of something—refers to the wetland’s hydrology, which is defined by the species in the wetland—in this case, swamp white oak. Perched swamp white oak swamp refers to a swamp on mineral soils that occurs in a shallow depression on a forest hilltop or hillside PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK where the water table is perched above the surrounding groundwater. These sites usually have an impermeable layer of clay or bedrock. The swamp functions seasonally, and it is typically flooded in spring and summer, but it may be dry in the late summer. Stands of one tree species may exist in areas that are permanently saturated, or a variety of tree species may inhabit better-drained soils. In this case, the swamp white oak is usually the dominant tree species; however, it is sometimes joined by other trees, such as the scarlet oak, white oak, red maple, white pine and pitch pine. Shrubs are also present and can include species such as black huckleberry, hingbush berry, lowbush berry and maleberry. The groundcover may be sparse, but in areas where the canopy is open and wet soil exists, species such as sedges, woolgrass, mannagrass, marsh fern, arrowwood viburnum and poison ivy exist. A perched swamp white oak swamp is also extremely rare in New York State and is considered a S1S2, which means it is critically imperiled. It is also known as a Unique Natural Area (UNA) and happens to exist on Ithaca, N.Y.,’s South Hill in Tompkins County (UNA 154). Unique natural areas provide a sanctuary for rare plants and animals, and they help to maintain the diversity of natural communities in the area. The water depth of South Hill’s perched swamp white oak swamp varies significantly throughout the year and between years. Due to the varying levels of standing water, it is difficult to determine the exact boundary of the wetland.

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Pine Plantation Sometime before this land was purchased by Ithaca College, Scots pine and Red pine were planted here to make a plantation. A tree plantation is a large, artificially established forest where tree crops are grown for sale. Not much is known about this plantation and students are currently researching the history of this area. Some I.C. professors believe these pines were planted as an economic experiment; different types of pine trees may have been grown to try to develop a lumber source that wasn’t damaged by the White Pine Weevil that was damaging the native pines in this region.

Scots Pine

Pinus sylvestris HISTORY

The scots pine is also known as the scotch pine or a fir in England, but the scots pine is not a fir by definition. Its Latin name, Pinus sylvesris, means “pine of the woods.” This tree is native across Europe and north Asia, south to Turkey. It is naturalized in southeast Canada and in the United States from New England west to Iowa. Though beautiful when young, this tree is not long-lived in the United States, as it is often threatened and killed by diseases and pests at the age of 30 to 40 years. This native pine of the Scottish Highlands is one of the most important European timbers. In the 1660s, England used the scots pine for ship masts, most of which were imported from Russia, Sweden and the Baltic countries. This was not an ideal use of the scots pine. Due to its small size, scots pines were pieced together to a satisfactory mast for British battleships. In addition, their availability was not dependable because of political relationships with foreign monarchies. It was introduced to the United States in 1752 as an ornamental tree, and later it was widely used in reforestation projects.


In the past, the tree’s water-resistant wood was used for ship masts and water wheels. The resin from the bark was used to make tar and turpentine. Today, it is planted as an ornamental tree in parks or for Christmas trees—30 percent of the 35 million Christmas trees harvested annually are scots pine. This tree is also planted as a windbreak in prairies and as a way to control erosion. It is used in reforestation projects as well.


The Cones & Needles of the Scots Pine

The scots pine is shade-intolerant and can grow on any upland soil but thrives on sandy and clay-rich soils. It is typically found in forests with the black cherry, red maple, sugar maple, American beech, quaking aspen and eastern white pine.



The most distinguishing characteristics of this tree include its twisted needles, which are in bundles of two, dull blue-green in color and sharply pointed. It is also known for its orange-red, flaky bark and jagged, fat cones.

The scots pine comes in contact with many insects and lichens, which grow around and in the cracks of trunks. Some of these insects and lichens include the stump lichen, the narrow headed ant and the Scottish wood ant. Birds found in and around the scots pine include the siskin, great spotted woodpecker, great crested tit and cross bill. The tree is a great nesting place for birds of prey such as the golden eagle, osprey and goshawk. Red squirrels nibble on cones and seeds.

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Height: 70’ Diameter: 2’ and much larger with age Needles: In bunches of two, bluish-green to grayishgreen, twisted, stiff and sharply pointed. The needles are slightly spread apart. Bark: Mid- to upper crown, the bark is orange-brown and flaky. On the lower stem, it is grayish- to reddish-brown and has long, loose, scaly plates. Twigs: Slender, reddish- to orange-brown and eventually becoming grayish-brown. The twigs are hairless. Cones: Immature cones appear between late May and early June, 1 ¼-2 ½” long, egg-shaped, pale yellow-brown and open to mature cones with thin, grayish-brown, flattened scales with a light prickle. Thick at the tip with foursided, districted, curved points.

The scots pine is subject to many damaging PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK agents that could harm or kill the tree. Fire can damage young trees, and severe windstorms may snap off tree nodes. Pests that often harm the tree are the pine weevil (Hylobius radicis), which attacks the base of the tree and kills it within three to four years, and the pine root tip weevil (Hylobius rhizophagus), which feeds on the roots and root tips, reduces the height of the tree and eventually kills it. The European pine sawfly (Neodiprion sertifer) can cause moderate damage to Christmas trees and ornamental plantings, and it reduces the growth of the tree by 10 to 20 percent. Lower Bark

Upper Bark

Red Pine

Pinus resinosa HISTORY

The red pine is named for the reddish appearance of its bark, but it is also known as the Norway pine. The name, Norway pine, is misleading because red pine is native to North America and not to Norway. The latter name was given to the tree by an explorer who confused it with a European species, the Norway spruce. Another explanation for its name is its original sighting in Norway, Maine, in 1797. The tree’s general range extends from Newfoundland and Quebec, west to Ontario and southeastern Manitoba, south to northeastern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Maine, and in a relatively narrow zone about 1,500 miles long by 500 miles wide around the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The red pine is also the Minnesota state tree. During the first 60 to 70 years, this tree has rapid growth, and thereafter the growth becomes much slower. Despite being native to New York state, the red pine is not native to the South Hill area of Tompkins County. Farmers planted red pine in this area to provide shade for their cattle.


The red pine is characteristically a tree of dry, sandy soils, and it is found on gravelly ridges, rocky outcrops, sandy plans and other areas of low soil fertility. It is typically a northern and higher-elevation species found at 700 to 2,600 feet in boreal forests, such as in the Adirondacks. It can be found in both areas of only red pine—it is known to stand alone on degraded lands formerly occupied by the eastern white pine—and in areas with a variety of other species, like the eastern white pine, jack pine, quaking aspen and bigtooth aspen. The red pine cannot tolerate shade. Its propagation is dependent on fire for natural establishment: Undamaged crown-stored seeds germinate after the event of a fire. The red pine is a common food for snowshoe hares and a prime nesting tree for bald eagles. Typically, when growing under its natural conditions, the red pine is not subject to disease and pests. It is when the red pine is grown on less acidic, finer textured and poorly drained soils that it is more prone to damage through pests like the redheaded pine sawfly, Neodiprion lecontei, or diseases like Scleroderris canker, Gremmeniella abietina, which usually occurs on plantations.

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In the past, the tree’s bark was sometimes used for tanning leather. Today, the red pine is planted in the United States and Canada because it is a very important source for wood production and for the control of wind erosion. The red pine is used to shade other forest trees that have seeds that can grow in low light, and it is also used as an ornamental tree—a Christmas tree. It is easily cultivated and grown in plantations, and it is primarily used as lumber and pulpwood. The tree’s wood is light, hard and very closegrained. Its wood will rot if in contact with soil; therefore, it is treated when used for poles, pilings and posts. The red pine is an attractive tree in recreational areas, especially near lakes or ponds.

The Cone of a Red Pine


The distinctive characteristics of the red pine include long, stiff 3” needles in twos that break cleanly when bent sharply, 1 ½-2” egg-shaped cones with concave bases, and thick reddish-brown bark, broken into long, irregular diamond-shaped plates. Height: 70-80’ Diameter: 1-3,’ often larger. Needles: 4 ½-6 ½,“ in pairs, slender, dark green, breaking cleanly when sharply bent. Bark: Young bark is orange-red and scaly. Mature bark is thick and reddish-brown or gray, with broad, flat, scaly plates. Twigs: Stout, rough with scales, orange at first but becoming reddish-brown. Cones: Immature cones 2/5-4/5” long, April to May, mature cones 1 ½ -2 ¼“ long, egg-shaped and light brown, opening in the fall and shedding seeds throughout the following winter and into the next summer, and then falling from the tree the next spring or summer. Some cones may remain on trees for two to three years.

Tracking Box Daytime-active animals such as deer, squirrels, and chipmunks, are frequently seen by people, but many other mammals call this forest home. Smaller animals like mice, shrews, and voles are common in these woods. Motion-activated cameras have photographed fox, coyote, bobcat, skunk, opossum, and racoon. Tracking boxes are used to identify the many mammal species living in this forest by capturing their prints like the ones you see here. Often tracks provide information that photography cannot.

Healthy Forest Community Forest regeneration is a good measure of forest health. A forest that produces enough young trees to replace the larger, older trees as they are cut, blown down, or die, indicates a sustainable and healthy forest. This patch of forest is one of the healthiest on South Hill, with a recognizable understory, young replacement trees, and a mature canopy.

Tracking Box

Healthy Forest Community

Mammals in general are secretive and difficult to see because they are either prey species that will be eaten if noticed or predator species that will not be able to eat if noticed. This creates an issue for people who want to see animals, determine their numbers or understand their habits and activities.

Forests are systems made of interacting parts that create certain relationships, which must exist in order for the forest to persist. Forests are more than just a bunch of trees. For example, if you were to plant many trees to create a garden or plantation, this would not be a forest because it would require people to maintain the site, so it would persist in that state. Healthy forests do not require people to take care of them.

Techniques need to be developed to see mammals and determine what they are doing. The question is, how do you do this without sitting in the woods for hours? One method would be to set up cameras to take photographs of these secretive species, but this can be expensive and is not accessible for everyone. In addition, a picture of an animal does not provide enough information—why it was there, where it came from and how it was feeling. Tracking boxes can begin to explain this information. A tracking box is a shallow sand box to study tracks. Tracking boxes are similar to when search and rescue groups use track traps—areas that naturally hold a footprint, like sand or mud, to note human tracks and find people. Search and rescue teams look and analyze track traps to find lost people. A tracking box is a manmade track trap. It may seem like a low-tech substitute, but it provides more information than a camera. The camera gives you the “who,” but a tracking box can provide: •Who: came, which animals were here •What: the animals’ actions were at the time—running, walking or stalking (determined from the way the tracks are laid down) •Where: the animal was heading •When: the animal was here (determined by the aging of the tracks) •Why: they came, if you baited the box or other sources of food are in the area •How: the animal is feeling—alert, tired or calm—based on the pattern of the steps Tracking boxes may require more training to analyze, but they can answer the six questions of tracking (who, what, where, when, why and how), unlike a photograph.

Many traits define a healthy forest community. Like a person, a healthy forest community goes through an aging cycle. There are young, middle and old age forests that have certain characteristics as a whole, not based on individual trees—young trees can exist in an old growth forest. Middle-aged forests have the most biodiversity because there are organisms present from young forests, which will eventually be part of the old forest. As a forest ages, there are changes in its soil, animals and ability to store water and control flooding and runoff. Despite these changes, a healthy forest community can persist. There are many ways to determine if a forest is healthy. One of these methods includes analyzing the age structure of a tree. Look around to see if there are seedlings, little saplings and bigger trees. If seedlings do not exist, the forest will not reproduce and will disappear. If there are no middle-aged trees, something disturbed the forest in the past. If there are no old growth trees, there was a disturbance even longer ago. When a forest functions as a healthy community, there are a number of processes that occur along with this state. Flood control and water purification are natural processes known as ecosystem services. Diversity in a forest—whether it is species diversity (total number of species present), species richness (the total number of individuals distributed across a species) or age diversity—increases the resilience of the forest and its ability to deal with stressors like weather, pests and human interaction. That diversity gives the forest the resilience to recover from any of these stressors. A healthy forest community is more than disease-free trees. You have to have a complete functioning ecosystem in which all living organism and non-biological components in an area are functioning together to maintain life.

Questions to Ask when Identifying a Healthy Forest Community

Who’s been here? Biodiversity

•Are there trees of all different ages? •Are seedlings of the canopy trees distributed across the forest floor? -Seedlings are desirable because they mean future growth. •Are there many different kinds of trees?


•Are there indications of wildlife? -Deer droppings? -Bird songs? -Animal tracks? -Woodpecker holes?

Forest Floor

Tracking Box

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Tracks in Box

•Is there bare soil? -It is strongly desired for soil to be covered and protected by leaves or plants. •Is there downed wood or an occasional tipped over tree or branch? -This is a good sign. •Do the trees look like they are thriving?


•If it has rained, is a lot of the water running across the surface of the ground, or is it soaking in? -It is strongly desired for the soil to absorb water. •If there is stream running through or near the area? Is this water clear or muddy? •If there is a stream near the area, does the stream have life in it? •Do you see some mushrooms on the ground? -These are positive indicators.


•Are there insects? -This depends on the time of year. It undesired to see too many of one kind of insect. •Can you find a salamander under a stone or rotting piece of wood?

Invasive Species

•Are there invasive species in the forest? -This is a negative sign.


•Is there a well-developed understory—many green shrubs and plants on the ground?

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Blueberries & Huckleberries The understory here is made up of species of blueberry, deerberry, and huckleberry. This habitat is called a heath – like the Pitch Pine Heath barrens where the soil is acidic. Blueberry bushes fruit in early to mid-summer and are a delicious treat on a walk through the woods. Blueberries are also a favorite snack for black bears, whitetailed deer, and blue birds.


Vaccinium angustifolium HISTORY

The blueberry is also known as the lowbush blueberry or wild blueberry, and this berry is commonly associated with the state of Maine because of its abundance in this area. There are about 35 species of blueberry in North America, and they are grown in central Canada and the northeastern United States, as far south as West Virginia and west to the Great Lakes region.


The American Indians would use parts of the blueberry for medicinal purposes. They would use the leaves to create a tea to improve the health of one’s blood, and they would use berry juice to treat coughs. Blueberries were used as dyes, and in food preparation, they were added to stews, soups, and used to make rubs for meat and beef jerky. Today, blueberries are highly commercialized and can be purchased at the grocery store; they are included in many foods, and they can be picked fresh on local farms and preserved in your own home. Blueberries are also found in processed foods, such as pies or muffin mixes, pastries, jam, ice cream and yogurt. The fruit is also used to make wine and various juice products. Blueberries are also freeze-dried and sold. Blueberries are known as a super food because the fruit is packed with antioxidants. Berry-picking also remains an important recreational activity today.

For centuries, the American Indians had gathered blueberries from forests and bogs to eat them in their fresh state and to preserve them. Folklore also developed around the calyx of the berry—the blossom at the bottom of the berry that forms a five-pointed star. The elders of the tribe would tell how the Great Spirit sent “star berries” to relieve the children’s hunger during a famine. American Indians would eat the berries fresh, dried or baked, and they would add them to soups or mix them with venison and other meats. The pilgrims established Plymouth in the winter of 1620, but many struggled to survive in the harsh winter conditions. Those who survived later built homes and learned survival skills from the neighboring tribe, the Wampanoag American Indians, who taught them to gather and use native plants as food. The colonists learned to gather blueberries, dry them under the summer’s sun and store them for the winter. This later became an important food source, and berries were preserved and canned. During the Civil War, soldiers would drink a beverage made of blueberries, and they regularly consumed this fruit in other forms. In the late 19th century, the blueberry canning industry bloomed in the Northeast. Today, many commercial blueberry businesses thrive in the Northeast.


The red pine is characteristically a tree of dry, sandy soils, and it is found on gravelly The blueberry prefers open woods and plenty of sunlight, but it can survive in partial shade as well. It thrives on acidic ground and poor, rocky or sandy soil, especially with conifer forests. It is commonly grown in northern mountainous regions. The blueberry occurs as the understory or part of the understory in forest communities. It is typically associated with the following canopy trees: eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (Acer rubrum) and northern red oak (Quercus rubra).

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The black bear, eastern cottontail and white-tailed deer feed on the foliage of the low sweet blueberry. It is also an important moose browse in parts of Maine. A wide variety of birds and mammals consume the fruit and flowers. Wildlife that feed on the fruit include the black bear, red fox, raccoon, red-backed vole, white-footed mouse, fox squirrel, red squirrel, eastern spotted skunk, gray fox and many species of chipmunks. Birds that feed on the fruit include the American robin, common crow and eastern bluebird. Other birds include the wild turkey, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, gray catbird, brown thrasher, rufous-sided towhee, starling, cardinal, scarlet tanager, Canada goose, herring full, whimbrel, quail and thrushes. The flower buds are considered a major food source for the ruffed grouse during the winter.

Various Blueberries on South Hill PHOTO: DREA KASIANCHUK


The distinctive characteristics of the red pine include A low, straggling shrub with multiple stems and twiggy branches, with red-green foliage in the spring, dark blue-green foliage in the summer and maroon-purple foliage in the fall. The fruit are dark blue spheres. Small, white, pink-tinged, bell-shaped flowers are followed by the edible fruit. Height: A few inches to 12’. Leaves: Small, finely toothed, elliptic in shape, with alternating leaves on thin twigs. Most leaves are deciduous. Flowers: Urn-shaped, five fused petals except at the tip. Fruit: Small and round, with a crown on the distal end, composed of five lobes. Berries have a whitish tint over the blue color on their skin. Berries grow during the spring and summer depending on the location.

Snag Habitat A “snag� is a dead tree that is still standing and is often missing its top and most of the smaller branches. Snags such as this provide critical habitat for numerous species. Many birds, such as Barred owls and Great Horned owls, as well as small mammals, use snags for their nesting habitat, making snags very important for ecological stability. So critical are snags to wildlife, that foresters sometimes create snags by killing living trees and leaving them standing.

Barred Owl Strix varia HISTORY

The barred owl has many names such as northern barred owl, swamp owl, striped owl, hoot owl, eight hooter, round-headed owl, le chat-huant du nord (French for “the hooting cat of the north”), wood owl, and rain owl. It is named for the white bars that run cross-wise on its neck and breast. Sometimes it is mistakenly called the bard owl. The first published description of this owl was created by amateur naturalist Benjamin Smith Barton, in 1799. This owl can be found from Florida northward to southern Canada and spreads westward to North Dakota and is also found in northern parts of Canada and the northwest of the United States. The movement westward is of concern because the barred owl may have to compete with the endangered spotted owl. The barred owl can live up to 23 years in captivity and 10 years in the wild. Deaths are usually related to human (shootings or road kills) or associated with its preadator, the great horned owl. A variety of American Indian myths and tales are associated with owls in general, such as that death is near or it is a bearer of the deceased’s soul as it passes from one world to the next. These tales perpetuate the eerie and spooky emotions connected with the owl, and are also often linked to its mysterious and intriguing appearance. Its eyes make people believe that it is a wise species. The Cherokee Indians saw great value in the owl and would also bathe their child’s eyes in water containing owl feathers, believing it would help them stay awake.


The barred owl can be found in moist forested areas, wooded swamps and wooded areas near waterways. This owl tends to build cavities in deciduous trees or occupies open nests made by a hawk or a crow.

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The barred owl tends to hunt at dusk or at night by sitting on a high perch to look and listen for prey. This owl can quickly swoop down and dive at the sight or sound of prey. The barred owl’s typical diet consists of meadow voles, shrews and deer mice. Other mammals include rats, squirrels, young rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. This owl is known to eat birds, fish, and reptiles. Small prey is usually consumed on the spot while large prey are carried back to a perch or nest to be devoured. The barred owl is attracted to campfires and lights where it can forage for insects. The barred owl is considered aggressive often flying at or fighting rivals at the edge of its territory.


The barred owl is nocturnal and tends to feed and be active at night. Daytime activity is rare. The barred owl’s voice is very vocal and loud, with calls often heard in a series of eight. Mates will duet, but the males voice is deeper and mellower. There call is related to the sound of the phrase “Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?” Males make breed calls year round, but courtship does not take place until February, with breeding occurring between March and August. The barred owl is responsible for controlling a variety of rodent populations and to a lesser degree, insect populations. The barred owl’s make up allows it to carry out this role. In addition its large brown eyes allow for it to function in low light conditions so it can hunt its prey. Its other features that allow for successful hunting include its ear placement and acute hearing so it can pinpoint minute sounds of prey movement and its fringed feathers that allow for almost silent flight. Another interesting fact about this specie in particular is that sometimes its belly feathers are pink, which may be the result of eating a large amount of crayfish—a similar occurrence for flamingos as well.


White spots coat its back, and white streaks run lengthwise across the owl’s belly. White bars run cross-wise on the neck and breast. Its eyes are dark brown, and coat is whitish and brown with dark streaks. The barred owl’s bill is yellowish brown. Size: -Length: 16-25” -Wingspan: 38-50” -Weight: 17.5-37oz Young Hatch: min-April Incubation: 28 days. The barred owl beings incubation as soon as the first egg is laid and ends 28 days after the last egg is laid. Nestling: 4 months Clutch Size: 2-3 eggs


Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus HISTORY

The great horned owl is also known as the hoot owl, cat owl or winged tiger. Its species name, virginianus, reminds us that the first sighting of this bird by white Europeans occured in the Virginia colonies. The common name is derived from the tufts of feathers on the owl’s head that appear to be like “horns.” Johann Gmelin made the first published description of the great horned owl in 1788. The great horned owl is found throughout North America and into Central and South America. This owl is long-lived, dying between 29 to 38 years in captivity and living up to 13 years in the wild. The majority of mortality is related to humans— shootings, traps and road kills. American Indian tribes have different symbolic meanings associated with the great horned owl. The Pawnees Indians view the owl as a symbol of protection, but the Ojibwa Indians view it as a symbol of evil and death, as well as a symbol of high status of spiritual leaders of their religion. In the wild, the great horned owl will occasionally fight with the northern goshawk over nesting sites, but this owl has no natural predators. The great horned owl is the only animal that regularly eats skunks. In addition, it is unique in that it regularly kills and eats other owls. The great horned owl is also an important predator of nestling ospreys. The great horned owl has hindered the reintroduction of the peregrine falcon because it can kill both adult and nestling falcons. The female great horned owl tends to be 10 to 20 percent larger than the male owl, but the male still has a deeper calling voice.


The great horned owl is usually seen at dusk, but it can also be active in the late afternoon and early morning. This owl is aggressive toward intruders when nesting. A great horned owl makes a variety of sounds, ranging form deep, booming hoots to piercing shrieks. The male’s call can be heard over several miles. Most calling occurs from dusk to midnight and just before dawn. Their call is associated with the sound of the phrase, “Who’s a-wake? Me too.” Males and females call to each other between January and February to begin mating activity.


The great horned owl’s feathers vary from a reddish brown to gray or black and white. The underside is light gray with dark bars and a white band of feathers on the upper breast. It has yellowish-brown eyes bordered by orange discs. Tufts of feathers appear on the head, and its talons are feathered as well. Size: -Length: 18-25” -Wingspan 36-60” -Weight: 32-63.5 ounces Young Hatch: Late February or March Incubation: 26 to 35 days Nestling: Three months Clutch size: Two to four eggs


Great horned owls are adapted to many climates and areas. They can live in areas of dense forest, deserts, plains and city parks. These owls prefer woodland and agricultural areas. They are known to inhabit the same areas as the red tailed hawk. The great horned owl has a variety of nest sites, such as trees, cliffs, buildings and the ground, and it typically takes over nests in trees that are made by other bird species. One of its common nesting sites is on billboards.

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Great horned owls usually hunt from a high perch where they can see and hear prey. From this perch, they make short flights attack potential dinner. These owls are also known to hunt prey while in flight, and they have been seen walking on the forest floor to turning over litter and other materials to find insects, mice and shrews. Great horned owls consume more than 250 different species, some of which are two to three times heavier than the owls themselves. This owl prefers rabbits and hares, and other prey includes mammals such as squirrels, minks, skunks, raccoons and birds such as woodpeckers, crows, turkeys and pigeons. They also wade into water to consume crayfish, fish, frogs and turtles. Rodents and small rabbits are swallowed when captured, and other larger species are carried back to the owl’s nest or perch to be eaten there.


Pileated Woodpecker Holes

The pileated woodpecker (the inspiration for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker) is almost as large as a crow. The primary diet of the pileated woodpecker includes ants, wood-boring beetle larvae, and fruits and nuts. These rectangular holes were excavated by a woodpecker searching out delicious insects, such as black carpenter ants.

Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus HISTORY

The pileated woodpecker is found in forests throughout North America, from northern Canada and south to Florida, as well as west to eastern parts of Texas and southeastern parts of Oklahoma. In addition, the pileated woodpecker is the largest eastern woodpecker. This bird is commonly known for its drumming noise when it drills holes into large trees. This noise is not only used to create its habitat or to find food; it is also used to attract mates and to announce the boundaries of its territories. The pileated woodpecker can live eight to nine years in the wild. In eastern North America, the population of pileated woodpeckers declined due to systematic logging in the 19th and 20th centuries. Forests have managed to regenerate in recent decades, and the pileated woodpecker population has responded positively to this growth. This bird is responsive to changing forest conditions.


The pileated woodpecker can fly and hop on the ground. It gleans food from branches, trunks and logs. It makes deep rectangular punctures into trees and logs, and then it pries off slivers of wood to expose ants. The pileated woodpecker has a call as it flies through the air that sounds like “kuk-kuk-kuk,” and it uses the drumming sound of its pecking to call other pileated woodpeckers to mate. Breeding takes place in March in southern and coastal areas and in May in northern areas.


The pileated woodpecker is crow-sized, with a zebrastriped head and neck, long bill and distinctive red crest extending several inches behind its head.

The pileated woodpecker was the model for Woody the Woodpecker, and its Latin, name, pileatus, means hood, which is for its red-hooded head.

Length: 15-20” Wingspan: 26-30” Weight: 8-13 ounces Young Hatch: Two weeks after mating


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The pileated woodpecker lives in the cavities of large trees in deciduous and coniferous forests. This bird prefers woodlands near streams and rivers and areas with large dead trees. A pileated woodpecker pair stays together on their territory year-round and will defend their territory, but they will allow a few species to enter during the winter months.

Incubation period: 12 to 14 days, both parents incubate eggs alternately during the day, males at night. Eggs are attended to the majority of the time.

The primary food of the pileated woodpecker is carpenter ants, which they hunt by digging large, rectangular holes in trees. The pileated woodpecker’s droppings usually consist of nothing but ant exoskeletons. The woodpecker’s holes in trees are known to weaken smaller trees and can cause them to break in half. It is important to note that pileated woodpeckers never damage healthy wood and only drill into trees with bugs already in the unhealthy wood. Other birds are attracted to these large openings left by the woodpecker, with the intention to find insects for feeding. The pileated woodpecker is known to eat wood-boring beetle larvae, Pileated Woodpecker Holes ants, fruits and nuts as well.

Clutch Size: Four eggs

Nestling Period: Several months



Pitch Pine Heath Barrens

In the past, Pitch Pine was a major source of pitch and timber for shipbuilding, railroad ties, and mine timbers because the wood’s high resin content preserves it from decay. On South Hill, we have a community called the Pitch Pine Heath Barrens. This community typically occurs on dry, nutrient-poor soils and is characterized by a tall open canopy, an understory of dwarf shrubs (such as blueberry, huckleberry, & deerberry) and little to no tall shrub layer.

Pitch Pine Pinus Rigida HISTORY

The pitch pine is also known as black, torch or sap pine. This eastern North American native tree inhabits central Maine, south to northern Georgia and as far west as western Kentucky. The health of these forests depends on frequent fires. Pitch pine is not considered long-lived, with an average lifespan of 78 years. The pitch pine is known as the pine of Cape Cod and is a major species in New Jersey’s famous Pine Barrens. When the colonists first entered the west part of New Jersey’s coastal marshes, they found a vast forest of pitch pine and southern white cedar. This region also consisted of sterile sand and bogs. Colonists discovered an abundance of bog iron ore—some of the first iron available at this time. At this stage, pitch pine was the ideal wood for charcoal to use during the smelting process to create iron. The pitch pine charcoal and the bog iron ore were used to forge weapons for troops during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Pitch pine is not the most durable wood and is difficult to work with, but despite these characteristics, it was heavily used for the boat-building industry, barn floors and inexpensive houses. This intensive exploitation of the pitch pine destroyed all virgin timber stands and has left the Pine Barrens invaded by scrub oaks. The pines themselves are stunted, never again growing 50’ to 60’ tall, as they once did. The colonists were unable to farm on the region’s nutrient-poor soil, so the Pine Barrens still exist. In the early 1800s, residents of Ithaca, N.Y., extracted tar from pitch pine and exported this resource to surrounding areas. Later, Tompkins County’s pitch pine trees appeared to have been wiped out as part of early deforestation. Since this time, the county has undergone some reforestation projects to bring back this tree to the area

In the past, colonists extracted tar, pitch and turpentine from the resinous knots of the pitch pine through crude distillation. At the time, the tar and turpentine were considered the best axel grease for wagons. In addition, this tree’s resistance to water decay made it an ideal wood for barn floors and water wheels for mills. The high resin content of the knotty wood also made it suitable for torches. When the trees were in abundance, children were sent out to gather pitch pine knots, which were then tied to a pole and lit to provide light for settlers. These torches could burn for hours. Today, the pitch pine is considered difficult to work with because it is coarsely grained and full of knots. It is no longer a part of the domestic American economy. Its uses are limited to wharf piles, mine timbers and the production of cheap crate material.

Upper Right

Stem, Needles & Cones of the Pitch Pine Below




The distinguishing features of the pitch pine include thick and twisted 3-5”needles in bundles of three (the only native three-needled pine in northeastern North America), 1 ¼-2 ¾” long cones with a ridged prickle and scales that thicken near the top, and tufts of needles on the trunk, some of which bear cones.

Pitch pine is a fire-adapted species that grows from serotinous cones, which are covered with a resin that must be melted for the cone to open up and release seeds. When a fire moves through the forest, the cones open up and release the seeds, which are then spread through wind and gravity. In addition, fire helps kill competing vegetation and provides a suitable seedbed. The pitch pine is associated with other fire-adapted species, like the scarlet oak, creating fire-resistant forest communities.

Height: 40-60’ Diameter: 1-2’ Needles: Evergreen, 3-5,” three in a bundle, stout, stiff, yellow-green. Bark: Mature bark is dark reddish-brown and thick, and with age it becomes tough, broad and flattopped, with dark gray plates. Twigs: Stout, greenish-orange, turning dark grayishbrown, roughened by ridges and grooves. Cones: 1 ¼-2 ¾” long, yellow-brown from May to June, open at maturity at irregula intervals, egg-shaped and flattened at the base with raised, thickened, prickly scales. Can stay on the tree up to a decade.

The pitch pine thrives in less-fertile sites and shallow, sandy or gravelly soils on plains of glacial origin. This tree is commonly seen on steep slopes, ridges, plateaus, highlands and also glacial plains. It can grow on sites with various moisture conditions. The pitch pine is slowgrowing and shade-intolerant. The trees associated with the pitch pine include oaks on dry sites, and red maple and black gum on wet sites. Eastern white pine and lowbush blueberries often occur with the pitch pine.

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Pitch pine seeds are eaten by many species of birds and mammals, such as the white-tailed deer. Many birds nest in the dense foliage, including the morning dove, brown thrasher, pine warbler and purple finch.

Edible Species

Many of the species on South Hill are edible, but you must remember the five “rights” prior to ingesting any part of these species: The Five “Rights” For Edible Species (2)Are you eating the RIGHT PART? (3)Are you harvesting at the RIGHT TIME? (4)Have you done the RIGHT PREPARATION? (5)If it is rare, is it RIGHT TO EAT IT?


Amelanchier arborea HISTORY

The serviceberry is also known as Downy or Common serviceberry, juneberry, sadblow serviceberry, Saskatoon and shadbush. This native tree blooms in the spring, and New Yorkers associated this with the annual shad fish spawn in the Hudson and Delaware River, which led to the nickname shadbush. Also, people would often associate this tree’s blossom in early spring with funeral services, which were often delayed by snow and frozen ground until that time—hence the name “serviceberry.” This tale was created long after the name was in use. Serviceberry is a corruption of an older name of a similar fruit in England, “sarvissberry.” The serviceberry can be found in parts of Canada and from the coast of Maine to the Carolinas, and it is often not recognized as an excellent source of food.


In the past, American Indians and colonists used the species’ dried fruits to flavor pemmican, a type of hard, dried meat. The fruits of the serviceberry are edible raw or cooked and have a sweet-tasting flavor with a hint of apple. The fruit of this tree can be picked in late June through September. The quality of fruit varies from one species to the next, but all are edible and most are very good. The fruit can be eaten fresh, in pies and in both preserved and dried forms. It is important to bear in mind that the fruit varies in quality, with some tasting bitter and others delicious. The fruit is rich in iron and copper.

American Indians were known to gather serviceberries by the bushel, and they dried and stored this food source for winter. Today, they are considered a minor fruit, as the berries are small and quite similar to blueberries. Due to this similarity and lack of popularity, this fruit is not commercially cultivated.

Service Berry Stem & Flowers DRAWING: KEVIN GILL


The serviceberry prefers wet or moist, sandy or clay, well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade conditions. The serviceberry naturally occurs in wet sites, bogs, swamps. Its favorable habitats also include pine barrens, lakeshores, bluffs, fencerows, field edges, abandoned farmlands, roadsides and young or open woods. Wild birds, squirrels, raccoons, bears, beavers, skunks, red foxes and deer tend to eat the most berries from these trees. The birds tend to pick the berries before they are fully ripe. Specific birds include the ring-necked pheasant, bluebird, cardinal, chickadee and robin.

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The distinguishing traits of the serviceberry include its spring white or light pink flowers, blackish-purple sweet berries and light gray bark with horizontal grooved markings. Height: 6-30’ Width: 10’ Bark: Gray-silver, smooth but also striped with horizontal shallow slashes. Leaves: Elliptical, alternating on the stem, white and fuzzy when young, and becoming shiny green when mature. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow, red and orange. Flower: White, five-petaled, in erect clusters 2” long, arranged as clusters along an unbranched, elongated axis. The serviceberry blooms in the spring. Fruit: Blackish and dark purple when ripe, sweet and edible.

Black Cherry



Today, the wood is used for furniture, paneling, professional and scientific instruments, handles and toys. The bark is used to make “wild cherry” cough syrup. Jelly and wine are created with the fruit. Its consistently delicious-tasting fruit makes it a great trailside nibble.

Prunus serotina

This tree has many common names, such as American cherry, wild black cherry, rum cherry and mountain black cherry. This tree’s Latin name, Prunus, means “plum,” and serotina refers to “later-ripening fruit.” This name is in reference to the tree’s dark, reddish-black fruit. The black cherry can be found in southern Quebec to Nova Scotia, south to central Florida, west to east Texas and north to Minnesota. This tree grows rapidly, often adding an inch a year to its diameter. The black cherry was one of the first New World trees introduced into English gardens around 1629. Colonists would often flavor their brandy with the fruit of the black cherry to make a drink called cherry bounce, which later led to the name “rum cherry.” Today, it is one of the most important trees grown for fine furniture wood.

This tree is known for its high-quality wood, which was used by colonial craftsmen to create furniture, such as cabinets. The wood’s fine, even texture makes it perfect for furniture and a decorative finishes.



This tree prefers rich soil with uniform moisture, which is found on bottomlands and moist hillsides. This tree is shade-tolerant and can sometimes be found in pure stands but thrives best among other trees, such as oaks, hickories, basswood, yellow poplar, white ash, red maple, sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, eastern white pine, hemlock, red spruce and balsam fir. Black cherry leaves, twigs, bark and seeds are poisonous to livestock—the tree’s leaves, twigs, bark and seeds contain cayanogenic glycoside, which breaks down during digestion into hydrocyanic acid and causes a reaction in livestock. The white-tailed deer eats the leaves and twigs without harm. Birds such as the American robin, brown thrasher, mockingbird, eastern bluebird, European starling, gray catbird, blue jay, willow flycatcher and northern cardinal eat the fruit. They are also essential for the ruffled grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, wild turkey, northern bobwhite and prairie chicken during the summer and fall. The fruit is also consumed by mammals such as red fox, raccoon, opossum, squirrel and rabbit and it is known to be a favorite food source of the black bear. The black cherry is subject to disease and pest damage. Some of these diseases include black nob—a fungal disease that causes elongated rough black swellings—and numerous root and butt rotting fungi. Insects of concern include the eastern tent caterpillar and the cherry scallop shell moth, which can cause growth loss and mortality. Borers and beetles have the potential to damage the tree as well.

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The characteristics that make this tree noticeable in a forest are its pointed, oval leaves with reddish-brown hairs underneath along both sides of the mid-rib near the leaf base. Its mature bark resembles burnt potato chips. Its fruit is black and tends to be in clusters. Height: 80’ Diameter: 2’ Leaves: 2-5” long, 1 ¼ -2” wide, alternates, elliptic, dark green on top and paler on the other side. Bark: Dark gray, smooth, with horizontal lines, becoming irregularly fissured, scaly and exposing reddish-brown inner bark. Twigs: Red-brown, slender and hairless. Flowers: 3/8” wide, five rounded white petals Fruits: Dark red, becoming close to the color of black when ripe. Bitter, juicy, edible, but cherries are undependable—taste varies tree to tree.

Shagbark Hickory


Carya ovata


The shagbark hickory belongs to the walnut family, and it is often confused with New York’s threatened species, shellbark hickory, Carya laciniosa. The American Indians used the tree’s nuts as a source of food. They steeped pounded hickory nuts to create sweet milk, pawcohiccora, which later led to the Algonquian Indians’ name for the tree, “hickory.” Also, the American Indian name for the nut was Kwaskadamenné, which means that it “must be cracked with the teeth.” This tree is found throughout the Northeastern United States from Maine and southern Quebec and Ontario to southeastern Minnesota and southward to East Texas and Georgia. Hickories are known to grow slowly and may live as long as 250 years. The shagbark hickory is peculiar in that it does not mature until about 40-60 years of age, when a single tree may produce one to two bushels of nuts annually. This species is one of the most distinctive hickories because of its shaggy bark. Its wood is also strong, tough, light and elastic, and it is associated with the early settler’s phrase “tough as hickory.” Hence, President Jackson’s strong leadership qualities as a commander in the War of 1812 left him with the nickname “Old Hickory.” In Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell Professor Laurence H. MacDaniels (1888-1986) planted hundreds of nut trees, including shagbark hickories, in the Ithaca area. These patches of nut trees were an agricultural crop experiment that still remains today and are known as MacDaniels’ nut grove.


The shagbark hickory prefers a humid climate and well-drained, moist soils, but it can tolerate drier uplands. It is found on a variety of sites and is most commonly seen on south-facing slopes. The shagbark hickory usually stands among other hardwoods, most often with oaks. These oak-hickory forest types support diverse herb and shrub layers on the forest floor, which are valuable for wildlife.

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The shagbark hickory’s Latin name, ovata, means “egg-shaped,” which refers to the shape of the tree’s nut. These heavy nuts ripen in September through October and fall to the ground in September through December. The sweet, aromatic nut is a major part of the diets of red squirrels, eastern gray squirrels, eastern fox squirrels, eastern chipmunks and raccoons. Deer, wild turkeys and bears eat the nuts as well but prefer the twigs, bark and foliage. Hickory bark beetles, Scolytus quadrispinosus, can cause significant damage to the shagbark hickory, and they typically attack the tree following a fire or drought when the tree is weakened. Major diseases of the shagbark hickory are anthracnose, Gnomonia caryae, a fungus that causes leaf spots. Other Types of Hickory Fruits


This tree is known for its high-quality wood, which was used by colonial craftsmen to In the past, the American Indians used hickory milk, pawcohiccora, for cooking corn cakes and hominy. They would also mash the tree’s nuts, boil them in water and use the oils that float to the surface for other cooking purposes. Because the wood is shock-resistant, the settlers most commonly used it for tool handles, such as the ax. Its wood was also used for ladder rungs and wooden spokes for wagons. Today, both wild and cultivated varieties of shagbark are used to grow nuts and for lumber. The wood is still used for tool handles and is now also used for sporting Shagbark Hickory Fruit equipment, such as baseball bats. It is also known as the DRAWINGS: KEVIN GILL only reliable edible hickory in the Eastern United States. The nuts often have a similar taste to pecans, which are a part of the same family—“Carya.” In addition they are an excellent source of fuel.


The distinguishing feature of this tree is its long plates of bark, free at one end or both ends and curving outward, making the tree appear shaggy. Also distinctive is its leaf with five leaflets, the center being the largest, all fringed with small hairs. In addition, its fruit is a distinctive characteristic, with its thick husk, splitting at the base, opening to wide yellow and brown edible nuts. Height: 70-100’ Diameter: 2 ½’ Leaves: Finger-like leaf compound, with five 8” finetoothed leaflets. The leaves are shiny, dark green above, pale and covered with soft hairs beneath. Bark: Light gray; smooth on young trunks and becoming rough, with loosely attached plates giving a distinctively shaggy appearance with age. Twigs: Stout, shiny, reddish-brown to gray brown, becoming gray. Flowers: Male and female both small without petals, clustered in catkins. Males catkins yellowgreen, with three hanging branches to 5” long. Female flowers grow separately on the same plant. Fruit: Husk is 1 ¾-2 ½” long, nut encased in thick, spherical husk, splitting at the base when the fruit is ripe.

White Oak

Quercus alba HISTORY

The white oak is known by many other names, such as eastern white oak, fork-leaf white oak, ridge white oak and stave oak. The name “stave oak” is in reference to the tight quality of the wood, which was a useful quality for making barrels for whiskey and other liquids. Its Latin name, Quercus, means “beautiful tree.” White oaks can be found in southern Ontario and southern Quebec, east to Maine, south to northern Florida, west to eastern Texas, and north to central Minnesota. In addition, white oaks can be found in Eurasia and Africa. This tree is slow to grow and is long-lived. Some white oaks are known to live 800 years. White oak is the state tree of Connecticut, Maryland and West Virginia. American Indians taught the colonists to boil the acorns of white oaks for food. The raw nuts taste slightly bitter and were much sweeter after boiling. The British had cut down many of their white oak trees to build ships for the Royal Navy. England was facing a shortage of trees and was intrigued to hear that the colonists found acres of white oak after discovering new land. Yet, the Royal Navy complained that this white oak wood was weaker than their own as a structural timber and that it was more prone to decay. The British neglected to season the wood—to air-dry it over a long period and keep from exposure to wind and rain—which is known to lessen the formation of cracks. The dry rot of the American white oak posed problems while at sea. The dry rot would not appear on the surface and would often cause the interior of the wood to decay. This would occur most in the futtocks or wales of the ship—just above the waterline. This led to the famous disaster of the Royal George in 1782, when the whole bottom for the ship dropped. Despite this instance, the American colonists were determined to use this wood to build their own ships. The colonists were able to effectively work with this wood and build ships to carry New England sea captains around the world, like on the ship the Constitution. As of World War II, the white oak still had a place with the American Navy, as the tree’s wood was used to build the keels of mine sweepers and patrol boats. The trees used in this instance came from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s estate in Hyde Park.

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Oaks in general are considered a tree of worship and were associated with many gods, such as the Norse Thor, the Roman Jupiter, the Slavic Perun, the Celtic Dagda and the Hebrew El. Large oak trees have often been centers for meetings and prayer. Yet, during thunderstorms, it is highly suggested to avoid oaks because people believe this tree attracts lightning. This is true to a certain extent because of the tree’s great height and the dryness of its fissured bark. When an oak is hit by lightning, the electrical current seeks moisture behind its thick bark, and the tree tends to explode. The Greeks related this tree to Zeus, who was known to throw lightening bolts, and Thor, the thunder god. Today, the white oak is considered the most important species of oak in the United States because of its extensive range and many uses.


The white oak is typically found on sandy plains, gravelly and stony ridges, and rich uplands with well-drained sand or clay soils. This tree is shade-tolerant and can persist as an understory tree, but it thrives once the stand is opened. White oaks are seen in forests with other oaks, black cherry, hickories, sugar maple or white pine. The acorns are a valuable source of food for wildlife. More than 180 species of bird and mammals feed on acorns. Some of these mammals include squirrels, deer, turkeys, quails, crows, woodpeckers, blue jays, gray foxes, rabbits and black bears. The white oak is subject to disease and pests. The most destructive disease is oak wilt, which is triggered by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum and causes white oaks to die slowly. Most of the oak’s losses are attributed to cankers, or bark diseases, which are caused by Strumella coryneoida and Nectrica galligena. These fungi can attack the trunk and damage it so it can no longer be used for lumber. Root rots can attack, weaken and stress trees. Anthracnose affects the leaves, leaving brown spots, and this is usually caused by Gnomonia venata. Leaf blisters are associated with the white oak as well and are caused by Taphrina caerulescens. Several destructive insects attack the white oak. Pests can cause more damage if a tree is already in a weakened state. Woodborers cause the most significant damage by eating at the inside of the tree. The tree is also attacked by leaf eaters, such as the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), the orange-striped timber worm (Anisota senatoria) and the oak lace bug (Corythucha ciliata). The white oak is also the host to many gall-forming insects. The tree’s acorns are sometimes damaged by weevils.


In the past, the American Indians used the acorns of the white oak as a source of food. They ate the raw nuts, which were known to be rich in carbohydrates and fats. The American Indians would also pour boiling water over the shelled nuts to remove the tannin and dry the nut to be grounded into meal for flour and breads. Pre-agriculture, human civilizations were balanocultures. Civilizations formed around the collection, storage, preparation and consumption of acorns because they were a reliable source of food. This was around A.D. 160. The American colonists got the most use out of the tree’s wood. They would build houses, cabinets, interior trim, flooring, railroad ties, pilings, barrels, bridges, ships, barns, mills and log cabins with the white oak. It was also used as a source of fuel and is known as a fireplace favorite. The wood of white oak was durable and used to build furniture. The tree’s bark also contained a high content of tannin, and therefore it was stripped and used in tanneries to tan hides. The bark was pounded finely and soaked for weeks with animal skins—the more vegetable tannin accepted by the skin, the firmer the leather produced. In addition, oak bark and acorns were used to create yellow, green and brown dyes. Today, the white oak is the most valuable source of lumber in the United States. At present, white oak wood is used to build flooring, interior trim, oak paneling and furniture, such as office desks. Wood cut from tress under 150 years old is not usually ideal; the highest quality of wood is obtained from trees between 100 to 300 years of age. This poses a problem today as centenarian trees are cut or die. It is also still considered one of the best types of wood for fuel.

Acron Diversity On South HIll


Podophyllum peltatum



The mayapple was once called the witches umbrella because of its poisonous content and unbrella shaped leaf. The mayapple also resembles the European mandrake and is sometimes referred to as this, but it is not the mandrake. It is native to and can still be found in eastern North America, south to Texas. Early settlers compared the taste of the mayapple fruit to that of a lemon or fig. Despite the mayapple’s delicious fruit, this plant was mainly known for its poisonous elements and its powerful purgative effect—a main reason American Indians utilized the plant’s features.


Top Row: red oaks (northern red, scarlet & black) Bottom Row: white oaks (white, swamp white & chestnut)



One of the most distinguishing features of the white oak is its extensive root system, which is often a reflection of the giant tree above ground. Its leaves are blue-green, with rounded lobes. The acorn cap is shallow, enclosing a quarter of the nut, and the rim has no fringe. The mature bark is light gray with thin rectangular plates on the lower trunk. Height: 80-100’ Diameter: 3-4’ Leaves: 4-9” long, 2-4” wide, elliptical with five to nine lobes (widest beyond the middle and tapering near base). The leaves are hairless, blue-green above and gray-green beneath, turning red or brown in the fall and remaining on the tree in the winter. Bark: Light gray with shallow fissures that become broad, scaly plates or ridges with age and often come loose. Twigs: Wide with light-colored pours, shiny or covered with a white bloom. The shoots are a reddish-gray. Flowers: Female and male flowers bloom in May or June. Male catkins are hairy, and female flowers are reddish, very hairy and grow on short stalks. Fruit: Acorn, ½- ¾,” light brown, cup-like with small scales, which enclose a quarter of the nut. The rim has no fringe. Matures in one season, unlike the red oak’s acorns that mature after two seasons, and germinates in autumn.

The mayapple prefers hardwood forests with rich soil and a variety of Mayapple Unbrella Leaves trees that allow sunlight to pass through. Mayapples occur in clusters Spring because of its connected system of rhizomes—underground roots. It is commonly associated with oak, ash and hickory trees. It thrives in partial sun to partial shade. Bees help to pollinate the mayapple flowers by sucking the nectar or collecting the pollen. Most animals avoid the foliage because of its toxicity and bitter taste. The mayapple’s fruit is edible if it is fully ripe, and box turtles, opossums, raccoons and skunks are known to consume this sweettasting product. The seeds are distributed to new locations through animal Mayapple Fruit feces. Once the seeds reach a new area, the mayapple germinates and can out-compete other surrounding plants. No serious insects or diseases threaten the mayapple.


In the past, the American Indians used the root of the mayapple as a laxative to treat worms. They also used it as a cure for warts and as an insecticide. American Indians were aware of its toxicity and would sometimes eat the plant to commit suicide, with death occurring in just hours. The amount of a lethal dose is unclear. Today, the root of the mayapple is used in cancer medications. People also eat the mayapple’s fruit, which is ONLY edible when it is completely RIPE. It is completely ripe when it is quite soft. Unfortunately, animal neighbors will often beat you to it. The fruit can be used to make jelly and sweet relish.


This white flower with a yellow center blooms in the mid- to late spring under two umbrellalike leaves, and it produces a lemon-shaped fruit by late summer. NOTE: The fruit is edible and delicious when ripe but poisonous if they are not completely ripe. Height: 8-16” Leaves: 9-16” wide and divided into four to nine large lobes. There are usually two forked, glossy, light green, umbrella-like leaves, but sometimes only one. Flower: 2” across with six to nine white, waxy petals and pale yellow strands in the center. The leaves typically hide the flower. Only stems with two leaves produce a flower. Fruit: 1-3,” light dull yellow or brownish-yellow, tropical scent. Skin: Smooth but tough and leathery.

Post #6

Swamp White Oak Quercus bicolor HISTORY

Bicolor, part of the swamp white oak’s Latin name, means “two-colored” and is associated with this tree’s leaves, which are green on the top and whitish beneath. This tree grows from southwestern Maine, west to New York, southern Quebec and southern Ontario, to central Michigan, northern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota; south to Iowa and Missouri; east to Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and New Jersey. It is scattered in North Carolina and northern Kansas. This tree is commonly seen in New York and Ohio, where it reaches its largest size. The swamp white oak grows rapidly and can live 300 to 350 years.


The swamp white oak is typically found on low, wet and poorly drained soils, such as swamp borders and river bottoms. The tree can be typically found with the silver maple, red maple, eastern cottonwood, sycamore, red ash, black gum, American elm and basswood. It is not typically found where the water table is continuously high. Gamebirds, such as the red-necked pheasant, and songbirds, such as the blackbird, blue jay, starling thrasher, red-eyed towhee and red-headed woodpecker, eat the acorns of the swamp white oak. Larger mammals like the white-tailed deer eat the acorns. Small mammals such as the red fox, muskrat, cottontail rabbit, raccoon, chipmunk, rats, gray squirrel, red squirrel and flying squirrel consume the acorns as well. The swamp white oak is subject to similar diseases and pests as the white oak. Some of these diseases include anthracnose, a fungi, which causes dead areas or blotches on leaves. It is also susceptible to the oak wilt fungus (Ceratocystis fagacearum), which will kill the tree. See “White Oak” for more information. Severe fires can kill the top parts of mature trees, and fire-damaged swamp white oak trees are susceptible to disease and insect attacks. Seedling and saplings are killed in fires, but young trees can re-sprout following fires.

Post #15


This tree is known for its high-quality wood, which was used by colonial craftsmen to create furniture, such as cabinets. The wood’s fine, even texture makes it perfect for furniture and a decorative finishes. Today, the wood is used for furniture, paneling, professional and scientific instruments, handles and toys. The bark is used to make “wild cherry” cough syrup. Jelly and wine are created with the fruit. Its consistently delicious-tasting fruit makes it a great trailside nibble.


The distinguishing features of this tree are its leaves with a shiny, dark green top and a pale, hairy bottom. The edges of the leaves are wavy-toothed, lobed and widest above the middle. The acorns are on long stalks, and the lower branches of the tree droop. Height: 60-80’ Diameter: 2-3’ Leaves: 2-6” long and rounded-toothed edges with five to 10 curved lobes on each side, shiny and dark green above, with a white and velvet-like texture below. Leaves turn gold in the fall. Bark: Thick, gray-brown, deeply fissured, with long, flattopped, scaly ridges with age. Twigs: Wide and thick with light-colored pores. New shoots are shiny green and turn red-brown or dark brown with a whitish bloom. Flowers: Bloom between May and June. Male flowers are hairy catkins, and female flowers are hairy in fewflowered spikes on hairy stalks. Fruits: Acorn, maturing in autumn, usually in pairs. Its base is bowl-shaped with loose scales, and its rim is slightly fringed and enclosing a third nut—3/4-1 ¼” long, oval, light brown, with hairs at the tip and a white interior. Taste somewhat sweet.

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White Oak Quercus alba

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New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1997. 61-62. Print. Fandex Family Field

Swamp White Oak Quercus bicolor Swamp White Oak DeGraaf, Richard M., and Paul E. Sendak. “Swamp White Oak.” Native and Naturalized Trees of Quercus bicolor

Guide 47.

New England Canada.“Swamp Lebanon: University New England, 2006. DeGraaf, Richard M.,and andAdjacent Paul E. Sendak. White Oak.” Press Nativeofand Naturalized Trees of

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120-121. Print.and Adjacent Canada. Lebanon: University Press of New England, 2006. New England Grimm,120-121. William Print. Carey. “Swamp White Oak.” The Illustrated Book of Trees. Mechanicsburg: Books, “Swamp 2002. 343-345. Print. The Illustrated Book of Trees. Mechanicsburg: Grimm,Stackpole William Carey. White Oak.” Keeler,Stackpole Harriet L. Books, “Swamp White Oak.” Our Native Trees. Kent: The Kent State University Press, 2002. 343-345. Print. Print. Keeler,2005. Harriet346-349. L. “Swamp White Oak.” Our Native Trees. Kent: The Kent State University Press, Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. “Oaks.” American Wildlife & Plants. 2005. 346-349. Print. A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits: The Use of Trees, Shrubs, Weeds, and Herbs by Birds

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South Hill’s Natural Area: an in-depth look at the land  

An informational guide for Ithaca College's South Hill Natural Area and Nature Trail. First Edition.

South Hill’s Natural Area: an in-depth look at the land  

An informational guide for Ithaca College's South Hill Natural Area and Nature Trail. First Edition.