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Gift adds 31.1 acres to Cornell Botanic Gardens in Caroline

Native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia. Photo provided.

Cornell Botanic Gardens has expanded the Palmer-Adams Preserve and its Bald Hill Natural Area with a gift of 31.1 acres from Arthur H. Adams ’63, BCV ’65, MEN ’66, and his siblings Andrea A. Hastings and Drew D. Adams. The tract, located on Bald Hill School Road in the town of Caroline, New York, will be known as the Palmer-Adams Hilltop Tract, Bald Hill.

The new parcel joins the original 87-acre preserve donated in 1982 by Ithaca lawyer Armand Adams ’31 and his family. It was named to honor the long involvement of Charles Palmer and Armand Adams in natural history and environmental education. The addition of the hilltop tract brings the total size of the Palmer-Adams Preserve to 118.56 acres.

The Palmer-Adams Preserve’s unique features make it valuable for research and preservation purposes.

“The Palmer-Adams Preserve – along with a noncontiguous 100-acre parcel and some adjoining state forest land – are the only places in the Cayuga Lake drainage where native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, and hair grass, Deschampsia flexuosa, can be found,” said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas for Cornell Botanic Gardens. “The new tract also improves access for the study and enjoyment of the plants, insects, amphibians and birds present there. The property is bounded by Bald Hill School Road and offers a new point of entry and trailhead from the east side of the preserve.”

A number of researchers from Cornell and other area colleges and universities have used the Palmer-Adams Preserve for their work. The preserve has served studies in ecology, evolutionary biology, soil science, insect biology and microbiology.

One ongoing research project in the Palmer-Adams Preserve – along with other Botanic Gardens’ natural areas – is being led by Christine Goodale, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Goodale has been measuring uptake of carbon dioxide in these forested areas for several years.

“One especially valuable attribute of the parcel is the side-by-side location of primary forest (never cultivated or with some light harvest) and old-field forest that has not been cultivated in 100 or more years,” she said. “We see that the old-field forests gain CO2 in both trees and soils for more than a century after abandonment, and that the primary forests are still very productive even though they are relatively old.”

The Cornell Botanic Gardens provides public access to the Bald Hill Natural Area and the Palmer-Adams Preserve via a 1.1-mile trail, accessible from either Bald Hill or Bald Hill School roads in the town of Caroline. Wooded trails ascend portions of a large, contiguous forested area along an abandoned road in this southeastern part of Tompkins County.

Shannon Dortch is associate director of communications and marketing for Cornell Botanic Gardens.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.