Terrestrial System. Barrens and Woodlands Subsystem-- Ice cave talus community

Ice cave talus community

Physical Setting: This community type is created by a field of jumbled rock (talus) shed by cliffs above. The deep crevices retain winter ice and emit cold air throughout the year.

Ice cave talus community is best developed at Ice Pond on the eastern slopes of the hills west of the Ice Pond. There are two separate talus fields below each of the western summits north and south of the stream flowing due east from Ice Pond Road and between the two hills. The southern talus field (pictured at left) covers approximately 8,000 square meters and is centered at approximately 41.452ºN, 73.617ºW and about 175 meters above sea level. The northern field covers approximately 5,625 square meters and is centered at approximately 41.455ºN, 73.616ºW and 175 meters above sea level.

The eastern slope of the lower hill on the east side of the Ice Pond has a poorly developed talus field, but the boulders are smaller and more scattered and it is much drier.

Substrate and Hydrology: The communities are underlain by talus fields composed of large gneiss boulders (some about the size of a shipping container). The boulders are erratically jumbled creating large crevices and even small caves. The western shading hills and surrounding tall broadleaf forest create cool, shady conditions even in the warmest months. Numerous springs and seeps provide year-round moisture that freezes in winter and forms slow-melting ice.

Biota: Cool, shady and wet conditions support the growth of herbs and shrubs with northern affinities such as Sambucus racemosa L. Dominant trees are Liriodendron tulipifera L., Quercus rubra L, Acer rubrum L, Betula alleghaniensis Britton, Betula lenta L. and Fraxinus americana L. The shrub layer includes Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume, Hamamelis virginiana L., Sambucus recemosa L. and Ribes triste Pall. Herbs include Panax trifolium L. and Actaea rubra (Aiton) Willd.

Cultural: This terrain is very difficult to cross because the boulders are different shapes and sizes (some too large to go over), they are slick with lichen, fungi and moss and there are numerous hidden crevices. It is also completely unsuitable for any sort farming or structures. These obstacles probably protected this area from most every form of exploitation, except probably logging--and rock-climbing. The large boulders and the adjacent rock dome are now a well-known rock-climbing destination.

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