A Guide to Natural Areas at Bluffside Farm
Bluffside Farm is surrounded by Lake Memphremagog on two sides and residential neighborhoods on the other two. The land has historical significance for both Native American and European American settlers and travelers. Throughout most of the 20th century, until VLT bought the land in 2015, the Scott family ran a dairy before they transitioned the farm to hay and horse boarding. There are about 50 tillable acres and 15 acres of pasture.
During the most recent post-glacial period, a large glacial lake covered this area and left deep sandy deposits. These deposits are high in nutrients due to organic matter left behind from glacial melting and the post-glacial lake. This strongly influences the plants that are found at Bluffside.
Within Bluffside’s forests, you will find red oak, red pine, white pine, hemlock, bracken fern, wintergreen, and northern white cedar. Most of the woodland resembles those found in southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which is rare in northern Vermont. Mostly likely this forest type is here because of the combination of the sandy soils and the moderating “lake effect”.
The beach is one of the farm’s most ecologically interesting features. It’s over 1,000 feet long and stretches below steep wooded slopes and dramatic bluffs along the farm’s southern boundary. It is very unusual to have a beach of this size in Vermont, outside of Lake Champlain. Though most of the beach is sparsely vegetated, some of the plants that grow here include speckled alder, poison ivy (yikes!), willows, cordgrass, ground-nut, yellow nutsedge, and jewelweed.
Just behind the narrow beach ridges, there are two small shrub and forested wetlands. Here you can see silver maple, white pine, red maple, black ash, young red oak, black willow, speckled alder, white meadowsweet, witch hazel, cattail, ground-nut, and scouring-rush.
The eastern side of the property slopes down to a shallow cove. It is separated from the main lake by what may have been an old beaver dam. At the source of the cove, there is an alder swamp and additional small wetlands nestled in the adjacent woods. In these wooded areas, you can find plants such as sweetgale, bracken fern, northern white cedar, eastern hemlock, and red oak. Near the old beaver dam, there are areas of aquatic vegetation, with plants including the invasive giant grass phragmites and the native aquatic plant water-willow.
A note on invasive species
Invasive plants and insects are becoming an increasing threat to native Vermont species. We inventoried the invasive plants at Bluffside and have been working on ways to control them. In addition to phragmites, other nonnative invasive plants have found a foothold in the forests, wetlands and waters surrounding the farm. Nonnative, invasive terrestrial plants including Japanese barberry (shown below), bush honeysuckles, and reed canary grass are abundant in some parts of the forests and wetlands. In the summer of 2015, the invasive algae starry stonewort, was found by a kayaker in the cove (this was the first documentation of this invasive species in Vermont). Download info sheets on invasive species found at Bluffside Farm here.