On February 1, 2000 Mr. Talmage obtained permission from the Town of Riverhead to bulldoze the native plants are rare ecosystems of the Grandifolia Sandhills.

"It is certainly a pity that man so selfishly is bent on spoiling the treasures which future generations must do without; he is looking upon his temporary profits as outweighing all else." M. L. Fernald, 1937 (Harvard University Botanist)

The area is located on and adjacent to the Riverhead Bluffs overlooking Long Island Sound, approximately four miles northwest of downtown Riverhead.  


According to John A. Black, Geochemist at Suffolk Community College, the Grandifolia Sandhills are thought to be New York State's last example of a migrating dune system on a coastal bluff. The prevailing northwesterly winds sends the sands along the beach up the heights of the cliff's face. The developing sand dunes formed at the top of the cliff's edge gain in girth. When they are blown by subsequent strong gales and begin to migrate up to a half a mile south onto the deep woods, geologists talk of "walking" dunes. The blowing sands even bury the trees themselves up to a height of 40 feet.

Eric Lamont "The Grandifolia Sandhills: One of Long Island's great natural wonders."  Long Island Botanical Society Newsletter."  Special issue, 1998.

There are two globally rare and two state rare natural communities located at this site. Maritime beech forest occurs on the bluffs and along the dune blowout edges. This type of forest is ranked G2 meaning that it is imperiled throughout its range due to rarity. Pitch pine dune woodland occurs in the south central part of the site. It is ranked G2G3 meaning that it is imperiled to very rare throughout its range.

Coastal oak-beech forest (a state rare natural community) occurs through the site. The site was chosen as one of the three best sites for this natural community in New York and is proposed as a candidate for global exemplary site. It is ranked S3 meaning that it has limited acreage. Another rare habitat is that of the maritime dune. It is a state rare natural community also ranked S3.

Eric Lamont, President of the LIBS, is working with others to try and save this unique area.  If you want to help you can contact him at:

Eric Lamont

717 Sound Shore Road

Riverhead, NY 11091


Dr. Lamont writes that there are five distinct but interrelated plant communities at Grandifolia Sandhills:

1)  maritime dwarf beech forest

2)  coastal beech forest

3)  maritime dunes

4)  pitch pine-oak duneland

5)  maritime shrubland.


Plant List:

Scientific Name ---------- Common Name
Acer rubrum   red maple
Acer saccharum   sugar maple
Amelanchier canadensis   shadbush
Ammophila breviligulata   beach grass
Andropogon virginicus   broom sedge
Asclepias variegata   white milkweed
Aster concolor   silvery aster
Aster pilosus var. pringlei   heath aster
Aster solidagineus   flax-leaf aster
Carya glabra   hickory
Carya tomentosa   mockernut hickory
Cunila origanoides   dittany
Eupatorium aromaticum   small white snakeroot
Eupatorium rotundifolium var. rotundifolium   round-leaf boneset
Fagus grandifolia   beech (dwarf form)
Galactia volubilis   downy milk-pea
Gaylussacia baccata   black huckleberry
Gnaphalium purpureum   purple everlasting
Hudsonia tomentosa   beach heather
Lechea tenuifolia   slender pinweed
Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae   New England blazing-star
Myrica pensylvanica   bayberry
Pinus rigida     pitch pine
Polygonum erectum   erect knotweed
Prunus maritima   beech plum
Prunus serotina   black cherry
Sagina decumbens   small-flowered pearlwort
Solidago rugosa var. aspera   rough goldenrod
Strophostyles umbellata   pink wild bean
Stylosanthes biflora   pencil-flower
Trichostema setaceum   tiny blue-curls
Tsuga canadensis   hemlock
Vaccinium pallidum   lowbush blueberry

Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)

Cetraria arenaria (Iceland moss). A pioneer plant forming a ground cover over the sand and stabilizing it temporarily.