These shrub-covered landscapes are a successional response to earlier abandoned croplands. Typical species are grey dogwood, red-osier dogwood, hawthorn, prickly ash, and non-native species such as autumn olive and multiflora rose. This is significant habitat for declining populations of shrubland bird species.
Found on drier, undulating terrain, this landscape consists mainly of the second-growth to mature (to 120 years old) oak and hickory tree species— with sugar maple, tulip-poplar, white ash and basswood on the few north-facing slopes.
It had been grazed by livestock and selectively harvested for timber through the 1960’s. Due to the grazing impact, methods of past timber harvest and suppression of fire over the past century, the mature stands typically have an understory of elm, red maple, ironwood and black cherry—with no regeneration of oak species.
Found on flat, poorly-drained terrain that had been previously in agriculture production, these 30-60 year-old forests consist of red and silver maple, sycamore, pin oak, cottonwood and willow tree species.
Many are thriving in deep organic “muck” soils that were originally the bottom of wetlands prior to their drainage for agriculture. Along the north edge of High Lake, a “ghost forest” of dead tamarack trees among other living species is the relict of an extensive tamarack bog that disappeared as the lake’s original water level was lowered to facilitate agricultural drainage.
Several tree plantations have been established to meet certain objectives of Merry Lea. These include: a Japanese red pine x Austrian pine hybirdization study; a white oak provenance progency test; a black walnut timber and nut production planting and; an American chestnut x Chinese chestnut blight resistance breeding study.