Between the retreat of the last continental ice sheet 12,000 years ago, and the commencement of drainage activities in the 1880’s, the majority of Merry Lea was a complex of wetlands. As agricultural activities diminished, and some of the drainage systems began failing, some previous wetlands began to reestablish themselves. Merry Lea has also restored about 46 acres of wetlands.
Forest found on poorly drained peat/muck soils. Typical trees found include: pin and swamp white oaks, red and silver maples, green and black ashes, sycamore, cottonwood and black gum. Shrubs and herbs include: buttonbush, winterberry, cinnamon fern, fowl manna grass.
Found on peaty and acidic soils formed from a Sphagnum moss mat. Typical species found are leatherleaf, highbush blueberry, tamarack, poison sumac, three-way sedge and royal fern. Small representations are found in the lowlands, just north of High Lake, and at Hickory Bog–in the extreme NW corner of the property.
A small shrubby representation is found along the SE shore of Bear Lake. A surface seep of alkaline water due to the calcareous marl soils. Shrubs include: shrubby cinquefoil and red osier dogwood. Herbs include: little bluestem, ironweed, black-eyed Susan, swamp thistle, bottle gentian, mountain mint, pale spiked lobelia and Riddell’s goldenrod.
Neutral, poorly-drained muck soils with seasonal or permanent standing water. Dominated by buttonbush, willow species, red osier and silky dogwood, elderberry shrubs.
Deep, black muck soils with permanent, mostly non-flowing water. Typical plants include: cattails, bulrushes, wool grass, water plantain, common boneset, marsh milkweed, smartweed, bur marigold.
Seasonally saturated soil in meadow depressions. Typical plants include: reed canary grass, fox sedge, path rush, stinging nettle, blue vervain and jewelweed.
Saturated organic or mineral soils with water depth up to 6 inches throughout most of the growing season. Herbaceous vegetation dominated by sedge (e.g tussock sedge, lake sedge, bristly sedge), plus bulrushes, wool grass and dark green rush. Other common species include grasses (rice cut grass, and Canada blue-joint grass). Forbs include nodding burr marigold, blue vervain, sneezeweed, spotted Joe-pye weed and swamp milkweed. A one-acre restored site in located in the southwest corner of Wilmer Meadows— northeast of the Learning Center.