Aerial photographs from 1937 show that the plant
communities on the WEA were primarily sandhill, with small areas of
xeric hammock, depression marsh and basin marsh. Several small
sinkholes occur here. Though sandhill habitat was disturbed when
the area was managed for cattle, timber production and agricultural
crops, this plant community continues to dominate the uplands here.
Generally, sandhills on the WEA are characterized by an overstory
of laurel, live and turkey oaks, and persimmon and black cherry
with a groundcover of native pineywoods dropseed and wiregrass. Due
to logging, pines are sparse in some sections. Historically,
naturally occurring fires maintained the sandhills, but when
previous landowners suppressed fire, oaks and shrubs grew thick,
converting some sandhills to xeric hammock.
Commercial pine stands were established in areas
that were formerly sandhill and basin marsh. Pines were planted in
dense rows, permitting little sunlight to reach the forest floor.
As a result, groundcover was sparse.
Wetlands include a seasonal wetland known as
Horseshoe Pond in the northeastern part of the property and
Watermelon Pond, which is mostly freshwater marsh, open water,
shrub swamp, wet prairie, and a small amount of forested wetland.
After a prolonged drought, grass seeds became established in
Horseshoe Pond, converting much of it to pasture. Two branches of
the larger Watermelon Pond system extend into the WEA, but most of
the lake lies outside WEA boundaries in Goethe State Forest. The
wetlands support frogs and other amphibians, fish and wading birds.
Conditions are highly variable and dry or wet conditions may
persist for extended periods. In addition to fire suppression,
natural functions within the wetlands were disrupted by altered
hydrology, agriculture and grazing.
See management information.