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.

FWC Facts:
Whooping cranes eat aquatic invertebrates (insects, crustaceans and mollusks), small vertebrates (fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals), roots, acorns and berries.

Learn More at AskFWC