The most significant vegetation community present in Marcy’s Woods is the Carolinian forest that is comprised of rich deciduous (broad leaf trees) woods that provides a distinct and abundant variety of plant and animal life not found elsewhere in Canada.
Although called Marcy’s Woods, the 285 acres that comprise Marcy’s Woods are the combination of distinct ecosystems, and not just “woods”. The site encompasses a woodlot, wetlands/swamp, meadow and Lake Erie Shoreline including sand dunes.
Set on a series of large, ancient sand dunes along the North Shore of Lake Erie, Marcy’s Woods is unique for the eastern Great Lakes and is an excellent example of the Lake Erie vegetated dune system. The beach community adjacent to Lake Erie is also significant, since it is one of few examples of a natural, relatively undisturbed beach.
The Carolinian forest of Marcy’s Woods is dominated by Sugar Maple, Red Oak, the last known old-growth Black Maple in North America, and is home to one of only three old-growth eastern hemlock stands in the world. While trees of this species are capable of growing in southern Ontario, these species growing and thriving in dune areas is not common.
Other examples of deciduous forest on a sand dune in Ontario include the Pinery, Point Pelee, and Rondeau. These areas are smaller; more disturbed by deer browsing, exotic species, and have been highly impacted by human use, and less mature than Marcy’s Woods. A similar vegetation community occurs further south on the Point Abino Peninsula but it is considerably smaller and more disturbed than Marcy’s Woods.
Approximately half of the forest on the Marcy property is also wetlands/swamp (east of Holloway Bay Road and north of the drain), these areas consist of various species of trees, plants and animals including silver/red maple.
Marcy’s Woods is home to 408 plant species of which 36 are considered significant: 6 nationally rare, 3 provincially rare, 15 regionally rare and 12 locally rare vascular plant species.