Exploring Mercer’s West Side Arboretum

Taking the path less traveled at Mercer Botanic Gardens leads to amazing sites! Escape the crowds and head to Mercer’s West Side Arboretum for views of native plants, wildlife, and natural scenery. Continue reading to learn about what you’ll find on Mercer’s West Side.

Hickory Bog

Located just across the street from the East Side Gardens, Mercer’s Hickory Bog features a 280-foot bridge and learning platform overlooking a thriving wetland ecosystem.

Reptiles, small mammals, birds, and amphibians of all varieties populate the area, making this adventurous trail perfect for birders, nature enthusiasts, scientists, and anyone who wants close-up views of nature.

Contrary to its name, Mercer’s Hickory Bog is technically a swamp because of its ability to support woody vegetation and trees. The name Hickory Bog caught on early in Mercer’s history due to the area’s location within a water hickory forest (Carya aquatica).

Cypress Swamp

Home to dozens of varieties of aquatic wildlife and birds, Mercer’s Cypress Swamp is named after the distinctive bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) that inhabit the area.

These long-lived deciduous trees can grow up to 120 feet tall with a trunk measuring 4 to 6 feet in diameter and woody projections known as “knees” that grow up to 4 feet tall and project out of the water. In the fall, the tree’s needle-like leaves turn an attractive bronze color before dropping.

Botanists are still unable to determine which cypress trees will produce knees or why. Many believe the knees anchor trees in wet areas and provide oxygen to the tree’s roots for survival in swampy conditions.

Swamp Ecosystem

Far from drab and murky, these locations feature a variety of flowering plants attractive to moths and other pollinators. As understory plants, most produce white blooms to help them stand out in shady areas.

The shore milkweed (Asclepias perennis), a water-loving Monarch butterfly host plant with creamy pink-white flowers, blooms on the edges of the swamps. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), a large shrub with sparkly-white balls of flowers, is a butterfly and pollinator magnet. In the wetter areas, lizard tail (Saururus cernuus) is a vigorous water plant with fragrant, drooping, white flower clusters.

Swamps also feature a variety of trees and shrubs, such as the bald cypress, sweet gum, red maple, wax myrtle, and buttonwood, which are frequently found in cypress swamps.

These plants and trees support wildlife such as white-tailed deer, raccoons, pileated woodpeckers, egrets, herons, alligators, frogs, turtles, and snakes. Be sure to look for their tracks!