Although many Carolina Bays are temporary ponds that hold water only part of the year, these wetlands host a variety of wildlife, providing valuable habitat for such animals as frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes and alligators. Many birds, such as herons, egrets and migratory waterfowl, live in Carolina bays. Also mammals, such as deer, raccoons, skunks and opossums get food and water from Carolina bays. In addition, microscopic organisms called zooplankton live in Carolina bays. Salamanders and frogs are among the most abundant wildlife found in Carolina bays. As amphibians, these animals spend part of their lives in the water; as adults, they depend on Carolina bays as breeding sites where they lay their eggs.
Average water depth and soil type have a large influence on the types of plants found in and around Carolina bays. Many bays contain trees such as black gum, sweet gum, magnolia, bald cypress and maple, and shrubs such as sumac, button bush, gallberry and red bay. Also common in Carolina bays are water lilies, sedges and various grasses. Cartwheel Bay also offers several varieties of rare and beautiful carnivorous plants.
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