The Territory of Polistovsky Reserve is located in the northern part of the area of mixed coniferous-deciduous forests, but features of the geomorphological structure and the soil cover of southern part of the Priilmenskaya lowlands impose a significant imprint on the character of vegetation. An aligned surface of soil-forming rocks, the abundance of varved clays and weak drainage of the area not only cause a high degree of waterlogging but also a wide spread of pure spruce forests and a small proportion of broad-leaved trees. Typical coniferous-deciduous forests of Polistovsky Reserve are usually confined to the higher terrain or to relatively well-drained areas along river valleys. A composition of lower forest layers is equally heterogeneous. Forest of a mineral coast of Polistovsky Reserve, as well as forests close to its mineral islands in the swamp, were repeatedly hacked over the past centuries, and major cleared spaces were ploughed up or used as hay fields (as natural meadows on the surrounding area have an extremely limited distribution). But by the beginning of the twentieth century, the mineral coast of the Polistovskoye bog represented a significant area of forest belt. Since the early 20's and early 40's a large part of this territory was deforested (in particular, almost all forests on mineral islands in the southern and western parts of the swamp were cut down). Intensive logging continued until the present time, although timber deposits in this area were already very low.
The Polistovo-Lovatsky wetland massif belongs to the Ladozhskaya-Ilmenskaya-Zapadnodvinskaya province of oligotrophic ridge-hollow peatland area of convex oligotrophic peatlands (Katz 1948). The massif occupies a significant part of the watershed of rivers Polist and Lovat, and by its morphology it is a typical for the province watershed-slope peat bog. The poverty of Polistovsky Reserve soils in mineral elements is associated with a low intake of saturated waters at the central part of the peat, the lack of ascending currents and the slow decomposition of residues. In addition, peat forms harmful to plants products of incomplete decomposition of organic residues: humic acid, methane, hydrogen sulfide. Plants are exposed to adverse effects of high acidity and the constant growth of peat, constituting for the forest zone of the European part of Russia about 1 m per millennium (Boch, Mazing 1979). Because of the later soil thawing and high standing of spring water, the vegetation of the Polistovsky wetland massif has a shorter growing season than in adjacent dry valleys. Terms of passage of main phenophases of bog plants of the Polistovsky Reserve are shifted to later periods than those of the same species growing at non-bog sites. All this ensures the uniqueness of vegetation of the Polistovsky massif under the rule of sphagnum mosses; evergreen shrubs and dwarf forms of pine, what gives this Intrazonal landscape a character similar to forest-tundra.