“The top 75” Wetland Plants

Sparganium eurycarpum, Lemna minor, and Peltandra virginica growing in Pymatuning Marsh of western PA.

Sparganium eurycarpum (Common bur -weed), Lemna minor (Duckweed), and Peltandra virginica (Arrow-arum) growing in Pymatuning Marsh of eastern Ohio.

Plants are the structural foundation of wetlands, and particular species and growth forms are indicative of different wetland types because of their sensitivity to hydroperiod, hydrodynamics, nutrient availability, and other environmental conditions.  The identification of wetland plant genera and species is therefore critically important to research, management, and conservation efforts, and is a fundamental part of wetland delineation for regulatory purposes.

Learning plants as part of a wetland ecology course in the spring semester is challenging, because field trips typically don’t occur until the last few weeks of the semester, and even then not too many plants have emerged from their winter slumber. So in wetland ecology at Lehigh University, students examine, draw, and learn some important wetland plant species and genera from herbarium specimens and other materials, so that they are already experts by the time we go into the field. The act of drawing the specimens forces the students to focus and develop their observation skills, a critical (and often under emphasized) part of the scientific process.

Skunk cabbage and cinnamon fern in Hartstown Swamp of western PA.

Symplocarpus foetidus (Skunk cabbage) and Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern) in Hartstown Swamp of western PA.

But what plants should a student know? The list below, what I like to call the “top 75,” is certainly a work in progress. It is composed of mostly of taxa that are typically encountered in eastern North America, and many of the species were selected because we can observe them locally; however, many of the same genera occur in wetlands throughout the world. The plants on the list range from facultative (i.e., found in both uplands and wetlands) to obligate (i.e., virtually always found in wetlands) taxa.  I’d love to hear suggestions for additions, deletions, or substitutions.

Plants that every self-respecting* wetland ecologist should know.

I. Salt-to-brackish marsh plants

Selected student drawings of some common salt marsh plant species.

Some common salt marsh plant species. Drawings by 2013 Wetland Science students (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parantheses.

II. Freshwater marshes and swamps

Submerged aquatics

Some common submerged aquatic plants. Drawings by 2011 Wetland Ecology students (EES-386).

Some common submerged aquatic plants. Drawings by 2011 Wetland Ecology students (EES-386). Initials of students shown next to the drawings.

Floating-leaved plants and floating plants

Some floating and floating-leaved wetland plant species.

Some floating and floating-leaved wetland plant species. Drawings by 2013 Wetland Science students (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

Emergents and plants of wet ground

Some common wetland emergents and plants of wet ground. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

Some common wetland emergents and plants of wet ground. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

Some wetland ferns and fern allies. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

Some wetland ferns and fern allies. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

Swamp (and peatland) trees (several of these are more common in uplands, but are not infrequent in wetlands of the region)

Swamp shrubs

Some common trees and shrubs of wetlands. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Student initials are shown in parentheses.

Some common trees and shrubs of wetlands. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Student initials are shown in parentheses.

III. Peatland plants

Some common peatland plants. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

Some common peatland plants. Drawings by students in Wetland Science (EES-386). Initials of students shown in parentheses.

*Obviously meant in fun. Seems unlikely that less botanically inclined wetland ecologists really have less self-respect…

Advertisements

Posted on April 16, 2013, in Original Posts, Teaching, Wetland ecology (EES-386) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great website. I will add your page as a link on NJUrbanForest.com!

  2. Strange plants
    Lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: