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Educational Modules

Wetland Biology

Biological Inventories


Plant species that occupy the diverse and changing ecosystems of wetlands, have over time developed adaptations which allow them to withstand periods of drought, inundation, or both.

This list of plants has been arranged according to the following general outline:

  • Vascular Plants
    • Woody Plants
      • Trees
      • Shrubs
    • Non-woddy Plants/Herbaceous Plants
  • Non-vascular Plants
    • Mosses
    • Algai
    • Lichens

The list is designed for use by the casual visitor to wetland areas, and is not intended to be a complete list of all of the species found at a particular site. Wetland plant compositions vary from site to site and throughout continental regions. The scientific names are given first followed by a commonly used name and a brief description to help you become familiar with that plant. At first, you may find the scientific names to be long and cumbersome to remember, but with time and practice you will find them to be more reliable than common names. A single plant species may have many common names as a result of regional differences and local naming preferences. Scientific names however are uniquely assigned and are consistent worldwide. They are based on Latin and are often descriptive of the plant, indicate the person responsible for first describing the plant, and may identify the state or country where it was originally described.

Vascular plants are plants that have a vascular system for the transportation of nutrients throughout the plant. Non-vascular plants obtain their nutrients through absorption, diffusion, or osmotic pressure. They do not have "veins" or "tubes" to transport nutrition. If you were to cut a cross section of a vascular plant, you would notice bundles of vascular tissue arranged like a fist full of straws. To do the same with an algae or a moss, you would notice no differentiation in the plant tissue structure. Certainly there are many other differences between vascular and non-vascular plants, but for our general purpose, this will suffice. So let's have a look at some of the woody vascular plants common to wetlands, riparian zones and flood plains.

  • Vascular Plants
    • Woody Plants
      • Trees
        • Populus deltoides Marsh., Cottonwood describe the species, its habitat and habit.
        • Acer rubrum L., Red Maple
      • Shrubs
        • Salix discolor Muhl. Pussy-willow
    • Non-Woody Plants/Herbaceous Plants
      • Emergent Plants: non-woody, generally weak-stemmed plants that emerge; grow out of the water while still having their "feet" wet.
        • Typha latifolia L. Wide leaf cat-tail
        • Typha angustifolia L. Narrow leaf cat-tail
        • Sparganiun eurycarpum Engelm. Bur-reed
        • Scirpus validus Vahl. Bulrush
        • Sagittaria latifolia L. Arrowhead, Swamp-potato, Duck-potato, Wapato
        • Phragmites communis Trin. Reed
        • Equisetum fluviatile L. Horsetail, Water-pipes
        • Lythrum salicaria L. Purple loosestrife
      • Floating Plants: with roots in the substrate
        • Lemna minor Duckweed
        • Wolffia columbiana Water-meal
        • Spirodela polyrhiza Schleid. Water-flaxseed
      • Submerged Plants: live predominately underwater; may, at flowering time, send a flower scape above the water to facilitate pollination and successful reproduction.
        • Anacharis canadensis Michx. Waterweed, Ditch-moss
        • Myriophyllum humile Raf. Water-milfoil
        • Ceratophyllum demersum L. Hornwort, Coontail
        • Utricularia vulgaris L. Bladderwort