Swamp Bouquet

Header Image: Pine Flatwoods

We use the term “swamp” a lot on our blog. Many of our outings take us into or through areas which are defined as swamps. Other wetlands exist in our area and we are sometimes guilty of lumping them all into the same “swamp” basket.

Herewith, some short definitions of wetlands found within the United States, courtesy of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Pay attention. There will be a test.)

Swamp. A swamp is any wetland dominated by woody plants.

Marsh. Marshes are defined as wetlands frequently or continually inundated with water, characterized by emergent soft-stemmed vegetation adapted to saturated soil conditions. 

Bog. Bogs are one of North America’s most distinctive kinds of wetlands. They are characterized by spongy peat deposits, acidic waters and a floor covered by a thick carpet of sphagnum moss.

Pocosin. The word pocosin comes from the Algonquin Native American word for “swamp on a hill.” These evergreen shrub and tree dominated landscapes are found on the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Virginia to northern Florida; though, most are found in North Carolina. Usually, there is no standing water present in pocosins, but a shallow water table leaves the soil saturated for much of the year.

Fen. Fens are peat-forming wetlands that receive nutrients from sources other than precipitation: usually from upslope sources through drainage from surrounding mineral soils and from groundwater movement. Fens differ from bogs because they are less acidic and have higher nutrient levels. 

https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/classification-and-types-wetlands#undefined: Swamp Bouquet

Less than ten miles from our house is the boundary of central Florida’s Green Swamp. It consists of pine flatwoods, cypress domes, areas of fresh water (ponds, streams, rivers) and hardwood forests. You know, “woody plants”. (We like to call ’em “trees”.) You may have noticed we frequent “our local swamp” fairly often. As we drive along the old logging roads and see huge oak trees draped in Spanish Moss or seemingly endless pine forest, it doesn’t “feel” like we’re in a swamp. We simply enjoy what it has to offer. Diversity in birds, blooms and bugs. Solitude.

Recently, Gini mentioned we should go to the swamp to see if any signs of Spring might be on display.

“As you wish.”

Along some stretches of the roads were Red Maple trees. Seeds are contained within a winged “fruit” called a samara which generally occurs in pairs.

“Woody plants”, mostly cypress trees and a mix of pine, bay and hackberry. Ferns are abundant throughout the swamp.

In a few weeks, the Sawtooth Blackberry (Rubus pensilvanicus) plants will yield small sweet fruits which will quickly be harvested by the swamp’s residents. We’ll try to be content with enjoying the lovely flowers.

At this time of year, most areas adjacent to water in the swamp have a healthy growth of Burmarigold (Bidens laevis), also called Smooth Beggartick.

When the Coastal Plain Willow (Salix caroliniana) blooms it attracts myriad insects not only for pollinating, but as a host plant for larvae.

With just a hint of purple now, it won’t be long before Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) will be blooming profusely in most shallow water areas.

Sandweed (Hypericum fasciculatum), also called Peelbark St. John’s-wort, has wonderful yellow blooms, narrow leaves and reddish bark on its woody stems.

Cypress domes are unique features of central and south Florida swamps and prairies. They form in response to depressions in the limestone bedrock. As water collects in the depressions, cypress trees take root and flourish since the depressions remain wet. The outer edges of the depressions have shallower water and become dry during fall and winter causing the trees to be shorter than those in the center, thus the dome shape.

A fascinating plant in the swamp is the Floating Bladderwort (Utricularia inflata). This carnivorous plant has no true leaves or roots, but the stem produces stolons, which are stem-like structures running horizontally on or just below the water’s surface. These stolons are covered in filaments with small bladder traps at their ends which suck in anything small enough which floats by. During flowering season, the plant puts out swollen air-filled stolons like spokes on a wheel which allows the plant and blooms to float. (My impression was that of a B-grade late-night science fiction movie alien.)

We always love finding Oakleaf Fleabane (Erigeron quercifoliu) as this small beauty attracts a terrific diversity of pollinators.

When it’s time for Yellow or Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) to bloom, it knows no bounds! The woody vine climbs up, around and over just about anything. Not only great to look at, its aroma permeates the air and is a major attractant for pollinating insects. One caution in case you get the urge to bite into the lemon-colored flower, all parts of this plant are toxic.

When we first found one of these beautiful plants a few years ago, we thought it might be an orchid. The Showy Milkwort (Asemeia violacea) is stunning in appearance and it doesn’t seem to be very abundant. Despite the common name, one needs to look carefully to find one of these “Showy” blooms as the plants rarely reach 12 inches tall.

Whether you visit a swamp, marsh, bog, pocosin or fen, we hope you discover your very own bouquet. Once again, Gini’s instinct for impeccable timing paid off in a plethora of picturesque plants!

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

30 Comments on “Swamp Bouquet

  1. This post was chock full of education for me – admitted, not the best at anything that is green and sprouts from the ground. Also never heard of a Pocosin, Thanks for making me a little smarter.


  2. Thank you for sharing the plethora of picturesque plants from your local swamp as well as the definitions of the different wetlands. I’m afraid my exposure to these important habitats has been limited to marshes.


  3. In awe of all the images.
    No wonder Gary Snyder rightly said: “Nature is not a place to visit. It’s home.”

    We have something like the Carolina Jessamine here and we call it the trumpet flower, not to sure if they are the same species. It was interesting to see the detailed images of the Floating Bladderwort.

    This must have been such an enthralling walk. Thank you for taking us along.



    • Good Morning, Natasha!

      Thank you for visiting with us. I think Mr. Snyder might have it right.

      I have seen Evening Trumpetflower listed as a synonym for Carolina Jessamine. There are other yellow flowers with a similar shape which also have trumpet flower as a synonym. There is also a vining shrub which is similar: Yellow Trumpet Flower (Tecoma stans). Depends on location and details of the plant as to which variety we’re looking at. That’s the fun (?) part of Nature!

      Stop by any time!


  4. I’ve seen several St. John’s Worts but never a woody stemmed one. Your Milkwort resembles a bit our Fringed Milkwort or Gaywings-Polygala paucifolia and, as you mentioned, it is often mistaken for an orchid. That Floating Bladderwort is a star of any swamp. A very nice “worty” post.


    • Thank you, Steve.

      It’s pretty neat that we can “discover” something unique on almost every trip into Nature’s bailiwick.

      We appreciate that you enjoy our blog – “worts” and all.


  5. The swamps here and even the marshes at the preserve are drying out now. We need some rain. And we have more butterflies than wildflowers right now. I always like learning what many of them are by checking your IDs! Happy weekend!


    • Yes, rain will be most welcome!

      The sort of good news is that if you can find pools of water there should be a lot of wildlife using it.

      Have a great day, Diane!


  6. In your third photo of the Red Maple, it took me a minute to figure out those ‘tendrils’ — I think a bit of Spanish Moss came to visit! I’ve found a bladderwort and a species of St. John’s Wort in the Big Thicket, but I’m sure both are different from the species you show here: although the St. John’s Wort flower certainly is recognizable. It’s time to leave the bluebonnets and such behind, and get myself back to east Texas — not to mention posting the February report from the Solo tract. So many places, so little time!

    I was interested in your mention of fens. The word is familiar, but I don’t remember coming across it as a descriptor for places here in the U.S. Fens and moors always evoke Scotland and such; more research is required!


    • I was remiss in not identifying the Spanish Moss. It is such a fixture in our landscape that I “assume” everyone is familiar with the stuff!

      Hypericum fasciculatum only appears as far west as Louisiana, according to the USDA. As you point out, the flowers are familiar to many in that family.

      Apparently, fens are not all that common in the U.S. with most meeting the definition in the northeast.


  7. Hello Wally and Gini. I hope you are both well.

    You may know that “Bog” can have quite a different slang meaning here in the UK, probably in more common use than for the swamp areas that you describe. I’ll leave that one with you.

    Those maple seeds are so similar to our sycamore seeds without the red. There’s a huge sycamore in next door’s garden and each spring we are plagued by sycamore helicopters growing in the lawn and blocking up our gutters. If the sycamore looked like a red maple I guess I wouldn’t be bothered so much.

    Take care next week. And try not to get arrested as I’m too far away to come bail you out.


    • We are both very well today, thank you!

      The only slang for “bog” I know might actually apply to some wetland areas near our large urban areas. As my Grandma would say (translated into Brit slang): “As long as the bog roll is full, everyone is happy.” (You may have a different meaning in mind.)

      Our Red Maple trees (Acer rubrum) is also called Swamp Maple and certainly offers a nice bit of color in our forested wetlands. I can see where the winged seeds would be a homeowner’s nightmare!

      We intend to try and get rested and hope we don’t confuse it with getting arrested. One never knows these days.


  8. Thank you for such an informative report, Wally. The Floating Bladderwort was especially interesting. I need to pay more attention when I’m out in the swamp!


    • You’re welcome, Ed!

      Each trip we make into Nature’s realm it seems we learn something new. Perhaps that’s what keeps us coming back!


  9. Nice illustration of the bladderwort flotation system. They are so fascinating. I visited a rare Black Spruce bog not far from our home. It is an isolated gem in a hardwood woodland. A bit soggy with snowmelt.


  10. Not a bird in sight, but I enjoyed this post greatly and was pleased to be educated as to the definitions of those various habitats, Wally – thank you.

    We have an additional wetland habitat known as a moss (no, not the plant). These are rather rare in UK, and are lowland raised bogs. They are also a little dangerous as they have a layer of varying thickness of matted mosses and other vegetation floating on deep water. They even support trees which, when you jump up and down on the ground and cause waves, sway quite alarmingly! They are, however, a stronghold for the very localised White-faced Darter dragonfly.

    Best wishes to you and Gini from this neck of the woods where Spring has just about sprung. Take good care – – – Richard


    • A moss sounds like it would be a fascinating place to explore as long as one is careful.

      Wetlands of any sort are typically magnets for a tremendous diversity of wildlife. Not to mention pretty attractive to those of us who happen to like wildlife!

      Hoping your Spring bursts forth any day now!


  11. That’s a good glossary. If I read it right, the main distinction between a swamp and a marsh is the predominance of woody versus non-woody plants. The term pocosin is new to me.

    Wildflowers that you share with central Texas: burmarigold and pickerelweed. Your Rubus pensilvanicus looks a lot like our Rubus trivialis.


    • I think you have the difference between swamp and marsh correct, Steve.

      One of the differences between Rubus pensilvanicus and R. trvialis is the former typically grows more erect, like a shrub, while the latter tends to remain low and spread like a vine. Also, the thorns of R. pensilvanicus are more substantial and normally don’t grow along the stems of the flowers.

      In my opinion, the berries of each are equally desirable!


      • I imagine they are equally desirable. One year we put on gloves and gathered several pounds of southern dewberry fruit. Years ago I saw families berry-picking along US 290 outside Houston.

        Liked by 1 person

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