All About Wetlands >> Vegetation

Wetland Vegetation

Not all plants can survive in wetland ecosystems. Wetland habitats, with their high water levels and increased salt concentrations, are too harsh for many plants. Most organisms that thrive in these environments only do so with the help of special physiological and morphological adaptations.

Common characteristics of wetland plants

These cypress buttresses support large trees in the water. Photo by South Florida Water Mangament District.buttressed tree trunk -- these tree trunks swell out at the base for additional support in the water. (examples: bald cypress, water tupelo, swamp blackgum)


Red Mangrove roots grow at or above the water level so they can obtain oxygf adventitious roots and shallow root systems-- roots grow near the surface where they can obtain oxygen (examples: mangroves)


These cypress knees shoot above the water to increase respiration. Photo by the South Florida Water Management District.pneumatophores -- modified root systems, sometimes above ground, to increase respiration.


These lily pads have a thick cuticle to prevent water penetration. Photo by the South Florida Water Management District.floating leaves -- leaves with a thick cuticle (skin) to prevent water penetration (examples: lily pads)


floating stems -- stems with large internal air spaces that allow plants to root in shallow water and float

inflated leaves, stems, roots -- spongy tissues in leaves, stems and roots provide buoyancy and an oxygen reservoir (examples: herbaceous plants, including cattails, bulrush)

hypertrophied venticals -- large pores on plant stems make oxygen exchange easier

prolonged seed viability -- seeds will learn for 20 years so they can postpone germination until a wet area dries and then they are exposed to air

seed germination under low oxygen conditions -- seeds germinate when submerged and don't have to wait for air exposure

physiological adaptations --

  • ability to grow in low oxygen conditions
  • ability to transfer oxygen from roots into surrounding soil (prevents root deterioration and assists in water and nutrient absorption)
  • special cells in roots that prohibit salt uptake
  • have excretory cells to eliminate salt (example: coastal marsh grass leaves excrete salt crystals).

Plants based on wetland type

To learn about the vegetation in a specific wetland community, select a wetland type from the list:

Invasion of Non-native Species

Non-native wetland plants are beginning to rule the landscape in many wetlands. This causes a huge diversity problem because the native vegetation is not naturally able to compete with these invaders.

Learn more about invasive exotic vegetation.

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