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Home Nebraska Habitats WetlandsVegetation
Wetlands vegetation
(Courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine/NGPC)    

There are many types of vegetation in wetlands. Wetland plants include aquatic plants or hydrophytes, plants that can grow in water or water-logged soil.

These plants survive in conditions that would be too waterlogged for most plants.  They are specifically adapted to survive in soils or conditions with low oxygen levels.

Water levels tend to vary in wetlands on the basis of seasons and other time periods. The water levels respond to changes in climate conditions and human management.

While some wetland plants can tolerate great variations in soil moisture and water level, others have strict water requirements for survival.

Wetland vegetation can be grouped into four general ecological categories.  These categories are based on the plant’s growth position in relation to the water level.  These groups give you a rough guide to typical wetland plant habitats, starting the top part of the water level:

Shoreline includes plants that grow in wet soil on raised-up areas or along the shorelines of streams, ponds, bogs, marshes, and lakes. Most of these plants grow at or above the level of standing water, but some may be rooted in shallow water. Common horsetail (Equistem arvense) is a shoreline plant you can find in Nebraska. The plant grows straight up, in segmented tubeswithout true leaves.  It gets up to four feet tall. The stems contain silica crystals that feel rough, like sandpaper and have been used for centuries for scouring and sanding.  The plant’s common name is "pewterwort," derived from its use for scrubbing pots and pans.

Emergent includes plants that are rooted in soil that is underwater most of the time. These plants grow up through the water, so that stems, leaves and flowers emerge in the air above water level. Cattail (Typha) is an emergent plant you can find in Nebraska. Cattails provide wildlife habitat for nesting, and the starchy root is eaten by geese and muskrats.

Floating includes plants whose leaves mainly float on the water surface. Much of the plant body is underwater and may or may not be rooted in the riverbed or lake bed. Only small parts of the plant – namely, the flowers--rise above water level. Duckweed (Lemnaceae) is a floating plant you can find in Nebraska.  It is one of the smallest and simplest of all flowering plants and one of the most common plants worldwide.  Duckweeds are incredibly productive.  These plants are used as food for people as well as for domestic animals. They are major food resources for birds, mammals, and fish in wetland environments.

Submerged includes plants that are largely underwater with few floating or emergent leaves. Flowers may emerge (briefly) in some cases for pollination. Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) is a submerged plant you can find in Nebraska.  The plant has stout stems with featherlike leaves that grow almost entirely underwater.  Its stems grow up to seven feet long. The ropelike stems drift in the slow-moving water of springs and spring-fed streams and provide shelter and feeding areas for fish and other small animals.



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