Plants That Live in the Wetlands

Wetlands are areas where water and land communities meet. They serve as natural flood control during runoff and rainy seasons. They also remove toxins and sediment from water supplies as they act as a natural filtration system. Wetlands are even being used as natural sewage treatment in some areas of the United States. Many types of plants, trees, shrubs and vines have evolved to live in the wetlands, offering a habitat for both shore birds and waterfowl.

Southern Blue Flag

Southern blue flag (Iris virginica L.) is part of the Iridaceae Iris family. It lives at the edges of streams, freshwater marshes, ponds and ditches. It is most often seen growing wild in coastal plains and mountains. The simple leaves of the Southern blue flag are a pale blue-green and have acute tips. Clasped at the base, they grow to about 3 feet high and about an inch wide. The showy flowers of the Southern blue flag look like a bluish-purple iris flower. They have three petals with yellow markings.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis L.) is part of the Campanulaceae Bluebell family. This perennial herb grows to a height from 18 inches to over 6 feet tall. Sometimes the leaves of the cardinal flower are serrated, with small and large teeth alternating along the leaf edge. The elliptical leaves alternate along the stem. Intense red flowers grow in spikes about 8 inches long, but can reach a length of 20 inches. The cardinal flower blooms in mid to late summer, with basal rosettes lasting through the winter. It is found along river banks and beside streams, freshwater marshes and swamps.

Swamp Rose

The swamp rose (Palustris Marsh) belongs to the Rosaceae, or rose, family. It is recognizable because it looks like a typical rose, right up to the rosehips and thorns. Swamp rose lives on the shores of streams, lakes, swamps and marshes. It reproduces by runners, and sometimes thick strands of swamp rose are formed. It can reach heights of over 6 feet. The finely toothed leaves of the swamp rose are elliptical, and its five-petaled flowers are large and pink, and appear at the tip of the branches. The flowers later develop into red rose hips.


The rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum L), also known as rosebay and great laurel, is part of the Ericaceae, or Heath, Family. An evergreen shrub, the rhododendron forms dense thickets in ravines, mountain bogs and in moist coves. It can also be found along the banks of streams. Alternate elliptic leaves, from 7 to 12 inches long and 3/4 inch to 3 inches wide, droop and start to curl as temperatures drop. Light pink to white flowers with five petals stand out against the dark, leathery but shiny leaves.

Keywords: wetlands, native plants for wetlands, wetland plants

About this Author

Patrice Campbell, a graduate of Skagit Valley College, has more than 20 years of writing experience including working as a news reporter and features writer for the Florence Mining News and the Wild Rivers Guide, contributing writer for Suite 101 and Helium, and promotional writing for various businesses and charities.