Wetland Plants

Below are two photos I took Saturday of Monarch caterpillars eating Milkweed leaves, their sole source of food.  Monarch butterflies have declined precipitiously over the last twenty years, a direct result of declines in Milkweed, open space, and the degradation of their winter nesting grounds in Mexico.

In the Northeast, Milkweed is not considered a wetland plant by the USDA for wetland classification purposes, but is elsewhere in the United States it's status differs, as there are over 100 species of Milkweed in the United States. The swamp Milkweed found in the west thrives only in moist soils, and the photos I took were roadside, in a very dry environment.  Due to the toxins found in Milkweed, which are also present in the caterpillar, birds and other predators steer clear from what would otherwise be a juicy snack.

 Some helpful pages here:

Native Milkweeds - The Xerces Society
 USDA Milkweed plant Profile
Wetlands Institute - Monarch butterfly
NRCS Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project
Monarch Butterfly Conference Report
A particularly well researched monograph on Milkweed from a Botanists perspective


Caterpillars on Milkweed Plant

Caterpillars on Milkweed Plant


Monarch Caterpillars on Milkweed Plant
Monarch Caterpillars on Milkweed Plant




Below are a few visual resources for learning about Wetland Plants,I always found that photos are easier to learn from than black and white drawings that are found in many books. They can also be referred to more easily while out in the field, assuming you have internet connectivity. The flashcards are a novel idea, and you can use it to gauge your progress about your knowledge of wetland plants. Each of the 133 flashcard lists bothe Common names, scientific names, and additional info the particular species, as well as an audio component. The only drawback is the flashcards were created 4 years ago, and not edited recently.

Specific to the Michigan and to the Midwest, many of the plant species found in the over 2,000 photos are also found elsewhere in the United States, and can still serve as a guide for other areas.

Wetland Plant Flash Cards

Photos and Characteristics of Wetland Plant Species and Wetland Ecological Communities of Michigan and the Upper Midwest

Atlas Obscura, the always amazing and thought provoking travel website full of strange, wondrous or merely overlooked destinations has a motley bunch of entries tagged "wetlands" here A few articles are tangential, but the entry for Panjin Red Beach in Liaoning, China, in one of the worlds largest wetlands, is the most eye catching. At first glance, it looks like a photoshop trick, but the rich crimson and cranberry reds in the photos run true.

The estuaries unique combination of salinity, fluctuating water levels and alkalinity allows a distinct species of the common seepweed, a halophile or salt loving species with thick, succulent like leaves to thrive. The leaves turn a crimson red fading to purple as it matures in autumn. The fields of seepweed are not limited to a small area, but a horizon to horizon view encompassing 51 square miles, attracting many tourists, but remain threatened by oil drilling and wells. It is also home to some 250 migratory birds.

The other article, is a good jumping off point for learning more about some of the largest, and little known wetlands in the world. It skips from continent to continent, from the Pantanal in Brazil through the southern forested wetlands in the United States, and lowland African wetlands and New Guinea’s Giant River Swamps. It doesn't mention the bogs of Siberia, but its definitely worth a read and a forward.

Wetlands in the News