What are the Different Types of Everglades Plants?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

The Everglades is a region in the southern tip of Florida that is home to a unique ecosystem. The unique ecosystem has given rise to a unique group of flora and fauna. The plants in the Everglades, for example, have had to adapt to the very wet, subtropical environment. There are some well-recognized Everglades plants such as the mangrove forests and the sawgrass marshes. Mangroves and sawgrass, however, are just a few of the vast array of Everglades plants.

Ferns in the Everglades grow on hammocks or tree islands.
Ferns in the Everglades grow on hammocks or tree islands.

One of the largest groups of Everglades plants includes species that live in the marshes. These plants are, quite suitably, referred to as "marsh species". What makes these plants unique is that they live in the water most of the time. The well-known sawgrass is one of the plants in this category. Other plants in this group include the spatterdock, bladderwort, white water lily, and maidencane. In addition to plants that grow out of the water or float just above its surface such as the four plants just listed, there are also unique species of algae in the region.

The white water lily is commonly found growing in the Everglades.
The white water lily is commonly found growing in the Everglades.

Many orchid enthusiasts make a point to visit the Everglades simply to seek out the unique varieties of orchids that exist there. The Everglades are also home to large groups of bromeliads and ferns. Orchids, bromeliads, and ferns do not grow in the water. Rather, they grow on hammocks or tree islands. These plants thrive in the hot, incredibly humid conditions that are offered by the unique Everglades ecosystem.

As mentioned above, one of the key plants in the Everglades is the mangrove. A mangrove is a kind of tree that grows up and out of the water. It has a root system that is partially visible above the water but also extends deep under the water. Numerous varieties of this kind of tree grow in the Everglades, and they are important because they serve as a buffer between the freshwater marshes and the saltier coastal waters. Mangroves are also important because they help to build soil as they grow and decompose. Their root systems also help to reduce soil erosion.

Some plants, like the mangrove trees, are important proctors of the Everglades. Other Everglades plants, like many of the orchid species, simply rely on the ecosystem for their own survival. This unique ecosystem is as delicate as it is beautiful and all of the Everglades plants are an important part of both its beauty and its stability.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - I agree that this landscape should be protected.

One of the things people need to be aware of is that some of the orchids in the Everglades are actually endangered, so you can't just go in and take whatever you want.

Find out which ones (if any) you are allowed to take before you go.

The ghost orchid is one of the most famous I think and is so rare that it's almost impossible to see one in the Everglades. There are lots of "orchid hunters" who go looking for it, but generally they are hoping to take away photos rather than the plant itself.

If you're interested in the orchids of the Everglades there are several excellent tours which can take you through and show you some of them. You really need to take a specialized tour in order to see them, as other tour guides won't consistently point them out.


@pastanaga - I wish that more people would go on that kind of trip and see how beautiful and diverse the plants and animals of the Everglades really are.

Because, of course, like almost every other wild place in the world, the Everglades are threatened by people. Many of the rivers which are supposed to fill Lake Okeechobee have been dammed for other purposes, which not only disrupts the water to the lake, but also interrupts the habitat of various animals that need it.

The lake itself is polluted, because of runoff from industry.

Admittedly, they've realized how important these swamps are now and are trying to restore them, but politics keeps getting in the way.

Even the Everglade plants and old trees are in danger because of introduced species which can choke them out, or make them more vulnerable to fires.

It's such a beautiful place, I want my grandchildren to be able to enjoy it as well and the more people that care about it, the more chance it will be saved.


My father took me on a boat trip through the Everglades several years ago.

It was absolutely fantastic and something I would recommend to anyone who happens to be in the area.

It was particularly good since we had spent most of our vacations in Orlando going to theme parks and we were ready for a bit of life and green stuff.

The point of the trip was to see the alligators, and we did see a couple which was fun. But, what I found more interesting and lovely were the different plant species.

The whole landscape seemed so alien compared to what I was used to, with the trees in the water and the lilies and so forth. We saw a bit of what they call the sawgrass prairies as well, which was cool, although I'm glad most of the trip was under trees.

It was only a few hours but it's something I'll remember for a long time. I hope to go back and see the plants of the everglades again one day.

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