Expanses of freshwater marsh are the essence of the Everglades. The habitat and, oddly, the low productivity of these marshlands provide the values on which Everglades’ wildlife thrives. Seasonally changing water levels alternately produce and then concentrate aquatic organisms— small fish and invertebrates—making them easy targets for the ecosystem’s top predators. While the expanses of marshes often give us the impression of tranquility, they have been formed and maintained through powerful stresses imposed by water, weather, and fire.
If a single word had to be used to describe the Everglades, it would be sawgrass (officially known as Jamaica swamp sawgrass). However, many other marsh plants occur in the Everglades (Table 3.1), with well over 100 species present.
Because of South Florida’s pronounced wet and dry seasons, conditions promoting and restricting growth of various kinds of marsh plants are always at work, including the effects of excessive flooding and water flow, and the opposite, concurrent drought and fire.