Wetland Information

"Wetland" is a generic term for all the different kinds of wet habitats - implying that it is land that is wet for some period of time, but not necessarily permanently wet.  ~Ralph Tiner

Wetlands are extremely important because they are some of the most productive habitats in an ecosystem.  Many species of fish, amphibians, reptlies, birds, insects, and mammals use wetlands as part of their life cycle, often as nurseries for their young.  Wetlands also provide an extremely important role for people as they function to filter water, provide storm and flooding protection and areas for recreation.  Click here for a video of the importance of wetlands in watershed management.  Many culturally important and medicinal plant species are found in wetlands as well. 

Below are common types of wetlands in Maine and the plants and habitats often associated with them.  As DNR surveys wetlands on trust lands as part of our Wetlands Program, we are collecting information on wildlife use and documenting the presence of culturally important and medicinal plant species.  This information is available to tribal members interested in collecting these plants for personal use.  Maps can be made through DNR's Geographic Information System (GIS) for tribal member use as well.  Please contact Kristin Peet (207-817-7363) if you are interested in this information. 

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Forested Wetland

Forested WetlandForested wetlands are wetlands dominated by woody vegetation 20 feet or taller.  These trees could be alive or dead.  Many times forested wetlands do not have deep standing water year round.  They are often seasonally flooded or are "swampy" areas that could be tough to walk through without waterproof boots.  Forestry practices can still take place in these areas as long as the harvesting is done during the winter months when the ground is frozen so that no damage is done to the complex soil layer and tree root system.  Common types of forested wetlands in Maine are Cedar Swamps, Spruce Bogs, Red Maple Fens, and Silver Maple Floodplain Forests.  Tree, shrub and herbacious plant species often associated with these wetlands are:

  • brown ash
  • red and silver maple
  • black spruce
  • cedar
  • alder
  • winterberry
  • nannyberry
  • various ferns
  • meadow rue
  • wood nettle
  • lady's slipper


 Scrub-shrub Wetland

SS WetlandA scrub-shrub wetland is dominated by woody vegetation that is less than 20 feet in height.  Sometimes these shrubs can be called "dwarf" in size because they are stunted due to their root systems constantly being wet.  Examples of scrub-shrub wetlands in Maine are Alder Thickets, Black Spruce Peat Bogs, Cranberry and Huckleberry Bogs, and Sweetgale Fens.  If a scrub-shrub wetland is located on a layer of peat, it is possible to walk across it without getting extremely wet.  The peat acts as a floating layer that could support an average sized person.  However, scrub-shrub weltands could also have many stream channels or pockets of water running through them which could make traversing them on foot difficult.  Forest operations typically do not happen in these areas as they are too wet and often do not support larger tree growth.  Other plant species associated with scrub-shrub wetlands are:

  • leatherleaf
  • labrador tea
  • black spruce
  • willow
  • pitcher plant
  • tufted cottongrass
  • blueberry
  • various mosses


Emergent Wetland

Emergent WetlandEmergent wetlands are wetlands dominated by erect, rooted, herbaceous plant species.  These species can be persistent (remain standing until the next growing season) or non-persistent (die and fall to the ground level at the end of the growing season).  Examples of persistent plants are cattails, wild rice and needlerush.  Non-persistent plant examples are pickerelweed, water lily, and arrowroot.  Emergent wetlands oftentimes have a body of water that may be deep or shallow as the central part of the wetland.  This is where aquatic plants grow and "emerge" above the water.  Wetlands are constantly changing habitats and it is not uncommon to find an emergent wetland that transitions into a scrub-shrub wetland, which transitions into a forested wetland, and then an upland habitat (on dry ground).  Common types of emergent wetlands in Maine are Bullrush Marshes, Cattail Marshes, Tidal Marshes, Saltmarshes, Open-water Marshes, and Sedge Meadows.  Plant species associated with these wetlands are:

  • various sedges, rushes, grasses and ferns
  • willow
  • water parsnip
  • Marsh St. John's Wart
  • sweetgrass
  • flagroot
  • cattails
  • goldenrod
  • pitcher plant

  Benefits of WetlandsImage from www.earthgauge.net