The marshes of Louisiana have unique eco-systems dependent on whether there is saltwater, brackish water, or freshwater present. Marshes have unique plants that are indigenous to these special eco-systems. The barrier islands indicates the beginning of the marshes and go inland into the low-lying hardwood swamps. A major portion of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana are classified as intertidal marshes, which are the most abundant landforms on the coastal plain. They cover approximately 3,935 square miles. Intertidal marshes are comprised of saltwater, brackish water, and freshwater types of flora, with the species becoming increasingly more abundant with the freshness of the water. Only a relatively few species of plants are able to tolerate the stresses of both coastal flooding and saltwater intrusion. Plants in the coastal marshes can be divided into groups by their location within the marsh. They have a tendency to extend into different locations, particularly along tidal creeks or elevated land masses.
A Plethora Of Plants
Barrier islands along the Louisiana coastline are home to: Smooth Cordgrass, Wiregrass, Saltwort, Glasswort, Black Mangrove, and Live Oak.
Plants on the barrier islands consists foremost of salt tolerant xeric grasses and succulent herbs on the low-lying dunes and into the salt marshes. Vegetation in the saltwater and brackish water marshes overlap. Saltwater marshes, which cover approximately 1650 acres of coastal wetlands, begin at the coastal edge and include the tidal marsh area. Smooth cordgrass is predominant in this area of the marsh because of its tolerance for higher salinity levels. Brackish marshes, which have salinity levels between 1-10 parts/1000, comprise approximately 4704 acres of Louisiana coastal wetlands. These marshes contain some freshwater plants where salinity is at its lowest levels. The dominant plant species in brackish marshes is Salt Meadow Grass, because it is an aggressive grower unless otherwise grazed or burned out. Saltgrass, also present in brackish marshes, can be found in saltwater and freshwater marshes as well. This exceptional species has unique salt exclusion glands on both the leaves and root systems capable of penetrating thicker, harder clay soils. Wiregrass is also present in brackish marshes. Freshwater marshes, which cover approximately 1478 square miles, contains: Maidencane, Cattails, Arrowhead, Alligatorweed, Phragmites, Waxmyrtle, Groundsel tree, Sandbar willow, and Buttonbush. Forested wetlands, which are also incorporated into the biodiversity of Louisiana coastal wetlands, surround low-lying flood plains and freshwater marshes on ridges of higher ancient levees. The species of trees that flourish in these forested areas include: Water Elm, Black Willow, Water Hickory, Water Tupelo, Baldcypress, and Hackberry. Baldcypress is the most commonly identified tree species associated with Louisiana swamps.
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