Wetland Wonderland
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Horticulture Stories


Stories from the park's horticulture team

Wetland Wonderland

By Stacie Martin

Gathering Place works to protect the adjacent waterways and wetland areas located near the Park, like the Arkansas River and Crow Creek. The Wetland Gardens and Peggy’s Pond provide a range of services and functions including groundwater recharge, pollutant filtering, habitat and connectivity for wildlife species, recreation including boating and fishing, and an aesthetic sense of beauty.

The Wetland Gardens really are stunning! Surprisingly, most plants do not like to grow in this much water. The water depth, amount of saturation, and duration of flooding all influence the type of plants that grow.


Pickerelweed grows in front of Cattails on the pond edge. Cattails like shorter water depths while Pickerelweed grows in deeper areas.


Water displaces air in saturated soils, leaving a reduced amount of oxygen that is needed by most plants and microorganisms. The decreased amount of oxygen also causes chemical changes in the soils, changing the availability of nutrients to plants. This creates a unique environment. Only plants that have adaptations can survive in these conditions.

The large wide base on this Pond Cypress is called buttressing. The swelling of the trunk provides more surface area for the trunk to uptake oxygen. Oxygen is transported to the roots, helping increase aeration. The buttressed trunk also increases the plant’s stability in water-saturated soils.

The holes in the stems of wetland plants are called aerenchyma. Gases enter through the leaves and are transported to the roots through these airways!


Pickerelweed Aerenchyma                            Cattail Aerenchyma

These knobby mounds of root around this Pond Cypress are called knees, the technical term: pneumatophores, and are modified roots. This above ground root helps to ventilate the buried root system. Knees grow much taller as the tree grows, which makes this area by the docks at Peggy's Pond a fun place to watch transform over the years.

Floating, buoyant leaves, like seen in this water lily below, are an adaption to overcome low oxygen and light.


Another favorite activity to enjoy in wetlands is birding. Birds have a variety of hunting, foraging, and nesting behaviors.


Shovelers are surface swimmers that strain invertebrates and seeds out of the water.



Herons wade or wait in the water, then search and strike fish that pass by


 Ducks are water column divers that search and grab fish and invertebrates.



Eagles are flight-feeders that forage by a surface grab.