The following five bullets provide brief descriptions and links to five key wetland plant species native to Connecticut.
- The Connecticut beggarticks (Bidens heterodoxa), or pond plant, is an annual herbaceous wetland plant that has been reported from coastal Quebec, Prince Edwards Island, New Brunswick and historically occurred in Connecticut, but there are no reports from the states between Canada and Connecticut. The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service provides a map of its distribution in its PLANTS database. The Connecticut population is believed to be imperiled with local extirpation, but a comprehensive assessment of its conservation status has not yet been conducted.
- The floating bur-reed (Sparganium fluctuans) is a perennial, native, herbaceous marsh or pond plants with rootstocks. It is common throughout its native range and is used as a key wetland indicator species. Historically, the Klamath Indians dug the tubers it produces in late autumn and used them as food. Several other members of the genus Sparganium have been found to have important medicinal properties which can be used to treat chills, chest pains, and abdominal pain. Click on the following links for more information on this species’ conservation status and current distribution* and on its natural history.
- The cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum) is a tall perennial that occurs on low ground, in moist areas, along prairie streams, alluvial thickets, floodplains, and along the edges of wet woodlands. It has a number of key medicinal properties which are used in the treatment of liver and spleen disorders, and in relieving morning sickness. A decoction of the root has also been used as a facewash and to treat paralysis, back and chest pain, and lung hemorrhages. More information on its conservation status and distribution can be found on its NatureServe Explorer webpage*.
- Broad-leafed cattails (Typha latifolia) are common herbaceous, rhizomatous perennial plants with long, slender green stalks topped with brown, fluffy, sausage-shaped flowering heads. Cattails are always found in or near water, in marshes, ponds, lakes and depressions. They are obligate wetland indicator plant species. Cattails tolerate perennial flooding, reduced soil conditions and moderate salinity. With influxes of nutrient or freshwater, cattails are aggressive invaders in both brackish salt marshes and freshwater wetlands. All parts of the broad-leafed cattail plant are edible for humans when gathered at the appropriate stage of growth. More information on its conservation status and distribution can be found on its NatureServe Explorer webpage*.
- Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) (pictured) is a very common perennial, rhizomatous forb that produces a rosette of purple and green lives in the spring. When it flowers, it produces a foul skunky odor, which helps attract its pollinators, The foul odor attracts its pollinators, scavenging flies, stoneflies, and bees. It is quite widespread in the moist forested areas surrounding the Fenton River and in the Albert E. Moss Sanctuary–both localities very close to the UConn Storrs campus. Click on the following links for more comprehensive descriptions of the natural history and current distribution* of this species.
* Note: If any of these links do not work, go to http://explorer.natureserve.org and copy and paste the species’ scientific name into the search bar to reach the destination page.
For more information on wetland plants native to Connecticut, read G. E. Crow and C.B. Hellquist’s Aquatic Wetland Plants of Northeastern North America identification guide.
Image source: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SYFO; Elaine Haug, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database