Marshes, Prairies, and Fens, OH MY!

This weekend we visited Battelle Darby Metropark and Cedar Bog!


The marsh we saw was like a wet spot in a prairie.  The plants were much shorter  than the surrounding prairie grasses, possibly due to mowing.  Marshes are wetlands that are dominated by herbaceous plants.  The main herbaceous plants we saw were sedges and grasses.  There were also young woody plants, including Sycamores and Cottonwoods.

This appears to be Woolgrass, Scirpus cyperinus.  It was seen in the marshy area of Battelle Darby Metropark and is a common sedge in our area.  (



The prairie we visited was an open space full of tall herbaceous plants.  The prairie was surrounded by a forest edge, but there were not trees in the prairie itself.  The dominant plants in Battelle Darby’s prairie were grasses, but there were also plenty of forbs.  Some of the dominant grasses were big bluestem and Indian grass.  We also saw prairie dock and false white clover, which are prairie forbs.

Big bluestem, Andropogon gerardi, is above.  It is one of our common native prairie grasses.



A fen is a type of wetland that is primarily fed by groundwater and precipitation.  It is mainly drained by small streams and through groundwater.  We visited Cedar Bog, which is actually a Fen.  A bog’s hydrology is primarily fed by precipitation and water mostly leaves the system by evapotranspiration.  Cedar Bog should really be called Cedar Fen because it’s hydrology is driven by groundwater inputs and outputs.  The subsurface of Cedar Bog is very gravelly, allowing for higher rates of groundwater flow.  The gravelly substrate results from historic glaciation of the area.  The glaciers left sand and gravel; when the water runs through these materials, which are made of limestone, the water becomes alkaline, which selects for plants that tolerate that pH level.  (

Carnivorous Plants at Cedar Bog!  These plants are adapted to eat insects to supplement their nutrient intake because often wetlands lack appropriate amounts of nutrients for healthy plants.

Left: Common bladderwort flower, Utricularia macrorhiza.  Right: Roundleaf sundew, Drosera rotundifolia.

Common bladderwort has a yellow, snapdragon-like flower.  Below water structures are highly divided and look like small circular leaves with many spindly leaves branching off. Common bladderwort flowers above water, but most of the plant resides below water.  Underwater, the plant has “bladders” that have small hairs which trigger the “bladder” to open and suck in small aquatic  organisms.  The bladderwort then digests the organisms and is provided with more nutrients. They are found in all 50 of the US states and it only takes 1/35 of a second to suck in its prey!  The prey is fully digested within 15-30 minutes, an the bladder is ready to use again!  ( (

To identify roundleaf sundews, look for reddish hairs extending from a green-red circular leaf.  In summer, they have white or pink flowers that rise above the rest of the plant.  Roundleaf sundews have hairs on their leaves with sticky droplets at the end.  When an insect touches the hairs, they become stuck and the leaf, which can sense the insect, curls around its food.  The insect is then digested!  Historically, sundews were used as love charms because they trapped helpless insects.  (