Plant Material Terminology

Many terms are used in plant material section of this website. We have provided definitions and explanations below for your reference.


Scientific names and common names are given for each species described. Common names are typically the most used of the two, but sometimes they can be confusing because multiple plants may have the same common name and nearly every plant has multiple common names. Scientific names are unique to individual plants. There are two parts to a scientific name - the genus and the species. Both are displayed in italics with the first letter of the genus capitalized.


In the hierarchal organization of plant relationships, the family comes just above genus. Families are made up of related genera (plural of genus) as genera are made up of related species.

Rooted or Floating:

Wetland plants can be divided into two groups - rooted and floating. Rooted (or emergent) plants are rooted into the substrate at the bottom of the wetland. Thus, they grow up through the water column and into the air. Floating plants are not necessarily attached to the bottom of the wetland. They are less effected by fluctuations in water levels. There are a few plants such as pickerelweed that are generally rooted but can sometimes float.

Nutrient Removal Rating:

Plants differ greatly in their ability to remove nutrients from water. It is important to be aware of a plant's ability to foster nutrient removal as you move through the constructed wetland planning process. This rating is based on research that has been conducted on the plant in question.

Wildlife Value:

Animals are a critical component of wetlands. Fortunately, many wetland plants are capable of providing food and cover for mammals, birds, and invertebrates that inhabit wetlands. Some plants are better for wildlife than others due to characteristics such as nectar and fruit and edible storage organ production.

Invasive Danger:

Some wetland plants are known to be invasive - they have previously escaped from cultivation. These species have caused major damage to natural ecosystems. As a result, precautions must be taken with plants that have the potential to be invasive.

Native or Introduced:

Many wetland plants of the southeastern US are also native to the area. However, some species have been introduced unintentionally from other countries or through the ornamental trade.

Maximum Water Depth:

Because wetland size, shape, and depth are variable, many different plants will be required to fill each niche. Plants can be selected based on their ability to cope with the depths of water that will likely be present in specific areas of the wetland.

Site Requirements:

Here we focus on sun/shade requirements for plants. Most wetland plants are poorly adapted to shade. Typically they prefer full sun or part shade. There are a few, however, that can tolerate shaded areas of wetlands.