Marsh to Swamp
Further into the wetland, swamp plants such as Yellow Iris
and Branched Bur-reed start to appear. These have tall sword-shaped leaves which rise out
of the now deeper water. On a hot sunny day, jewel bright, blue and red adult damselflies
may perch on the plants, while larger dragonflies acrobatically hunt the air above the
wetlands. In both marsh and swamp areas, there will also be minute snails crawling over
the plants, spiders trapping insects in their webs and grass snakes slithering silently
through the undergrowth on the hunt for small frogs. Hoverflies and Bumble Bees fill the
air with a heavy droning as they investigate the flowers of the plants for nectar.
|As you walk through this swamp area of the
wetland, your feet sink deep into the accumulated layers of mud. The mud is held in place
by all the old dead leaves and stems of the plants which have died back the winter before.
It is dark and blackish and as you disturb it, the scent of rotten eggs wafts up!
The lack of air in the mud (because any space is full
of water, not air) means that the decomposition and recycling of dead plants and animals
in the wetland has to be done by organisms which don't need air. A smelly gas, which is
the same as that produced by rotting eggs, is one of the products of this decomposition.
Another one is called Marsh Gas. This gas is very inflammable and small patches of it may
sometimes spontaneously catch fire. In times past, these flickering tiny flames in
marshes, visible at night, came to be known as Will 'o' the Wisps. People then, didn't
know where they came from and thought they were produced by magic of some sort!
Continuing on through the swamp, tall
Reedmace plants, also known as Bulrushes, may tower over your head, with the fuzzy brown
seed heads shedding their seeds into the wind. Water voles rustle in the reeds and deer
come to drink and lie in the cool mud. Open pools of water start to appear here as the
water becomes deeper still and the swamp plants begin to thin out. The pools are full of a
staggering variety of life, from water beetles and bugs, to small fish such as
sticklebacks. In the spring, frogs and toads in their thousands will come to mate and lay
Continue the Walk!