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Wetland Evaluation and Delineation Program

Wetland Communities - Floodplain Swamps

View of floodplain forest along the St. Lucie River

View of floodplain forest along the St. Lucie River, Martin County, Florida. Note the tropical aspect of this swamp with tropical ferns and epiphytes. (Field Guide)

Floodplain Swamps are associated with rivers and streams. These are natural features influenced by overflow and inundation from a flood event. The most diverse assemblage of floodplain trees are found on the larger rivers of northwest Florida. While in subtropical Florida, rare ferns and orchids might be discovered in the floodplains of south Florida. Although there are few rivers that have not been severely hydrologically altered in south Florida, the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee River have remnant examples of floodplain forest (salt water intrusion is slowly converting freshwater floodplain into mangrove swamp). Floodplains are both wetlands and surface waters and are typically flooded for a portion of the growing season. Look for hydrologic indicators during dry periods such as rafted debris, elevated lichen lines, buttressed trees, river wash and sediment deposition and stain lines. Often the ordinary high water line can be determined by observing the elevation of hydrologic indicators. When gauge data is available the mean annual flood can be calculated. As their name would indicate floodplains are important landscapes that help alleviate the disastrous effects of flooding and provide important habitat for many of Florida’s most imperiled plants and animals.  See illustrated plant ID cards for common plants.

The following is a list of the major plants associated with floodplains swamps in south Florida.


Botanical name Common name DEP status
Acer rubrum red maple FACW
Annona glabra pond apple OBL
Carya aquatica water hickory OBL
Ficus aurea strangler fig FAC
Fraxinus caroliniana popash OBL
Ilex cassine dahoon holly OBL
Magnolia virginiana var. australis sweetbay magnolia OBL
Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora swamp tupelo OBL
Persea palustris swamp bay OBL
Quercus laurifolia swamp laurel oak FACW
Quercus virginiana live oak UPLAND
Sabal palmetto cabbage palm FAC
Taxodium ascendens pond cypress OBL
Taxodium distichum bald cypress OBL


Subcanopy and Groundcover

Botanical name Common name DEP status
Acrostichum danaeifolium leather fern OBL
Aster carolinianus climbing aster OBL
Blechnum serrulatum swamp fern FACW
Cornus foemina swamp dogwood OBL
Crinum americanum swamp lily OBL
Itea virginica Virginia willow OBL
Osmunda cinnamomea cinnamon fern FACW
Osmunda regalis royal fern OBL
Thalia geniculata fire flag OBL
Viburnum obovatum Walter’s viburnum FACW
Woodwardia virginica chainfern FACW

Last updated: June 30, 2015

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