Sweetwater Strand – A Green Mile


Slow moving nutrient rich wetland waters of Florida can often be covered with tiny aquatic plants called duckweed which float on the surface or just beneath. The plant is a good food source for water fowl as it is high in protein and is often distributed when carried on their feet or feathers. Many times I have shot images of the wading birds which having fished and taken food back to the nest have as evidence bits of duckweed stuck to their long legs. While one would think the presence of such a carpet of plants would lead to eutrophication or stagnation actually the opposite is true. This aquatic species can shade and reduce light generated algae species and even provide nitrate removal. Wikipedia as a reference says that duckweed can be important in bioremediation as they absorb excess nutrients as nitrogen and phosphates and “they are touted as water purifiers of untapped value.” From my first ‘swamp walk’ in Big Cypress I found instead of decay and well, icky, water, that the water is actually cool, clear and part of the slow movement of water that flows to Florida Bay serving as a great aquatic filtration system for our glades environment. Despite the values duckweed (Lemnoideae) does seem to have, some consider the plant a nuisance. As it will proliferate where agricultural pollution runoff have introduced nutrients into the Everglades, there is concern this fast growing plant will displace other species native to that environment such as sawgrass. It’s nutrient absorbing properties though, seem to offer perhaps some form of solution for this. Although, there is no excuse for the agricultural industry not being required or simply not cleaning up after itself. While that is another story, perhaps the humble duckweed may be more than simply an element that practically glows in the sunlit waters of a swamp as seen through the eyes of a photographer.


Cypress knee looks interesting as a substrate for
vines insinuating themselves into its structure. They
seem to come alive crawling along its surface like
the legs of a spider.


A lush carpet of brilliant duckweed serves as a canvas
for leafy shadows in the sunlit swamp.

As custodians of our planet, hopefully with good science, wisdom and with a  little help from some tiny plants, perhaps some solutions may be found.



~ by Judy on June 27, 2019.

11 Responses to “Sweetwater Strand – A Green Mile”

  1. Such a humble plant, but so useful and beneficial. I wonder if it can used in water treatment plants.

    • Well Wakodahatchee, a rookery I frequent, is a manmade wetland “created waters” of the Palm Beach Country Water Utility. They made the environment to utilize natural filtration via water plants for the cleaned water to pass into the aquifer. There is oftentimes duckweed at Wakodahatchee as well. So maybe it has more of a role than I ever thought there. I thought more of the larger aquatic plants like FireFlag or Pickerel Weed or Duck Potato. So maybe.

    • Actually checkout the Wikipedia site for duck weed. They also mention the Swiss assert that duckweek may be used for wastewater treatment to capture toxin and odor control. And since prevents algae controls mosquito breeding too.

  2. You knew before you ever posted these photos that I was gonna love them. Water. Reflections. And the duckweed. Yea, we have it too. It can paint a scene entirely green. And with everything green, the brown of wood bark takes a definite red cast. As you show in your photos.

    • I find the colors of the swamp offer some surprises, besides a red cast you get a lot of purples, related maybe…but always an interesting palette. I am sure everywhere duck weed occurs that everyone is amazing by the absolute brilliance of the green color…almost like a nuclear radiance.

      • Until you discover its benign nature, one tends to think it some horrible polution. Probably cos that’s the way we’ve been trained to react.

  3. Great photos, Judy!  Also, thanks for teaching me about duckweed.     I fell and broke my right upper arm near where it attaches to the shoulder.  Am now in an ALF while the bone heals so I can get assistance with toileting skills and with pulling up my pants. No more writing or painting until my arm strength and motion are restored, which will take four to six months once therapy can begin when the bone is solid.  I went through the same process with my left arm when I broke my shoulder in 2009.  Stay well and keep the photos coming!   

    • I thank you for visiting me here and commenting through such difficulty. I will try and keep the pictures coming. Yeah, on the duckweed I was actually learning myself. I’ve seen it many many times, admired its brilliant color, watching birds seeing fish right through it, but never looked it up or considered its possible water cleaning properties. High in protein it apparently it is food stuff for humans too. My thoughts and prayers your way for speedy healing!!

  4. What wonderful photos, Judy! When I first encountered duckweek, at Lake Martin outside Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, I thought it was algae. It took a while to figure out what it was, but the photo of all those cypress trees standing in that sea of green still is one of my favorites. It comes in to some of the ponds and bayous of a local nature center, too, and I’ve a photo of a yellow-crowned night heron standing in the middle of it all.

    The shadows playing across the duckweed are marvelous. It looks as though it would be soft and springy, and maybe even capable of supporting a gallinule or moorhen. I’ve never seen anything swim through the stuff, but I’ll bet the wake they’d leave would be great!

  5. Cypress knees and duckweed go together like Key Lime Pie and strong coffee.

    And it allows artists such as you to create beauty for the rest of us to enjoy.

    • Since I read this the other day have been smiling over Key Lime Pie and Strong Coffee!! You are definitely a Floridian.

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