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An habitat is an area which provides living things the combination of food, water, shelter, and space in the proportions needed to live.

Wetlands are areas that are permanently or seasonally waterlogged. The wetland is covered or saturated by water for at least part of the year. Wetlands include lakes, rivers, marshes, swamps, bogs and fens. These areas are characterized by standing or moving water. Beaver dams, roads, or natural hills may form a barrier behind which water collects. A lake may form in depressions in the land. Wetlands hold or slow the movement of water. This is important where communities occur close to a wetland. The wet areas also form a habitat that is home to many plants, birds, fish and animals.

There are 5 general wetland types in Canada: bog, fen, marsh, swamp, and shallow open water.

Bog - an open peat-covered wetland that is characterized by soils consisting almost entirely of organic matter. Vegetation grows in a setting where the water table is high and nutrient availability is low.  Water is derived from rain or from seepage from surrounding acid rocks and soils. The water is stagnant, or nearly so, and acidic.  Vegetation consists largely of Sphagnum mosses, heath family shrubs, and certain sedge species. Trees, if present, form open-canopied forests of stunted growth.  Peat forms a layer that exceeds 40 cm.  Bog soils are strongly acid and low in calcium, magnesium and some other essential mineral elements. Oxygen levels in the water is low.

  • low in nutrients

  • rainfall and air-fall are the only sources of nutrients
  • isolated from external nutrient-carrying water
  • organic deposits greater than 40 cm deep
  • peat-rich, acidic
  • may be treed or open

Bog, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Bog on Trout Lake Road: vegetation consists of Leatherleaf, Sheep Laurel, Bog Rosemary, Labrador Tea, Large cranberry, Sundue, Pitcher Plant, Rose pogonia orchid, Grass Pink orchid, and Sphagnum mosses.

Date: June 26, 2010

Bog habitat, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Bog on Trout Lake Road: home of Grass Pink orchid.

Date: June 26, 2010

Shrub bog filled with Labrador tea, Leather leaf, and tufts of grass. Lichen grows between the plants. Jack pine occur periodically and appear to have been introduced from a nearby plantation.

Location: Trout Lake Road.
Date: April 27, 2002

Shrub bog, Trout Lake Road, Estair Ontario, copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Cranberry "Bog", Killarney Provincial Park. Note the floating masses of vegetation. This wetland is actually a fen because water flows out from this lake.

Date: July 28, 2001

Cranberry Bog, Killarney Provincial Park.

Fen - an open wetland that resembles a bog, except that water seeps slowly through the dense layer of poorly decayed vegetation. Fens are characterized by soils that are high in organic matter. The soils generally have a higher mineral content than bog soils.  Commonly, fens develop on a base of limestone or clay.  Often there is some running water derived from seepage from surrounding rocks or small streams. The vegetation dominated by sedges, grasses, and other herbaceous and shrubby plants.

  • fed by nutrients from slow-moving ground water

  • less acidic than bogs
  • often have floating mats of vegetation that rise and fall with water level
  • may be treed or open
  • mosses and peat dominate

Shore fen, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Shore Fen, Burwash (August 10, 2001)


Low shrub fen, copyright 2007 Andy Fyon,

Low shrub fen characterized by abundant Leatherleaf, tamarack, Labrador tea, sheep laurel, bog rosemary, and cotton grasses.

Location: Burwash
Date: October 14, 2007.

Marsh -- a wet area, characterized by emergent herbaceous vegetation, like  cattails. Water flows through the vegetation. The soils are usually high in organic matter, especially in shallow areas. The soils usually contain a significant mineral component. The waters are neutral to moderately alkaline.

  • water-saturated root zone for most of the growing season

  • oxygenated root zone
  • emergent vegetation
  • vegetation is zoned according to depth of water and exposure to waves

Cattail marsh, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Cattail marsh, Burwash (August 10, 2002)

Swamp - water flows through a vegetation community dominated by living and dead trees.

  • nutrient-rich

  • dominated by trees or shrubs
  • standing or slow-moving water covers the land for at least part of the year
  • ground is mineral or organic soil

Shallow open water

  • water less than 2 m deep

  • include areas in lakes or rivers
  • scattered emergent vegetation covering less than 25% of the surface of the water
  • have floating or rooted aquatic vegetation
  • ground below water is mineral or organic soil.

Shallow open water habitat, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Shallow open water habitat (Burwash, August 10, 2002)

Some plants in wet areas, such as water lilies, have adapted to the standing water by developing leaves that float. Other plants occupy the shore line where their roots can access plenty of water, but the roots are not actually covered by water.

Described are wildflowers and plants that grow:

  • in shallow open water, such as lakes or rivers

  • adjacent to lakes and rivers
  • in acidic bogs, swamps, and fens
  • on a limestone beach or pavement

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Flowering plants that grow in shallow open water, such as lakes and rivers

Shallow water, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.



Flowering plants that grow on the edges of open water

Lake edge, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.


Flowering plants that grow in acidic bogs, swamps, and fens

Shore fen, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.




Flowering plants and wildflowers that grow on Manitoulin limestone alvars and sand beach

Blue vervain flower

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© 2001-2012 Andy Fyon

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Date last modified:

Andy Fyon

October 20, 2012

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