South Florida

Everglades plant life

Various types of plants make their home in the pinelands, marsh and prairies of the Everglades.

Although the sawgrass, mangroves and orchids are the most distinctive species in the 'Glades, there are other interesting species, including cypress trees, pond apple trees, mahogany trees and wild flowers.

However, sawgrass defines the Everglades, commonly referred to as "The River of Grass." Sawgrass looks like smooth, soft hay. But beware: Don't run your fingers over it, unless you are in the mood for a good slashing.

Blades of sawgrass are shaped like small "v's" that have teeth along one side. These signature plants are very sturdy and durable.

Any new visitor to South Florida will learn the basics of mangroves quite quickly. There are three types of mangroves: red, black and white.

Why this is such an important fact is not entirely clear, but it's the first thing you will learn about these strange looking trees whose roots sprout off of the trunk and anchor the tree into shallow water or mud.

The mangrove roots intertwine, creating a firm support that can eventually trap dirt and leaves and build into land. Mangroves cling to the sides of islands, reducing the impact of the strong wind and rain of a hurricane.

Among the most exotic and delicate flowers in the world, orchids hold a special fascination for flower lovers everywhere.

Technically, orchids are epiphytes, or plants that cling to other organisms, such as trees, to survive. They are not parasites, but they do wind around branches and climb up tree trunks to reach the light that is hard to absorb at the bottom of a dense jungle.

Orchids abound in the Everglades' hardwood hammocks, moist marshes, prairies and pinelands.

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