Most plants don’t grow in wetlands because it is too soggy. Their roots wouldn't be able to breathe and the plants would die. But wetland plants are hydrophytes, which means they love growing in damp and watery places like swamps, bogs and estuaries.
Wetland plants have special adaptations to help them live in these damp places:
• Some have pneumatophores, which are “breathing” roots that grow up above the water so they can take in air.
• Big trees, like kahikatea, have buttressed tree trunks. These are tree trunks that are very wide at the bottom to support the tree in the boggy soil. They’d fall over without them!
• Plants like reeds, rushes and sedges have hollow or spongy stems or leaves. They let air travel down to roots. This air acts like a lifejacket so stems and leaves float during floods and don’t get damaged.
Mangroves might not be much to look at but they are very important part of estuaries. They provide homes for all sorts of different animals and are nurseries for young fish that wouldn’t survive in the open ocean. They have peg-like pneumatophores which stick up like snorkels from the mud and let air filter down to the roots. Their seeds fall into the water and can float away to grow somewhere else in the estuary or even far across the ocean to estuaries in other countries.
Kahikatea are New Zealand’s tallest trees and can grow up to 60m high. The most amazing thing is they grow in swamps in boggy, soggy ground and could easily fall over if they didn’t have buttressed tree trunks. If lots of kahikatea grow together they can lock their trunks together to make themselves more stable.
Raupō is found all over New Zealand and is also native to China, Japan and down to Australia. Raupō have fluffy seed heads. Maori used the leaves to make poi and then filled them with the seeds. The plants also provide homes for native fish, eels and some wetland birds like bitterns and fernbirds. Raupō swamps are great at cleaning up polluted water because the plant sucks up nutrients and pollutants.