Most wet meadows are naturally a transient habitat. Unlike fens and bogs, they are dry enough to support trees, but, for reasons of recent history, do not. Historically, beaver may have been responsible for most of our wet meadows. As beavers establish their colony, their flooding (together with their gnawing) kills the trees in and around their pond. Once a beaver colony has run its course, the dam breaks, the water drains, and one is left with an open, often relatively moist and rich, patch of ground (Fig. 1).

Today, most wet meadows in our county are kept open because of farming, often pasturing. If disturbance is light enough, they can host a high number of native plants (Figs. 2, 3 and 4), although, because semi-natural open, wet lands are relatively more common in our landscape than semi-natural open, dry lands, many of these native wet meadow species are not particularly rare.

Fig. 2. The proportion of native plants in several on-farm habitats, including wet meadows. Wet meadows are quite high in native plant diversity. (Dry upland meadows were not separated from other hay fields and pastures in this analyses, but, for comparison, average about 58% native species.

Fig. 3. Some of the diversity of native flowers seen in (but not necessarily limited to) our wet meadows. These are some of the more unusual species.

Fig. 4. Wet meadows can offer quite a display in late summer.

Wet meadows can also be home to some of our more unusual animals, including the Northern Leopard Frog, Spotted Turtle and Ribbon Snake (Fig. 5) and butterflies such as the Bronze Copper, Baltimore Checkerspot and Mulberry Wing (Figs. 6, 7 and 8).


Fig. 5. Some of the rarer amphibians and reptiles we have found in and around wet meadows. While these animals appear to include wet meadows in their habitats, such meadows may not be sufficient for their success nor the only places where they appear.

Fig. 6. Various of the wet meadow butterflies have sedge-feeding caterpillars.

Fig. 7. The Bronze Copper is an elegant butterfly that we have found at several farm locations in the County.

Fig. 8. The Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars are commonly associated with Turtlehead, although they are also known to feed upon Narrow-leaf Plantain.

Management of wet meadows requires keeping them open (occasional grazing or cutting, preferably during the dry season and, if possible, not all at once); not draining, plowing or fertilizing them; and, possibly, limiting invasives (e.g., snapping off Purple Loosestrife plants before they go to seed). Native wet meadow plants can also provide an attractive component of landscaping (Fig. 9).

Fig. 9. Native wet meadow plants can be an appealing part of landscaping, at the scale of anything from a field to a modest rain garden.