Colors of the Marsh

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center (DEEC)

The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge is a very colorful place at this time of year.   See some examples below and come take a look for yourself this weekend.

The hibiscus is a water-loving plant that also does well in home gardens.  In the marshes of Delaware there are two subspecies, one with a central red spot and one without the red spot.  Both can have flower color that ranges from white to pink.  This local hibiscus is also known as marsh mallow, which closely sounds like a tasty treat shared over a summer camp fire. Originally the roots of a European species of marsh mallow were used to make the fluffy, sticky marshmallow. 

Hibiscus. Photo by John Harrod.

Wild rice is another good-looking plant found in the fresh water marsh at DEEC. Standing at 8-10 feet, the chartreuse inflorescences (clusters of flowers) stand out against the deep green sea of the cattails. It is a long grain rice that is cherished in the fall by waterfowl and songbirds when it ripens.

Wild Rice. Photo by John Harrod.

Dodder is a unique native vine that is found clambering over plants near the boardwalk.  It is parasitic so it  does not need chlorophyll, which is the compound that makes plants green.  You see the orange color because the chlorophyll does not hide it, just like leaves of autumn when they lose their chlorophyll, allowing the colors underneath to be visible.  Identification is easy…look for the skinny orange vines twirled around green plant stalks. 

Dodder. Photo by John Harrod.

As I cross the bridge to the garden on my way home each day I enjoy the daily song of the Indigo Bunting. Perching on the brush below or the powerlines above, his vibrant blue color is easy to see.  Occasionally, I hear Indigo Buntings in stereo and I suspect that there is a neighboring male nearby.

Indigo Bunting. Photo by John Harrod.

What colors will you find at DEEC this weekend?

1 thought on “Colors of the Marsh”

  1. Thanks John,

    This was interesting and helpful! I’ve wondered about that vine before. And the marsh mallow is a fun thing to share with guests. I’m still waiting to see those indigo buntings!

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