Sawgrass & Spike Rush

Sawgrass and Spikerush Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) and spike rush (Eleocharis cellulosa) occur in the wetter prairies of the Everglades. While thin-stands of this community afford some breeding habitat for the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, the thicker stands do not provide good habitat for sparrow breeding. These thicker stands develop under longer hydroperiods which allow for sawgrass and spike rush to take hold. These stands can grow as tall as 3 meters but average 1.25 meters tall. These wet prairies are susceptible to fires that may occur during multi-year droughts. As sawgrass and spike rush continue to grow the soil characteristics also begin to change. Due to the longer hydroperiods, the oxidation of organic matter is no longer possible since the standing water creates longer anoxic periods within the prairie. As the organic matter builds up, a peat layer begins to build over the limestone bedrock further converting the area to a wet marsh ecotype.

Additionally, within these sawgrass stands periphyton is able to grow as a floating mat. When the water level decreases, these periphyton mats dry out and form an impenetrable layer of organic matter. Only sawgrass and spike rush are able to penetrate this mat. Thus the mat effectively excludes other species such as muhly grass (Muhlenbergia filipes).


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