The Friends of the Great Swamp
of southeastern New York State

Trees and Plants of The Great Swamp

The under layer of The Swamp consists mostly of limestone and marble rather than the schist and gneiss that is the foundation layer of most of Putnam and Westchester Counties. The Swamp, therefore, is lower in acidity, which influences the types of plants and trees that are found in The Swamp.

The Red Maple Swamp Forest

The Red Maple Swamp Forest in the Patterson section of the Great Swamp encompasses 1,858 acres, the largest red maple hardwood font in New York State. Red Maples dominate, of course but the understory vegetation is often dense. Shrubs such as silky dogwood, spicebush and sweetpepper bush abound. Ferris and skunk cabbage carpet the ground level.

This section of the Swamp is the most important area for breeding binds. A least 90 species of birds breed within the Swamp. Many of these are area sensitive. They are affected by the width of the forest corridor. They need wide areas of undisturbed forest to breed successfully. Areas at least 500 meters wide are preferred. If forested areas are narrow, these birds can not successfully raise young due to predation from other more aggressive birds like jays, crows and cowbirds or from raccoons feral cats. These predators are usually found in areas adjacent to the swamp but do not venture too far within it.

This section of Swamp is home to many other creatures as well. Mammals found here include the river otter, beaver, opossum, mink and fisher. Wood frogs and other amphibians thrive here as wells as over 58 species of dragonflies and damselflies.

Plants Provide an Important Source of Food

The plants of the Swamp provide year round food for the wildlife of the Swamp. Even in the cold weather of winter, plant material is a critical food source. Many of the songbirds that stay north in the winter congregate in the Swamp. In the wet meadows and the shrub swamp areas they can find many plants with winter seeds as well as shrubs with berries that remain most of the winter. Wetland shrubs like Black Alder provide seeds. Vines of wild grape and bittersweet provide berries, although the grapes are all usually eaten early in the season.

A plant that humans scorn because of the itchy rash it may give us when we unintentionally brush against its leaves, provides an excellent source of berries for wintering birds. The poison ivy is one of the best berry providers for wintering birds.

Food Providing Plants of the Great Swamp
Alder Twig Cattail Loosestrife Poison Ivy
Alder Twig Cattail Loosestrife Poison Ivy