Ernest Inventory Article: Marsh, Bog, Swamp, Quagmire, Bayou
Renowned as a place of abject mystery, the foreboding arboreal boat snares we call ‘swamps’ are defined by their ability to support woody plants (such as mangroves or cypress trees) and are permanently saturated by water.
The smaller and more cumbersome relative of the swamp, the ‘marsh’, although very similar, is built up of none-woody plants and nutrient-rich soil that allows all manner of reeds and sedges to flourish.
Taking many centuries to form, these small patches of spongy freshwater wetland are characterised by the appearance of partially decayed plant matter called peat. They are also home to the illustrious British pastime Bog Snorkelling.
Traditionally known as ground that could not support a man’s weight, the term ‘quagmire’, or ‘mire’, encompasses both bogs and fens. Although similar, ‘fens’ are more nutrient-rich, less acidic and support a higher diversity of life.
Derived from the amalgamation of the Native American word for ‘small stream’ (‘Bayuk’) and 19th century French colonialism, a ‘bayou’ is a slow-moving swamp-like section of a river or lake that is filled with fresh water (or saltwater).