Unique Plant Communities

Swamp Forest Inhabitants

Calamus Swamp is ringed with trees that require seasonally moist soils. American Elm, Green Ash and, in places, Red and Silver Maples make up the swamp forest here. Breeding birds attracted to this habitat include Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Warbling Vireo. The uncommon and beautiful Prothonotary Warbler also nests here.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush belongs to the same family as the plants that produce coffee. At Calamus Swamp, Buttonbush is the most characteristic shrub. It grows in deeper water than other shrubs and often forms dense colonies. When in bloom, Buttonbush is easily identified by the ball-like clusters of white flowers.

Swamp Loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus)

Swamp Loosestrife forms dense tangles that grow in deeper water than the other plants at Calamus Swamp. It plays a critical role in the growth of plant life in an open-water environment. When the tips of the drooping Swamp Loosestrife branches touch the water, they form small pads of a special biological structure called “arenchymous tissue.” The pads float atop the water and serve as hosts to other plants. Ultimately this process fills in the open water with burgeoning plant life. While it belongs to the same family, this valuable plant should not be confused with the non-native, invasive Purple Loosestrife.

Bur-reed (Sparganium eurycarpum)

One of the mysteries of Calamus Swamp is how it got its name. Acorus “Calamus” is the scientific name of Sweet Flag, a common wetland plant related to the Jack-in-the-pulpit. The mystery comes in when you consider that Sweet Flag has never been documented at Calamus  and that the habitat is not right for Sweet Flag to grow. One likely explanation is that certain cattail-like plants occurring at Calamus were mistaken for Sweet Flag. These plants actually are Bur-reeds. They are unrelated to Sweet Flags, but their leaves are similar. Bur-reeds are important food plants for waterfowl and provide valuable nesting cover for birds like the Virginia Rail and Least Bittern. With its spiky balls of fruit, Bur-reed is sometimes called Mace-plant, after a metal-headed, spiked club of the same name that was used as a weapon during the Middle Ages.

Submergent Aquatic Plants

Hidden beneath the large expanses of open water are fascinating plants not easily seen by visitors to Calamus Swamp. The Bladderwort is one of the most unusual plants in this “submergent” zone. Bladderworts are miniature, free-floating carnivores. Instead of getting their nutrients through roots anchored in the ground, these hungry plants are free-floating and use “snap traps” to capture small animals. In summer, their tiny, bright yellow flowers are held above the water’s surface and resemble violets. Other plants found in the deep water include Coontail, Duckweeds and one of the world’s smallest flowering plants, Water-meal, which looks like tiny, green grains of sand.

Water Birds

With the Scioto River located just 1.5 miles east, Calamus Swamp is an appealing resting area for the many water birds that migrate through the Scioto corridor. In spring and fall, watch for ducks, geese, grebes, and the occasional loon or cormorant. Unusual nesters recorded for this region include American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe and Common Moorhen.