Of Mud and Marsh in Mississippi…

Continuing on my alphabetical state journeys, I virtually arrived this morning in Mississippi to find that this state duplicated a state flower and a state wildflower already covered in Louisiana and in Florida. The Magnolia is the state flower and see “A Tale of Two Flowers” for details on that beautiful six inch blossom. The Coreopsis is Mississippi’s state wildflower and we investigated the yellow rays in “A Golden Jewel is She.” If you haven’t read either of them, please do as a tribute to those states and to Mississippi.

I lived in Mississippi for a year a long time ago as I attended a course in Electronic Warfare for a solid year and even went back for advanced training. The smell of cooking shrimp is still offensive to me today as we had the delicacy at least once a week and on those mornings, the smell of frying shrimp permeated the atmosphere. One of the fascinating places I visited was just outside of Biloxi. No, not a casino, as they didn’t exist back then, but the salt marsh which extended along the back bay and up both sides of the Biloxi River. You can’t visit on foot as mud and water flush the marsh twice a day with each tide creating sinuous mini-rivers of brackish water. Only a small boat can navigate these channels and vision is restricted on both sides by the tall canes of marsh grass.

I have read that this is a rich diverse environment for flora and fauna, so lets do a virtual visit and explore a few of the Biloxi River Salt Marshes. The first thing you notice is the tall grass on both sides which seems to be everywhere – what is it? The primary boundary of this 4,020-acre preserve follows the edge of the marsh along the Biloxi River, Tchoutacabouffa River, Bernard Bayou, and includes the portions of marsh that is non-forested. The oligohaline (salt diluted) marshes in this area are similar to those found in the nearby lower Tchoutacabouffa River area to the east. The marsh is commonly dominated by needle rush (Juncus roemerianus)

Needle Rush actually blooms with a very small flower.

with duck-potato (Sagittaria latifolia).

Duck Potato in bloom. The rhizomes are bird favorites.

Narrow disjunct bands of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) occur along the creeks

Smooth Cordgrass is very common in a tidal marsh.

with bands of high-level salt-meadow grass (Spartina patens) occurring along the upland borders.

A heron stalks in the Salt-Meadow Grass.

The lower reaches of Parker Creek consist of fringing tidal freshwater marsh, water lily beds (Nymphaea odorata),

The Fragrant Water Lily dominates the stillness of incoming fresh water.

and submerged beds of coontail (Ceratophyllum).

Nearly impenetrable Coontail.

This unique location provides excellent feeding, resting, and wintering habitat for numerous types of migratory bird species, such as the Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Ospreys and cormorants. This area is also known to be an Osprey rookery.

Osprey on the mud flat.

In the water itself, many brackish tolerant fish live and breed including the colorful Killifish, Hardhead Catfish, Gaftop Catfish, Redfish, and Sea Trout.

Killifish never exceed a few inches in length and come in a rainbow of colors.

But what about actual wildflowers in that overabundance of mud and marsh?

The Salt Marsh Mallow is an infrequent bloomer in Mississippi mud.
The Saltmarsh Aster is similar to other asters except for location.
The Saltmarsh Sand Spurrey is a beautiful but tiny beacon in the sea of green.

So, wildflowers do exist here where no garden pro would dare set his, or her, foot as he, or she, would simply sink in the mud, the water, and the salt. Now we are off to our next “M” state – Missouri, and the Show Me state has adopted a white tree blossom as its state floral emblem. Not the dogwood, nor an apple, but a tree with thorns which has many wild varieties and we will marvel at them all.

1 thought on “Of Mud and Marsh in Mississippi…

  1. Lots of interesting information. Thanks for sharing.


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