Ecology of red maple swamps in the glaciated northeast: a community profile

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Date of Original Version



This report is part of a series of profiles on the ecology of wetland and deepwater habitats. This particular profile addresses red maple swamps in the glaciated northeastern United States. Red maple (Acer rubrum) swamp is a dominant wetland type in most of the region; it reaches its greatest abundance in southern New England and northern New Jersey, where it comprises 60-80% of all inland wetlands. Red maple swamps occur in a wide variety of hydrogeologic settings, from small, isolated basins in till or glaciofluvial deposits to extensive wetland complexes on glacial lake beds, and from hillside seeps to stream floodplains and lake edges. Individual swamps may be seasonally flooded, temporarily flooded, or seasonally saturated, and soils may be mineral or organic. As many as five distinct vegetation layers may occur in these swamps, including trees, saplings, shrubs, herbs, and ground cover plants such as bryophytes and clubmosses. On a regional scale, red maple swamps support at least 50 species of trees, more than 90 species of shrubs and vines, and more than 300 species of nonwoody plants. These swamps also provide habitat for a rich faunal community, including several wetland-dependent species. In areas that are becoming urbanized, these wetlands often constitute critical habitat for facultative species as well. Red maple swamps also are important sites for flood storage, water quality improvement, recreation, scenic beauty, and open space.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

NCASI Technical Bulletin


781 I