As most people know, in 1974, Marjory Stoneman Douglas dubbed the Everglades as the River of Grass to describe the slow movement of shallow sheet flow through sawgrass marshes. Not a true grass, Sawgrass is a member of the sedge family, characterized by sharp teeth along the edges of each blade. That being said, the Everglades is home to many species of true grasses in the Poaceae family, also called Gramineae as well as other native grasses.
In Everglades National Park, short-hydroperiod marl prairies are dominated by muhly grass, which is in the Poaceae family. Native other grasses including black-rush, arrow-feather, Florida bluestream, and Elliot’s lovegrass. Usually, the grass is less than four feet tall.
Native to the southeastern United States is the muhly grass. It grows to about three to four feet tall in clumps that are about as wide. What distinguishes it from other grasses is its upright stiff growth. In the fall, muhly grass is most conspicuous when its delicate purple flowers blanket the foliage. Mari prairies and muhly grass are also native to the pine flatwoods and coastal prairie. Native Americans use muhly grass for basket weaving.
There are more than 100 species of native true grasses in Everglades National Park, as well as, dozens of species of other native grass families. With the Everglades elevation changes of only a few inches, different microclimates and microhabitats offer growing conditions suitable for only a certain species. Luckily, grasses growing in the Everglades have adapted to living with both the dry and wet seasons. The dry season runs from November through April and the wet season goes from May through October.
During the dry season, Everglades adapt to fires. They may appear to have been obliterated after the fire, they quickly reestablish themselves once the heavy rains begin to fall in late spring.