Most wet meadows are naturally a transient habitat. Unlike fens and bogs, they are dry enough to support trees, but, for reasons of recent history, do not. Historically, beaver may have been responsible for most of our wet meadows. As beavers establish their colony, their flooding (together with their gnawing) kills the trees in and around their pond. Once a beaver colony has run its course, the dam breaks, the water drains, and one is left with an open, often relatively moist and rich, patch of ground (Fig. 1).
Today, most wet meadows in our county are kept open because of farming, often pasturing. If disturbance is light enough, they can host a high number of native plants (Figs. 2, 3 and 4), although, because semi-natural open, wet lands are relatively more common in our landscape than semi-natural open, dry lands, many of these native wet meadow species are not particularly rare.
Wet meadows can also be home to some of our more unusual animals, including the Northern Leopard Frog, Spotted Turtle and Ribbon Snake (Fig. 5) and butterflies such as the Bronze Copper, Baltimore Checkerspot and Mulberry Wing (Figs. 6, 7 and 8).
Management of wet meadows requires keeping them open (occasional grazing or cutting, preferably during the dry season and, if possible, not all at once); not draining, plowing or fertilizing them; and, possibly, limiting invasives (e.g., snapping off Purple Loosestrife plants before they go to seed). Native wet meadow plants can also provide an attractive component of landscaping (Fig. 9).