Floating Wetlands

At Camden’s Promise Charter School, the Green Makerspace Club has successfully prototyped the first ever set of floating wetlands located at the Wiggins Park Marina. What is a floating wetland? Essentially, it is a manmade floating island that is home to several species of native wetland plants as well as local wildlife and maybe even a few migratory animals. Not only is its purpose to provide habitat for many living things, but it is also there to help filter water naturally. As plant roots grow through the island substrate and into the water below, they absorb nutrients while breaking down contaminants, cleaning the water as a result. The water filtering ability of the Club’s floating wetlands is especially important because of its location in the Delaware River. The river and its watershed provides drinking water to over 15 million people.

Installed in May of 2018, the three floating wetlands can be observed on the north side of Wiggins Park Marina. Throughout the summer, a variety of plants were seen blooming including Spiderwort, Brown Eyed Susans, Coreopsis, Lily, Bee Balm, and Iris. These plants are native wildflowers that are important food sources for pollinating insects as well as some bird species that may drink nectar or eat the seeds. Bursts of yellow and purple flowers throughout the growing season were the first sign of success and a harbinger of good things to come. 

In August 2018 after an amazing summer of growth, a second round of plants were added to the wetlands. Hoping to attract monarch butterflies to the area, Butterfly Weed and Common Milkweed were installed. Both milkweed species are not only a food source for monarchs, but are also host plants on which monarchs can lay their eggs. To fill out the rest of the wetland space and to learn what other kinds of plants could survive in an artificial wetland, some mint, thyme and marigolds were also added.

Shortly after this second planting, several wildlife species could be found resting on the floating wetlands and some even, may have used the plant space and the roots below as a nursery. Those animals which have most likely used the wetland to develop from juvenile to adult include the Yellowstriped Army Worm (Spodoptera ornithogalli), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), and American Eel (Anguilla rostrata). There was even a Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) and a resident female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) who would appear from time to time on the wetlands to get a little sun in a protected space

After only one growing season these three floating wetlands have gone through enormous growth and change. So many plants, whether intentionally planted or finding their way there by other means, have thrived. Flowers were visible throughout the summer. Once the plants were well established, wildlife slowly, but surely made their way to the wetlands. This successful first try and creating a manmade floating environment is only the beginning and would not have been possible if it were not for the students in the Green Makerspace Club at Camden’s Promise.




 For more information about the afterschool projects and activities, contact Jack Carr at ccn@aquaticsciences.org.