National Park Mystery Plant 18 Revealed

You were challenged to identify mystery plant 18 using just these clues:

Carpenter's tool

Marjory's river

Nature's fleshcutter

Have you ever seen Elia's splendor?

The answer is sawgrass. Eric (7:19 a.m.) was the first to figure it out. Yellowstone Ed and toothdoctor also got it right.

Here's how the clues work.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas' 1947 book The Everglades: River of Grass was a hugely important catalyst for action to create Everglades National Park in South Florida and rescue the Everglades ecosystem. The river of grass is the sawgrass-dominated core of the Everglades, a place where a broad sheet of shallow water flows southward toward the Gulf of Mexico at the ponderously slow rate of about 20 to 100 feet a day.

Like the hammer, drill, and level, the saw is a basic carpenter's tool.

Sawgrass comes by its name honestly. The margins of this plant's long, narrow leaves are serrated, and the jagged sawteeth easily cut flesh.

The bonus clue "Have you ever seen Elia's splendor?" is actually several clues rolled into one. "Elia's splendor" refers to the Elia Kazan-directed film Splendor in the Grass, an Academy Award-winning 1961 "high school movie" starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. (Serous fans of John Cougar Mellencamp know that the popular singer wrote "Jack and Diane" after watching this film.) The clue-within-a-clue is the word ever. The identifying code for Everglades National Park is EVER.

Some Sawgrass Facts

Sawgrass (aka saw-grass) is the common name for a grass-like sedge of the genus Cladium. A member of the Cyperaceae family, and not a true grass, this plant grows three to nine feet or so tall and is typically found in dense stands.

The narrow, spiny leaves are triangular in cross-section and have sawtooth-like margins.

Sawgrass typically grows in wetlands that are submerged by shallow water most of the year,

The number of Cladium species is disputed, and could range anywhere from as few as two or three to as many as 60 or so.

The Cladium jamaicense species of sawgrass is fairly common in tropical freshwater wetlands of the Americas, including Hawaii. In mainland America, it grows in Atlantic coastal areas from Virginia to Florida and in Gulf coastal areas as far west as Texas. Thick stands of sawgrass -- some very large -- are the namesake feature of the Everglades "River of Grass," a region sometimes termed the True Everglades.

Sawgrass stands are biologically diverse, though not dramatically so. Many birds nest and feed there (the plant's seeds are abundant and nutritious), and various reptiles and amphibians find food and shelter there. Alligators, a keystone species in the Everglades, use the higher ground within sawgrass stands for nesting sites.

Periodic fire plays a vital role in maintaining sawgrass habitat by inhibiting the growth of woody vegetation.

Sawgrass can clog waterways, making it difficult for watercraft to move about.

Sawgrass has attracted the interest of biofuel researchers who believe that the high net primary productivity of sawgrass stands can be harnessed to the need to produce ethanol fuels.


Clever clues.