Vernal pools are a seasonal form of freshwater marsh that can be easily recognized in springtime by the characteristic streaks of different-colored flowers blooming in areas where water collected at different depths over the winter, as seen here on Table Mountain. Photo by queerbychoice. Freshwater marsh is the plant community native to areas of Sutter County that have shallow, year-round standing water with no current, including Butte Sink National Wildlife Refuge, Feather River State Wildlife Area, Fremont Weir State Wildlife Area, Gray Lodge State Wildlife Area, and Sutter National Wildlife Refuge. Unlike the riparian forest plant community, which grows on riverbanks, the plants in the freshwater marsh plant community typically grow on flat land that is usually underwater or extremely muddy, with no drainage at all. Trees and shrubs do not survive long in freshwater marsh conditions; they can grow on the edges of deeper lakes or ponds in which there is a bit of current to keep air flowing around their roots, but they rot in the anaerobic conditions of a freshwater marsh.

A freshwater marsh that dries up completely in summer is called a vernal pool. Vernal pools are more common in the Yuba-Sutter area than year-round freshwater marsh. Perennial plants tend not to survive in vernal pools, because of the widely differing conditions in different seasons. However, vernal pools provide excellent habitat for the many rare annual plants that can also grow in year-round freshwater marshes.

The plants listed below are native to freshwater marsh in Sutter County.1

Herbaceous Perennials

Grasses and Grasslike Plants

True Grasses

Northwestern waxy mannagrass



(See the Sedges page for more information about some of these species.)

bristly longhair sedge

fox sedge

squarestem spikerush


chairmaker's bulrush

California bulrush

river bulrush


narrowleaf cattail

Southern cattail

broadleaf cattail


Aster Family

(See the Daisies page for more information about some of these species.)

Western goldentop

California sunflower

vernal pool goldfields

marsh fleabane

Suisun Marsh aster

Water-Plantain Family

upright burrhead

broadleaf arrowhead (also called wappato or tule potato)

longbarb arrowhead

hooded arrowhead

valley arrowhead

Other Families

western hedge bindweed


rose mallow

manyflower marshpennywort

Delta tule pea

mudflat quillplant

Welsh mudwort

lanceleaf fogfruit

golden dock

largeflower sticky sandspurry

American speedwell

Vernal Pool Annuals


Grasses and Grasslike Plants

True Grasses

Carolina foxtail

Pacific foxtail


Toad rush (Juncus bufonius) volunteers in a Marysville back yard in early spring. Photo by queerbychoice. (See the Rushes page for more information about these and other rush species.)

common toad rush

Herman's dwarf rush

Red Bluff dwarf rush

twelfth rush (also called inch-high dwarf rush)


Aster Family

Yellowray goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata) in a garden in Marysville. Photo by queerbychoice. (See the Goldfields and Tarweeds pages for more information about some of these species.)

smooth goldfields

yellowray goldfields

common tarweed

common woolly marbles (also called short woollyheads)

slender woollyheads (also called slender woolly marbles)

limestone bugheal

Common tarweed (Madia elegans) in a garden in Marysville. Photo by queerbychoice.

Borage Family

adobe popcornflower

bracted popcornflower

Greene's popcornflower

finebranched popcornflower (also called alkali popcornflower)

rustyhair popcornflower

stalked popcornflower (also called vernal pool popcornflower)

Bellflower Family

bristled calicoflower (also called doublehorn calicoflower)

folded calicoflower (also called horned calicoflower)

flatface calicoflower

dwarf calicoflower

false Venus' looking glass

Other Families

Seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus). Photo by queerbychoice. (See the Clovers and Monkeyflowers pages for more information about some of these species.)

vernal pool paintbrush (also called yellow owl's clover)

many-flowered monkeyflower

yellow seep monkeyflower (also called common large monkeyflower)

tricolor monkeyflower

common little mousetail (also called tiny mousetail)

broadleaf pincushionplant

Tehama pincushionplant

needleleaf pincushionplant (also called interwoven pincushionplant)

whitehead pincushionplant

Ahart's nailwort

Carter's buttercup

cowbag clover (also called pale dwarf sack clover) sour clover (also called bull clover)

The reddish purple flowers of cowbag clover (Trifolium depauperatum) emerge from among invasive, non-native filarees on Table Mountain. Photo by queerbychoice. Sour clover (Trifolium fucatum) blooms in a garden in Marysville. Photo by queerbychoice.