watershield leaves on top of the water
Anthony Brown/USFWS

As you approach the boardwalk, take time to observe watershield on either side of the bridge. Watershield can easily be identified by its oval, shield-like shape. All underwater parts of this aquatic plant are covered in a thick slime. This is believed to be a protection to drying out during droughts and to prevent mammals from consuming it. Watershield releases a number of chemicals that kills or slows the growth of bacteria, algae, and other plants, wiping out competition. Despite these issues, watershield is beneficial to wildlife; waterfowl consume parts of the plants, it provides ample shelter for fish and other aquatic organisms. It is also said that Native Americans ate its tuberous roots.