Glossary

  • chenier (shu-neer) – the Louisiana name for a rare geological feature that occurs in only a few parts of the world.  “Chenier” comes from the French word meaning “place of oaks”.  Found in southern Louisiana and Texas, cheniers are shore parallel sandy ridges that rise above the surrounding marsh lands.  The elevated land allows non-wetland species such as oaks to grow.  Cheniers are formed through the advance or retreat of the Gulf of Mexico as the delta lobe of the Mississippi River changed courses.  When sediment loads carried by the longshore current were poor, the Gulf would advance and form a sandy beach head.  When sediment loads were plentiful, fine particles would come to rest on the shore and the marsh would advance southward, leaving the old beach ridge stranded in between strips of marshland.  The area from the western shore of Vermillion Bay in Louisiana to the Sabine River on the LA/TX border is known as the Louisiana Chenier Plain and many communities in South Louisiana such as Johnson Bayou, Holly Beach, Cameron and Grand Chenier are built on these ridges.

 

  • flotant (flow-tont) – also known as “la prairie tremblant”.  Floating marsh or “flotant” is a mat of peat held together by the roots and rhizomes of wetland plants that floats above the underlying soil.  As the water level fluctuates, the flotant will as well which keeps the plants from drowning.  As flotant thickens, it can begin to support larger woody plants such as wax myrtles and even cypress saplings.  This can transform the flotant into a swamp.  Flotant can appear to be solid ground though when stepped on, usually doesn’t support the weight of a person.  Flotant is recognizable by the undulating motion of the mat when disturbed.

 

  • marsh – a wetland dominated by grasses and non-woody plants.  Marses are sub categorized based on salinity as: freshwater, intermediate, brackish and saline.
  • swamp – a wetland that supports wooded plants.  In southern Louisiana, typically cypress and tupelo gum trees.