Wet meadows are habitats for plant communities that thrive in damp or wet soil. Herbaceous plants and grass-es dominate plant life. Wet meadows occur in stream and river pastures, at the edges of moors, and in geologi-cal depressions and basins. The water saturation of the soil can be a result of a high water table (as is the case with river pastures) or layers of underground geology with low permeability. Trees do not grow in some mead-ows as woody plants are unable to tolerate the high water levels. However, in other wet meadows, it is regular human use or maintenance that keeps the vegetation low.
Different types of wet meadow develop depending on the acidity, nutrient content and water content of the soil, as well as on the climate and use type. The composition of plant life varies across different types of meadow. Water-loving species such as sedges and rushes are characteristic of these environments. Kingcups (Caltha palustris), cuckooflowers (Cardamine pratensis) and cabbage thistles (Cirsium oleraceum) are among the plants that grow in nutrient-rich fertilised fields. In mountainous areas, the composition of wet meadows changes, with new species such as globeflowers (Trollius europaeus) joining the flora. This plant, with its striking large, round flowers, is endangered and only rarely seen.
Wet meadows are mown at least once a year for agricultural purposes. As the plant life consists largely of sedges, rushes, horsetail and other plants that are difficult for animals to digest, the material was previously used as bedding for stables. Due to the high water level in the meadows, the material cannot be dried for hay and is often composted nowadays. If people do not make use of the meadows, the composition of the plant life changes. Shrubs such as meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) that can reach up to 1.5 metres in height begin to colonise the meadows, replacing the smaller plants with tall herbaceous vegetation. If it is not cut back regularly, this vegetation represents a stage in the transition from wet meadow to woodland. As can be seen in the image below, wet meadows form along watercourses and in tributary river valleys. They often create islands surrounded by intensively cultivated grassland.