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The Everglades is a swamp located in southwestern Florida. It contains over 2,000 different types of plants, including saw grass (Cladium jamaicense), mangroves (including the red, black and white mangroves), alligator flag (Thalia geniculata), strangler fig (Ficus aurea), gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba), mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni), saw palmetto, pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), moonvine (a morning glory), coontie, and various willows, slash pine (Pinus elliottii densa) and other pines, and oaks with Spanish moss hanging form the limbs. Many epiphytes (air plants) like the night-blooming epidendrum (Epidendrum nocturnum) also live in trees.
Covering more than 4,300 sq mi (11,100 sq km), the area has water moving slowly through it from the lip of Lake Okeechobee to mangrove swamps bordering the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. Everglades National Park, established in 1947, encompasses the southwestern portion of the marsh, covering 2,357 sq mi (6,105 sq km). The largest subtropical wilderness left in the continental U.S., it has a mild climate, which provides an environment for myriad birds, alligators, snakes, and turtles. A large portion of the glades has been reclaimed by drainage canals, altering the habitats of many species.
Once the Florida Everglades was a vibrant, free-flowing river of grass that provided clean water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. It was a vital haven for storks, alligators, panthers and other wildlife. Today this extraordinary ecosystem—unlike any other in the world—is in peril. Over the past 100 years, people in great numbers have encroached upon the ecosystem that once was the domain of panthers, alligators and flocks of birds so vast that they would darken the sky.