August 10, 2016
Pluff Mud STINKS!! I know locals love it, but as a transplant from Atlanta, it was very hard for me to get used to the stench. I wanted to be the one rolling the windows down as I drove home over the big bridge, tossing my hair in the breeze, and deeply inhaling the smell of the marsh at low tide. At best I only made a stink face. Fast forward five years, and while it doesn’t make me gag anymore, I can say I LOVE pluff mud, but not necessarily the smell of it...
What is Pluff Mud? I actually hear this question a lot. So let’s discuss why we have the pluff and what it’s good for in order to explain what itIS. The recent flooding of our great state of South Carolina is a tragedy. Huge amounts of rain dumped all over the state resulting in flash floods all over. Columbia, in the middle of the state, has practically dissolved. And while the surrounding metro areas around Edisto such as West Ashley, Charleston, North Charleston, Johns Island and James Island had flooding and homes were lost, we didn’t accrue as much damage as they did further inland. Even days after the floods when the evacuation warnings were sent out to homes along the Edisto River, Edisto Island it’s self didn’t flood…..What does this have to do with Pluff Mud? Pretty much everything.
The marsh is a living breathing, water filtering, fish harboring, oyster hosting sanctuary of awesomeness. Our marshlands and tidal creeks are what kept our island and surrounding areas safe. Acting like a gigantic sponge they can absorbed massive amounts of water, essentially stopping the flood in its path as well as moving water on out to the creeks and rivers. The pluff mud is the waste from the many different filters the marsh uses. The marsh grass sucks in nutrients from the water and marsh beds, then it breaks down into the mud and water giving it that cloudy green look it has. The shrimp, fish, birds, algae, and oyster beds(plus thousands of other creatures I didn’t list) are all working to filter out the water for food and nutrients, and the by product is pluff mud. Yes, pluff mud is marsh poop. That is why it stinks.
Being surrounded by our wonderful marshland here on Edisto and surrounding areas helped us out a lot. Those marsh sponges soaked up millions of gallons of water, and while most of them spilled over, the sheer volume of water the marshlands could consume before springing a leak was awesome. The waters pouring out of the marshes at low tides had so much force behind it in some areas it looked like white water rapids, gushing out into the rivers on the way to the ocean. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, but her design skills are impeccable.
This special ecosystem that surrounds us is truly one amazing place; The Ace Basin is the second most productive ecosystem in the world behind the rain forest. A fascinating world we must keep striving to protect from development, so it can keep protecting us. Each part of the wetlands, every creek bank, waterway, estuary, species of fish, all the mammals and reptiles, each and every tree, all the way down to the tiniest algae floating in the water, has a very big role to play in the survival of the marshlands. Like a vast functioning machine, the loss of even the tiniest gear could stop the whole thing.
So if you love the pluff, or don’t care for the stuff,you still must respect the mud. Are you interested in learning more about Pluff Mud and the Ace Basin surrounding Edisto? Stop by the Interpretive Learning Center at Edisto Beach State Park, or book an Eco Tour with Botany Bay Eco Tours. Meg Hoyle, owner and operator was a biologist with the state of South Carolina. Her tours are amazing and pretty much where I get all of my info. Tell her Explore Edisto says Hi!