Why These Rainbow Swamps Have Candy-Colored Hues

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
Rainbow Swamps Have Candy-Colored Hues

Kate Scott / Shutterstock

A photo of a swamp slicked with Technicolor tones has the Internet all abuzz – here's what's going on.

We – the people of the Internet – are a people who go silly in the head over rainbows. I mean, most people love rainbows, but sometimes rainbow-themed things go super viral and the Internet basically melts. The latest case in point, a photo of a "rainbow swamp" posted by Brent Rossen on Reddit. Even though this was more than a week ago (being late to the party is better than not showing up at all, so shhh), it's still finding its crazy-colored way to sites far and wide.

"Me and my girlfriend were walking in the woods the other week and saw a rainbow pool for the first time" Rossen writes of his encounter with the phenomenon in First Landing State Park, Virginia.

This isn't the photo, but you get the idea.

Scientific Explanation

rainbow swamp

Realest Nature / Shutterstock

My first thought was, oh dear, what kind of toxic-spill hell is this? But thankfully, my cringing turned to swoons when I read what Jeff Ripple, a former Florida swamp walk guide, told the BBC: "The rainbow sheens found as a thin film on top of pooled water in swamps and marshes are the result of natural oils released by decaying vegetation or the biological processes of anaerobic bacteria reducing iron in soil."

Now it's starting to make sense. I have spent plenty of time in the swamps – real swamps, not a metaphor – and I've seen what kind of magic the cypress trees can perform. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they are behind this fairy magic science.

The BBC also found another rainbow swamp shot taken by retired engineer Michael Hussey – this one in Tallahassee, Florida.

Hussey says that he sees this in a swampy area on his property every three or four years. "If it doesn't rain for a couple of weeks it continues to become more pronounced," he said. "I have seen this occur about 10 times in the 40 years I have lived here. It's beautiful to see."

Rainbow swamp

Kate Scott  / Shutterstock

So there you have it. It's not magic and it's not someone's leaky fuel tank. It's just a perfect storm of conditions stirred up by Mother Nature ... before finding its way to the Internet for all of us to delight in.