There is at present little information on the long-term stability of phosphorus sequestered in wetlands. Phosphorus sequestered during high loading periods may be relatively unstable and easily remobilized following changes in nutrient status or hydrological regime, but the chemical forms of sequestered phosphorus that do remobilize are largely unknown at this time. A lack of suitable analytical techniques has contributed to this dearth of knowledge regarding the stability of soil organic phosphorus. We analysed phosphorus in soils from the 'head' of Rescue Strand tree island and an adjacent marsh in the Florida Everglades by 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and high-resolution mass spectrometry. Tree islands are important areas of biodiversity within the Everglades and offer a unique opportunity to study phosphorus sequestration because they are exposed to large phosphorus loads and appear to be natural nutrient sinks. The 31P NMR profiling of extracts from surface and sediment samples in the tree island indicates that phosphorus input to Rescue Strand tree island soils is mostly in the form of inorganic ortho-phosphate and is either refractory when deposited or rapidly recycled by the native vegetation into a stable phosphorus pool largely resistant to re-utilization by plants or microbes. Mass spectrometry revealed the presence of inositol hexakisphosphate, a common organic monophosphate ester not previously observed in Everglades' soils. ?? 2008 The Authors.