The influence of thermal disturbance and site characteristics on distribution of herbs was studied in portions of a 3020 ha wetland in the southeastern USA. Presence-absence of 52 species in 130 0.25 m2 plots was determined from four sites with different disturbance histories and from an undisturbed site. Data from the four disturbed sites were ordinated by detrended correspondence analysis. Differences in species composition among sites (coarse scale) were associated with water depth, light, and substrate type. Within a site (at a fine scale), correlation of environmental variables with ordination scores at a chronically disturbed site was weakly correlated with light (r=0.50). At two sites with episodic disturbance, species composition correlated significantly and positively with substrate and water depth. At a recovering site, vegetation patterns were moderately correlated with water depth (r=−0.52). Species richness was correlated with substrate type along the disturbance gradient. Our results are consistent the intermediate disturbance hypothesis and the subsidy-stress gradient concept.