The accumulation of litter or thatch can affect plant community composition by affecting the temperature, nutrient availability, and light availability of the soil environment, thereby forming a potentially important linkage between recent productivity and current ecosystem processes. To investigate the importance of litter on a fen peatland plant community, we conducted a litter addition and removal experiment in a fen in northern Minnesota, USA, between 1998 and 2001. The addition of litter had little effect on fen plant community composition or microenvironmental variables, despite a two-fold increase in litter mass compared to control plots. However, the removal of litter dramatically increased cover of Rhynchospora fusca and R. alba, and reduced cover of Carex exilis. Litter removal also increased availability of light and soil temperature and increased the phosphorus content of aboveground plant biomass. Our results indicate that litter is an important control of plant community composition in this northern fen.