Wetlands provide quintessential ecosystem services such as maintenance of water quality, water supply and biodiversity, among others; however, wetlands are also among the most threatened ecosystems worldwide. They are usually characterized by high levels of natural dissolved organic matter (DOM), representing a critical component in wetland biogeochemistry. This study describes the first detailed, comparative, molecular characterization of DOM in sub-tropical, pulsed, wetlands, namely the Everglades (USA), the Pantanal (Brazil) and the Okavango Delta (Botswana), using optical properties, high field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry (FT-ICRMS), and compares compositional features to variations in organic matter sources and flooding characteristics (i.e. differences in hydroperiod). While optical properties showed both similarities and differences between these ecosystems, these differences were mainly based on the degree of aromaticity of the DOM. Analogies were such that an established excitation emission matrix fluorescence parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC) model for the Everglades was perfectly applicable to the other two wetlands. High-field (500 and 800 MHz) NMR spectra with cryogenic detection provided exceptional coverage and chemical description of wetland solid phase extracted (SPE) DOM. Area-normalized 1H NMR spectra of selected samples revealed clear distinctions of samples along with pronounced congruence within the three pairs of wetland DOM. Within sample pairs (long vs. short hydroperiod sites), internal differences mainly referred to intensity variations (denoting variable abundance) rather than to alterations of NMR resonances positioning (denoting diversity of molecules). The relative disparity was largest between the Everglades long and short hydroperiod samples, whereas Pantanal and Okavango samples were more alike among themselves. Otherwise, molecular divergence was most obvious in the case of unsaturated protons (δH > 5 ppm). The larger discrimination observed between 1H NMR spectra of DOM from different wetlands in comparison with the intrinsic variance among DOM within each wetland readily suggests the presence of an individual molecular signature, characteristic of each particular wetland. 2-D NMR spectroscopy for a particular sample revealed a large richness of aliphatic and unsaturated substructures, likely derived from microbial sources such as periphyton in the Everglades. In contrast, the chemical diversity of aromatic wetland DOM likely originates from a combination of higher plant sources, progressive microbial and photochemical oxidation, and contributions from combustion-derived products (e.g. black carbon). In addition, FT-ICRMS spectra allowed far-reaching classifications of wetland DOM. While DOM of both Okavango and Pantanal showed near 57 ± 2 % CHO, 8 ± 2 % CHOS, 33 ± 2 CHNO, and < 1 % CHNOS molecules, the mass spectra of Everglades samples were fundamentally different compared to those as well as among long and short hydroperiod samples, as they were markedly enriched in CHOS and CHNOS at the expense of CHO and CHNO compounds. Here, four groups of CHOS molecules were differentiated as (a) saturated sulfolipids, (b) unsaturated sulfolipids, (c) molecularly diverse DOM-type CHOS molecules, (d) and particularly enriched in the Everglades short hydroperiod site, a large set of aromatic and oxygen-deficient "black sulphur" compounds. The significantly higher proportion of CHOS compounds in general for the Everglades samples is likely the result of higher inputs of agriculture-derived and sea spray derived sulphate to this wetland compared to the others. Although wetland DOM samples were found to share many molecular features, each sample was unique in its composition, which reflected specific environmental drivers and/or specific biogeochemical processes.