Understanding solute mixing within real vegetation is critical to predicting and evaluating the performance of engineered natural systems such as storm water ponds. For the first time, mixing has been quantified through simultaneous laboratory measurements of transverse and longitudinal dispersion within artificial and real emergent vegetation. Dispersion coefficients derived from a routing solution to the 2-D Advection Dispersion Equation (ADE) are presented that compare the effects of vegetation type (artificial, Typha latifolia or Carex acutiformis) and growth season (winter or summer). The new experimental dispersion coefficients are plotted with the experimental values from other studies and used to review existing mixing models for emergent vegetation. The existing mixing models fail to predict the observed mixing within natural vegetation, particularly for transverse dispersion, reflecting the complexity of processes associated with the heterogeneous nature of real vegetation. Observed stem diameter distributions are utilized to highlight the sensitivity of existing models to this key length-scale descriptor, leading to a recommendation that future models intended for application to real vegetation should be based on probabilistic descriptions of both stem diameters and stem spacings.