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Water Weeds

Giant Reed, Spanish Reed

Giant reed photo

Giant reed, also known as wild cane, is a tall, perennial grass that can grow to over 20 feet in height. Its fleshy, creeping rootstocks form compact masses from which tough, fibrous roots emerge that penetrate deeply into the soil. Leaves are elongate, 1-2 inches wide and a foot long. The flowers are borne in 2-foot long, dense, plume-like panicles during August and September. 

Giant reed chokes riversides and stream channels, crowds out native plants, interferes with flood control, increases fire potential, and reduces habitat for wildlife, including the Least Bell's vireo, a federally endangered bird. The long, fibrous, interconnecting root mats of giant reed form a framework for debris dams behind bridges, culverts, and other structures that lead to damage. It ignites easily and can create intense fires. 

Giant reed can float miles downstream where root and stem fragments may take root and initiate new infestations. Due to its rapid growth rate and vegetative reproduction, it is able to quickly invade new areas and form pure stands at the expense of other species. Once established, giant reed has the ability to out-compete and completely suppress native vegetation. 

Giant Salvinia

Giant salvinia photo

Giant salvinia is an aquatic fern with floating leaves. The ½ to 1 ½ inch long, oblong leaves vary in color from green to gold to brown. The surface of the leaves has rows of arching hairs that look like little egg-beaters. Giant salvinia forms chains of leaves that run together to form thick mats. It can invade most any type of aquatic system. It forms dense thick mats on the surface of the water which restrict oxygen and light availability, causing death of the primary produces and disrupting the aquatic food chain. Giant salvinia is native to South America and was first introduced into America as an ornamental aquatic plant.

Water Chestnut

Water chestnut photo

Water chestnut, scientific name (Trapa natans L.), is an annual aquatic plant, with both surfacing and submersed leaves. Surfacing leaves are triangular with toothed edges and an inflated petiole, or leaf stalk, and form a rosette on the water surface. Submersed leaves are feather-like; each leaf is divided into segments that are whorled around the leaf stem. White flowers form in the axils of the surfacing leaves in July. Fruit are nut-like and "woody" with typically four sharp, barbed spines. Long cord-like rarely branching stems can attain lengths of up to 16 feet. Water chestnut grows in freshwater lakes and ponds and slow moving streams and rivers. It prefers calm, shallow, nutrient-rich waters. Click here for a detailed image of water chestnut.

Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth photo


Water hyacinth is a floating plant that occurs in lakes, ponds, canals and other freshwater bodies. Water hyacinth forms thick mats on the surface of the water which is detrimental to all the life forms. Hyacinth has leathery, round leaves connected to a sponge like stalk. Water hyacinth has stringy black roots and are also capable of rooting in mud temporarily. The reproduction system of hyacinth is vast, however it primarily perpetuates through seed production.

Eichhornia
is native to South America (Most likely from Brazil.). Origin in the United States may date back as far as 1884. This weed has recently spread throughout the Southern United States.

Eurasian Milfoil

 

 

 

 

 

Milfoil reproduces by a process called “fragmentation.” Milfoil plants easily break into small pieces and each piece can form roots. A single wisp can multiply into 250 million new plants in one year. Milfoil is readily spread between lakes and rivers by boaters carrying plant fragments on their boats and trailers.

Hydrilla
 

 


Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is considered the most problematic aquatic plant in the United States. This plant is native to Africa, Australia, and parts of Asia but was introduced to Florida in 1960 via the aquarium trade. In the 1990s hydrilla is now well-established in the southern states where control and management costs millions of dollars each year. On the West Coast, hydrilla has been introduced into California and Washington. California has an eradication policy for hydrilla infestations because hydrilla can severely impact water delivery systems. The Washington hydrilla infestation, discovered in 1995, is the only known occurrence of hydrilla in the Pacific Northwest and eradication efforts are ongoing. 

Water Lily
 

 

The white water lily is a perennial plant that often form dense colonies. The leaves arise on flexible stalks from large thick rhizomes. The leaves are more round than heart-shaped, bright green, 6 to 12 inches in diameter with the slit about 1/3 the length of the leaf. Leaves usually float on the water's surface. Flowers arise on separate stalks, have brilliant white petals (25 or more per flower) with yellow centers. The flowers may float or stick above the water and each opens in the morning and closes in the afternoon. The flowers are very fragrant. White water lily can spread from seeds or the rhizomes.

Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called "detritus") for many aquatic invertebrates. Deer, beaver, muskrat, nutria and other rodents will consume the leaves and rhizomes of white water lily, while the seeds are eaten by ducks. 

American Elodea  (waterweed)

 

American waterweed (Elodea) is what many people commonly think of as "that aquarium plant." It is also known by several other common names such as Canadian waterweed, common elodea, or anacharis. The use of these names causes it to be confused with similar-looking nonnative plants like Brazilian elodea or hydrilla. 

American waterweed is usually fairly easy to distinguish from its more notorious relatives, like Brazilian elodea and hydrilla. All of them have leaves in whorls around the stem. However, American waterweed has three leaves per whorl, whereas hydrilla and Brazilian elodea almost always have more than three leaves per whorl. Brazilian elodea is also a much larger, bushy plant with longer leaves.

American waterweed lives entirely underwater with the exception of small white flowers which bloom at the surface and are attached to the plant by delicate stalks. It produces winter buds from the stem tips which overwinter on the lake bottom. It also often overwinters as an evergreen plant in mild climates. In the fall leafy stalks will detach from the parent plant, float away, root, and start new plants. This is American waterweed's most important method of spreading, with seed production playing a relatively minor role.

Silty sediments and water rich in nutrients favor the growth of American waterweed and in nutrient-rich lakes, it is sometimes perceived as a nuisance. However, it will grow in a wide range of conditions, from very shallow to deep water, and in many sediment types. It can even continue to grow unrooted, as floating fragments. It is found throughout temperate North America, and is one of the most common aquatic plants in Washington.

Coontail (hornwort)

 

Coontail, or sometimes called hornwort, is a dark olive-green, rootless submerged perennial plant that often forms dense colonies. Leaves are relatively stiff, whorled with many forks and small teeth along one edge. The tips of branches are crowded with leaves giving it a “coontail” resemblance. Coontail reproduces by seeds and fragmentation.

Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. The fruits of coontail are consumed by ducks and it is considered a good wildlife food. 

Tapegrass

 

Tape grass is a submersed plant that spreads by runners and sometimes forms tall underwater meadows. Tape grass is common in still and fast-flowing waters. Tape grass leaves arise in clusters from their roots. They are about one inch wide and can be several feet long. The leaves have rounded tips, and definite raised veins. Single white female flowers grow to the water surface on very long stalks. Tape grass fruit is a banana-like capsule having many tiny seeds.

Water Shield

 

The water shield is a floating-leaved plant, but the long leaf stalks reach all the way to the bottom where they attach to a long creeping root that is anchored in the mud. Water shield occurs in lakes, ponds and slow streams, and prefers water up to six feet deep. 

Water shield leaves are oval and shield-shaped. Its leaf stalks are attached at the centers of the leaf blades. Its submersed parts and undersides of leaves are covered with a viscous jelly-like substance. Its flowers are small, dull purple, and emerge from the water on a stalk. 

Cattails

 


Cattails are probably the most familiar of all wetland plants. Their swaying brown flower clusters can be seen at the edges of ponds, rivers, lakes, or just about any place where there is shallow, standing water for at least part of the year.

One of the more obvious things about these plants is their size. The common cattail can grow up to nine feet in height. One species found south of Delaware will sometimes grow to as much as twelve feet in height! Their height, linked with their capacity to withstand saturate soil conditions seems to have been their real tickets to success. Throughout North America, cattails and bulrushes are, more often than not, the undisputed rulers of the freshwater marsh.

Probably the most distinctive thing about the cattails are their flowers. Each cattail possesses thousands of tiny brown flowers all tightly compressed into a compact mass on the top of their stems. During late summer and early fall, these structures will begin to come apart, releasing their seeds into the wind as they do so. 

 

     
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