Identifying Aquatic Plants


– [Susan] Today I’m
going to be talking about identifying aquatic plants. Aquatic plants are an integral
part of the pond ecosystem. An ideal ratio is to have
20 to 30% coverage of plants in your pond to promote
habitat and maintain a healthy balance between
plants and aquatic life like turtles and frogs. It is necessary to know
what kinds of plants are in your pond if you
plan to control them based on the pond’s intended use. This video will discuss the
main types of aquatic plants and give several examples of each. The plants can be categorized
into four main types. Submerged plants, emergent plants, floating plants, and algae. Let’s take a look at each
of these in more detail. Submerged plants are those that are rooted on the bottom of the pond. Ponds with shallower water offer
the best growing conditions for these types of plants
as sunlight can reach the pond bottom. Many times these plants will
begin on the bottom of the pond and can often grow long enough
where they may stick out of or float on top of the water. Some examples of common submerged plants are elodea and naiad. Elodea, the top picture,
has a thick green stem and dense leaves, and is one
of the most common plants in Pennsylvania ponds. It’s a beneficial plant
for habitat and wildlife. Naiad, the bottom picture,
has narrow, toothed leaves and is very brittle. It provides food for fish and water fowl. Emergent plants are those
that can be found on the banks or shallow areas of the
pond and grow in the water or right along the water’s edge. Cattails in the top
picture and burr-reed below are two very common
emergent aquatic plants that both do a good job of
helping to control erosion along bank areas and
limiting sediment runoff into the pond. Cattails are also able to
take up nutrients and metals from the water, acting as
a natural water filter. Floating aquatic plants
are those that float on the water’s surface with
their roots dangling below them. Many of these plants prefer
water that is very still. Duckweed, seen in the top
picture, is a very tiny floating plant that can grow
to look like a thick carpet covering an entire pond. It can be a great source
of food for water fowl. Water lily, pictured
below, is a floating plant having very large leaves that
can be nearly 12 inches wide. It provides an ideal habitat
for fish and aquatic insects. Algae is the final
category of aquatic plants and to many pond owners
the most troublesome. Algae can present itself in
several ways in the pond, either as the microscopic planktonic algae or as an actual leafy plant
that can be seen growing in the pond. Planktonic algae are the
base of a pond food chain and provide food for fish
and other aquatic life. This tiny algae can give
the water a brownish or greenish murky appearance
and can appear suddenly in a pond under ideal conditions
of nutrients and sunlight. This rapid appearance is
called an algae bloom. Filamentous algae, a dark green plant that resembles stringy hair,
is a very common problem in Pennsylvania ponds. This type of algae actually
begins growing on the bottom and then floats to the
surface, forming thick mats and even gas bubbles. Its slimy appearance is
aesthetically unpleasing to many pond owners, but it
is an important food source for small fish. Under some conditions
during summer months, algae can produce toxins
known as harmful algal blooms or HABs. These toxic blooms can produce
dangers to animals or people that might come in contact with the water. The look of a HAB can best
be described as looking like pea soup or paint spilled on the water. If you suspect a HAB in
your pond, it is best to avoid the water and have
the algae properly identified. Finally, some of the
plants that you might find in Pennsylvania ponds are
considered invasive species that out-compete our
native plants and require special attention to eliminate them. The emergent plant purple
loosestrife can choke out waterways and is identified
by its showy, purple flower. A plant commonly found
in small, self-contained water gardens, parrotfeather,
a floating plant, can cause problems when it
is accidentally introduced to larger, natural ponds. There are many more
types of aquatic plants common to Pennsylvania besides
the ones that were mentioned in this video. Extension can be a resource
for helping to identify plants in your pond. The website offers fact
sheets, online courses, and publications, and
extension educators can help with identification as well. If you are sending a digital picture to your local extension
educator to be identified, it’s best to take a close-up
picture of the plant in front of a light-colored background as well as a wide view of the
plant as it grows in the pond. We hope that this video is helpful to you. By learning to identify
the types of aquatic plants that are in your pond, it can
help you to better manage them and get the maximum enjoyment and benefit from your pond habitat.

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