Dustin Thomason, Biologist, Ouachita Project Management Office, relates that fifty (50) Vallisneria cages
were installed in the fall of 2014 in the Denby Point area of Lake Ouachita by Mountain Pine High School EAST Lab students.
Native Aquatic plants are a beneficial component of reservoir
and stream ecosystems. They provide structure and improve habitat for fish
and other organisms, increase water quality and clarity, stabilize sediments
and protect shorelines from erosion. Some of the common native aquatic
plants in Arkansas are shown below.
Native Aquatic Plants of Arkansas
SOUTHERN NAIAD (Najas
guadalupensis (Sprengel) Magnus)
A submersed annual aquatic plant, southern
naiad is a slender, narrow-leaved plant. Tolerant of many kinds of aquatic
systems, southern naiad generally grows in shallow littoral zones. Leaves
are opposite and thin, generally less than an inch in length, growing on
long slender stems. The flowers are small, yet produce many viable seeds.
AMERICAN WATER WILLOW (Justicia americana)
Water-willow is a perennial that is common along stream and lake
margins. Water-willow grows to 3 feet tall and often forms dense colonies
that help stabilize shorelines. The stems do not usually branch and have
prominent whitish lines. The leaves are opposite, long and narrowly tapered
(up to inches 6 long and ½ inch wide) with smooth margins and a distinctive
whitish midvein. The leaves look very much like those of the willow tree.
Water-willow flowers from May through October. The flowers are on long
stems originating from the base of the leaves. Flowers are 5-petaled
orchid-like (3/4 inch diameter), white with purple/violet streaks on the
lower petals. Water-willow can spread from seeds and forms extensive
rhizomes by which it forms colonies and spreads rapidly. Submerged portions
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.
VALLISNERIA -TAPEGRASS, WILD CELERY (Vallisneria americana Michaux)
Eelgrass, tapegrass, water-celery, or wild celery are
all common names for Vallisneria.
Vallisneria is a rooted submerged plant
often found in flowing water. It has long, thin, ribbon-like leaves (1/2 –
3/4 inches wide) that are commonly 3 to 4 feet long and clustered.
vein pattern in the leaves of eelgrass is very distinctive and resembles
celery. Eelgrass has a vast rhizome system that allows it to form dense
colonies and usually excludes other submerged plants. This plant occurs in
lakes and beds of flowing water. Eelgrass seeds, roots and leaves are
consumed by ducks and other waterfowl, while its dense underwater structures
provides an excellent Habitat for invertebrates and fish.
A macroalgae, muskgrass is considered a pioneer species, forming
extensive underwater mats similar to vascular plants. The greygreen stems
provide habitat in ponds and lakes and have a distinctive odor, hence the
common name. The stiff, thin leaves are whorled around a long, slender stem,
staying low in the water column. Reproduction occurs through the orange
oogonia which are barely visible on the upper leaves.
WATER STARGRASS (Heteranthera
dubia (Jacq.) Small)
A submersed annual, water stargrass can grow
efficiently in a variety of habitats, water depths and sediment types.
Overwintering by rhizome provides an important food item for waterfowl and
habitat for fisheries. A slender, multi-branched stem grows from the buried
rhizome. Alternate leaves and a rounded stem can help distinguish from
flat-stem pondweed. Distinctive yellow, star-shaped flowers provides basis
for it’s common name.
COONTAIL (Ceratophyllum demersum L.)
submersed aquatic plant is common to quiet streams, ponds, lakes and
reservoirs. Generally rootless, mats of coontail can be found free floating
. The leaves are in whorls of 5-12, branched, up to 3/4 inch long and can be
abrasive to the touch. The entangled stems can reach several feet in length.
WHITE WATER LILY (Nymphaea odorata Aiton)
These perennial aquatic plants
produce large leaves and flowers from rhizomes. Leaves of white water lily
are circular and v-notched. Leaves are floating and generally reddish on the
underside. The flowers are showy white, fragrant and in high demand by the
aquatic nursery industry.
These aquatic plants are generally found in slow
or nonmoving shallow waters.
AMERICAN LOTUS (Nelumbo lutea (Willd.) Pers)
perennial aquatic plant, American lotus grows from rhizomes and seeds. Lotus
leaves are large, circular, peltate, either floating or emergent.
flowers are extremely large, showy, yellow in color and fragrant. Seeds
produced are viable and valuable as waterfowl food. Generally found in slow
to nonmoving waters.
ARROWHEAD (Sagittaria spp.)
emergent plants growing from a rhizome with large leaves. Leaf shape can
vary from blade to the broad lancelot form. Some underwater rosettes of
leaves can be produced. White prominent flowers are produced in whorls of
three and can be produced throughout the growing season. Arrowheads generate
underground corms or tubers which are highly desirable by waterfowl.
SPATTERDOCK (Nuphar luteum (Small) E.O. Beal)
A perennial, emergent aquatic
plant which produces large heartshaped leaves. The flowers are small and
yellow, partially opened, producing a viable seed. Spatterdock can be found
in slow to nonmoving water, up to 5 feet in depth.
An emergent, perennial shoreline plant with heart to lanceolate
shaped leaves and erect, showy purple flowers from a single rosette.
Pickerelweed grows from rhizomes as well as seeds. Prefers shallow and slow
or nonmoving waters.
BULRUSH (Scirpus validus Vahl.)
One of the most
valuable food sources for waterfowl and mammals. A shoreline plant that
grows in clusters, up to several feet in height. Rounded, spongy stems taper
at the top with a tuft of dangling flowers on spikelets which produces
numerous viable small seeds. Provides excellent shoreline stabilization and
spreads by underground rhizomes.
PONDWEED (Potamogeton sp. Poiret.)
floating-leaved perennial with stems that elongate from the stembase,
producing floating and submersed leaves. Submersed leaves are alternate,
broad-leafed but tapering, while the floating leaves are shiny, dark green,
and oblong. Fruiting spikes are produced singularly in the axils.
Harmful Non-native Aquatic Weeds in Arkansas
Aquatic weeds that have been introduced from other parts of the world
into Arkansas waters can create serious environmental, economic, and public
health problems. Because of their growth habits and their lack of natural
controls, they often create extensive mats of vegetation which block light
and gas exchange, degrade aquatic habitat, crowd out native plant
populations, and impede human uses.
WATERHYACINTH - South America (Eichhornia crassipes (Martius)
This floating plant has been called “the world’s worst weed”,
introduced into water gardens because of beautiful purple flowers. Waterhyacinth produces long free-floating dark roots which uptake all
required nutrients and release hydrogen ions, acidifying surrounding waters.
Numerous broad inflated leafs extend from the stalk, ranging in height from
a few inches to several feet. Although waterhyacinth can produce many viable
seeds, the main reproductive method is by daughter plants. These
interconnected parent to daughter plants form the dense floating mat which
can reduce dissolved oxygen levels and effectively block waterways.
EURASIAN WATERMILFOIL - Europe/Asia (Myriophyllum spicatum L.)
perennial aquatic plant can be found in 45 states. Stems are long and
flexible, generally red when actively growing, with whorled leaves (4)
around each node. The leaves are can be more concentrated closer to the
surface, with 14+ leaflets per leaf, appearing featherlike. The slender
flowering stem has the staminate upper and pistillate positioned lower,
producing many viable seeds per plant. Can reproduce asexually by stolons
and fragmentation, especially autofragmentation. Through formation of a
dense canopy, Eurasian watermilfoil can shade out native vegetation, impede
navigation, affect water quality and habitat.
HYDRILLA - Southeast Asia (Hydrilla verticillata (L.f.) Royle)
submersed perennial aquatic plant was introduced into the United States in
the 1960’s and has since spread to 13 states, including Arkansas. Hydrilla
is characterized by oblong whorled leaves (5) with serrated edges at each
node. Long stems branch as the plant elongates rapidly to the surface,
forming a dense canopy. Due to these growth strategies, hydrilla can shade
out desirable native vegetation, impede navigation, affect water quality and
habitat. In addition, hydrilla can reproduce sexually (seed) and asexually
with tubers, turions, stolons and fragments.
WATERLETTUCE - South America (Pistia stratiotes L.)
perennial plant forms a rosette of grey-green leaves about 4 to 8 inches
long with long roots extended into the surrounding waters. Intolerant of
cold temperatures, waterlettuce is limited to the more sub-tropical regions
in Arkansas. Reproduction is generally asexually through production of
daughter plants, forming large dense mats of free-floating plants. These
mats can affect habitat and transportation.
GIANT SALVINIA- South America (Salvinia molesta)
aquatic fern is larger than the common salvinia, with oblong floating leaves
½ to 1 ½ inch in length. Leaves frequently fold and compress into chains,
with white bristles found on the leaf surface. Underwater stalks contain
attached spore cases. Giant salvinia forms dense mats, spreading rapidly by
These floating mats reduce oxygen exchange and can negatively effect
water quality and habitat.
ALLIGATORWEED-South America (Alternanthera philoxeroides (Martius)
Aggressive, mat-forming perennial, emergent shoreline plant found
in habitats ranging from dry to wetland, lake shore and riverine. Spread can
occur from seed or plant fragments. Leaves are opposite, generally
lanceolate and about 4 inches long. Small, white flowers are produced on
short spikelets, flowering throughout the growing season. Dense mat growth
can impede navigation and displace native vegetation.
It is illegal to import, sell, purchase, transport,
propagate, possess, or release into public waters any of these harmful
exotic aquatic plants.
Please check boat
trailers and props when leaving a lake. Don’t transport harmful aquatic
For more information call Arkansas Aquatic Management society