Sunday, October 22, 2017

CLASPING-LEAF PONDWEED BENEFITS WILDLIFE

A native aquatic plant, the clasping-leaf pondweed, appears to be growing strong in Pentwater Lake. While the plant is beneficial to wildlife, it can become a nuisance to humans. Here’s how to identify it:
- Clasping-leaf pondweed has sinuous stems that emerge from a spreading rhizome.
- Oval or lance-shaped leaves clasp the stem.
- The base of each leaf is heart-shaped and covers ½ to ¾ of the stem circumference.
- Leaves have 13-21 veins, some more prominent than others.
- No floating leaves are produced.
- Fruiting stalks develop in the upper leaf axils.
- The cylindrical spikes are packed with fruit.
- Each olive-green fruit is plump and round with a prominent beak.

Clasping-leaf pondweed most closely resembles redhead pondweed or white-stem pondweed. Redhead pondweed can be distinguished by its smaller leaves that completely wrap the stem at their base. White-stem pondweed can be separated by the boat-shaped tips of the leaves. The foliage of curly-leaf pondweed may also resemble clasping-leaf, but the margins of curly-leaf are serrated.

Clasping-leaf pondweed can be found growing in a variety of sediment types in water up to 4 meters deep. It is tolerant of disturbance and is often found growing with coontail and small pondweed. It is native and common throughout Wisconsin. The range includes most of the United States.

Stems emerge in spring from over-wintering rhizomes. Flowers appear by early to midsummer, and fruits develop by mid-growing season. There may be limited reproduction from seed when conditions are favorable.

The fruit produced by clasping-leaf pondweed can be a locally important food source for a variety of ducks and geese, including g black duck, canvasback, redhead, ring-necked duck and green-winged teal. The plant may also be grazed by muskrat, deer, beaver and moose. Leaves and stem are colonized by invertebrates and offer foraging opportunities and cover for fish.

From Winter 1999-2000 PLA Newsletter

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