By Bob Lusk
Knowing the species of aquatic plants is a first step to properly managing them. Some plants are “good” while others are “bad.” Native aquatic plants, in moderation, are actually quite healthy in a pond environment. Some of those good plants include Potomogeton species, or pond weeds. This includes Naiad species, also.
Scientists suggest from 65-80 different species of pondweeds exist around the world, and half of those are found in the United States. Different species live in different regions of the country.
Here are a few valuable facts about pondweeds. They are the dominant group of plants which bear seeds. Not only do they provide important underwater cover for fish, but seeds feed wildlife, especially migratory waterfowl as ducks, geese, swans, and shorebirds.
In New England and Great Lakes, sago pondweed, curly leaf pondweed, American pondweed, leafy pondweed are predominant native species.
Some species have broad leaves, others have oval leaves. Some leaves look similar to thin strands of Bermuda grass. Bushy pondweed is that way. Some leaves float and lay on the surface; other species never make it to the top.
Pondweeds are home for lots of species of aquatic insects, snails, leeches and even tiny grass shrimp found in different regions of the country.
While sago pondweed is dominant in the North, its cousin, bushy pondweed dominates in the South.
Remember this about pondweeds (or any aquatic plants for that matter.) Plants native to your area are healthy to have in a pond. But, take your native plants and put them in a pond where they don’t ordinarily live and they become “exotic” plants. That puts them in the “bad” category.
As a pondmeister, learning what’s native to your area and limiting the spread of those plants to cover less than 15% of a pond is healthy. Invasive amounts of any plants become unhealthy.
Here’s the bottom line…you want a diverse community of native aquatic plants which are not invasive. Manage for that and your fish are happy, wildlife loves it and migrating waterfowl can make a living, too.