Emergent and Floating and Submersed Plants
Aquatic plants are adapted to living in environments where their roots may be submerged by water for an extended time. Some benefits of these plants include: creation of important habitat and food sources for wildlife; filtering or trapping soil; and nutrients during runoff and absorption of nutrients.
Emergent plants live near the water’s edge and along the banks of rivers. These vascular plants often have deep and dense roots that stabilize shallow soils at the water’s edge. They also provide important habitat for birds, insects, and other animals living near water.
Floating plants have leaves that float on the water surface. Their roots may be attached in the substrate or floating in the water column.
Submersed macrophytes are also rooted to the bottom but their leaves grow entirely underwater. Due to this they may grow to greater depths than emergent and floating plants, dependent on the water clarity. Submersed macrophytes create valuable habitat for fish and small invertebrates and food for ducks and aquatic mammals. When they become too abundant they may interfere with boat propellers, modify flows in moving water, and may cause large day to night swings in dissolved oxygen and pH.
- Phragmites- Unlike native plants like bulrushes, phragmites are more dense and sturdy, which prevents waterfowl from building nests in the plants or feeding off them. Phragmites also grow and expand quicker than native species in the area and spread over 10 feet every year. Their abundance in the Great Salt Lake displaces many migrating bird species and kills off many more species of native plants.
- Purple Loosestrife- Originally from Asia, this wetland plant was brought to the country in the 1800s. Like phragmites, purple loosestrife forms dense and impenetrable stands, again preventing wetland animals to use the plant as cover or food. The wetland plant invades marshes, wetlands, and lakeshores--replacing native plant species and in severe cases, endangering them.
- Eurasian Watermilfoil- This plant is a submersed macrophyte which was accidentally introduced in the 1940s. It is tolerant of many pollutants and can survive in a variety of water habitats. However, Eurasian Watermilfoil tends to prefer slow moving rivers and streams or lakes. It does not typically spread into pristine ecosystems that have a well established native plant base.