|Florida Nature: Aquatic Grasses|
Like the name implies, aquatic grasses are grassy plants than grow in
water. Some grow completely submerges in water, while other have their
roots under water and the top of the plant came be seen above the water
There are many native aquatic grasses, sedges and rushes in Florida.
Among Florida's native giant grasses are sugarcane plume grass and giant
foxtail. Shorter grasses, such as maidencane and knot-grass, grow in
shallow marshes and lake margins and are extremely valuable to Florida's
fisheries. Among the sedges are sawgrass (though this, the dominant
plant in the Everglades, resembles a grass and is called "sawgrass",
it's not a grass), and star-rush. Then there are the bulrushes and the
true rushes of Florida, such as soft rush.
Sugarcane Plume Grass (Saccharum giganteum)- Saccharum giganteum is commonly found growing in flatwoods, marshes, coastal swales, cypress ponds and lake shores throughout Florida. This large grass is a native, believed to have been a dominant grassland plant in the Southeast U.S. before humans arrived. It may be confused with several other wetland grasses, including several other plume grasses in Florida. Unlike the others, when mature, sugarcane plume grass has a large and conspicuous wooly plume-like inflorescence. Different stages of inflorescence growth look different from one another. Sugarcane plume grass stem's are reed like, growing up to 12 feet tall forming basal clumps. The leaf blades are long, and flat, up to 3/4 in. wide, and having a collar with fringe hairs. On large plants the plume is pink becoming whitish, and dense, growing to 18 inches long and 5 inches wide.
Giant foxtail (Setaria magna)- Giant Foxtail is frequently found growing in swamps and wet disturbed sites from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida. Giant Foxtail blooms year round and occurs almost always under natural conditions in wetlands. The native giant foxtail is much larger than its cousin, knotroot foxtail. It might first be noticed as a large spike or "foxtail" on top of a very large grass, growing in a deep ditch. Giant foxtail produces large seeds which are valuable wildlife food.
Maidencane (Panicum hemitomon)- The valuable and common native maidencane can form large stands in the water or even on dry banks. It may be confused with torpedo grass, para grass, cupscale grass or blue maidencane. Maidencane provides food, protection and nesting materials for wildlife. Maidencane is a grass with stems growing to 6 feet long, and has narrow, erect leaf blades that are flat or folded, wide with sizes up to 1 inch wide and 12 inches. long, Maidencane has stalked, green flowers that grow to 1/8 inch long, and are pressed against it's branches.
Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense)- The aptly named saw-grass is a large sedge, and is the dominant plant of the Everglades. It also occurs throughout the southeastern U.S. growing in fresh- and brackish-water wetlands where it provides food and shelter to water birds and other animals. Two species of Cladium exist in Florida. The sawgrass stems are hollow, and grow 4-10 feet. tall, Sawgrass leaf blades are large, stiff, from the base, and relatively narrow, growing up to 3/4 inches wide and more than 3 feet long. It's margins and underside midribs have small sharp saw teeth, giving the sawgrass plant it's name. Sawgrass spikelets are a light reddish brown nutlet in a tiny wrinkled ovoid.
Star-Rush (Dichromena species)- Star-rush is an immersed plant, and is also known as "white-top sedge". This conspicuous plant may be found growing in wet open areas, flatwoods, depressions and ditches. This Dichromena species is the only one of its kind in Florida, a variation of Rhynchospora colorata. Star-rush has extensive rhizomes and can cover a substantial area. It is the only sedge-like plant that has 3 to 10 white, pointed "leaves" at the top of the plant. The "leaves" of the star-rush are actually large bracts that surround the less-conspicuous inflorescence. The bracts are white at the base, becoming green at the tips. The inflorescence of star-rush is a head-like cluster of whitish spikelets. Its real leaves arise from the base of the plant
Soft Rush (Juncus effusus)- One of the most common species of Juncus, the native soft rush may be found as a single clump, as a colony of clumps or as a colony of single stems several feet tall, in water or on "dry" ground. It may be found in both freshwater and saltwater wet areas. Soft rush provides food and nesting to birds and other wildlife. Twenty-one species of Juncus occurs in Florida. Soft rush is a true rush. Its pale-green stems are erect and two to five feet tall. Stems are cylindrical and filled with pithy pith. Soft rush has no leaves. Leafy reddish sheaths wrap the stems at the bottom of the plant. The inflorescence of soft rush appears to be coming out of the side of the stem. The inflorescence is open and branched. Each branch has 30-100 small flowers, each greenish-brown flower on its own stalk. Above the inflorescence is a "continuation" of the pointed stem, this being a stiff, rolled and pointed bract, usually brown or grayish when mature.
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