Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.





Florida Plants: Native Submersed Plants
Submersed plants are large plants that grow primarily below the water's surface. In Florida, Submersed plants occur in virtually all Florida water bodies. In an individual water body, the availability of light, water clarity, water depth, and sediment stability affect where submersed plants will grow.

awl-leaf arrowhead plant found submersed along the florida coastlinesAwl-leaf (Sagittaria subulata)- Common in shallow waters near the coast this plant may bloom throughout the winter in spring fed streams of Florida. Awl-leaf  grows to a height of 8-16 inches, and produces tiny white flowers. It spreads by runners. This plant has basal leaves only. Each long narrow leaf is entire and sometimes become slightly wider toward the tip. They float but do not rise above the surface of the water. The awl-leaf arrowhead flowers have 3 Regular Parts. The white blooms first appear in mid summer and continue into mid fall. The flowers are usually just above the surface of the water.

coontail a common site in central florida lakesCoontail (Ceratophyllum demersum)- Coontail is a submersed with no roots, and so is free-floating. It is frequently found growing in ponds, lakes, streams, and sluggish waters from the peninsula to the central and western peninsula of Florida. There are three species of Ceratophyllum in Florida. Because its feathery leaves are arranged in whorls on the stem, this plant resembles a raccoon's tail. The fan-shaped leaves are best observed in the water. They look feathery because each leaf is divided into many narrow segments. Each leaf has several small teeth on the midribs. These tiny teeth give the plant a rough feel when pulled through the hand. Coontail's flowers are very small and rarely seen. The seeds and leaves of the coontail are occasionally eaten by waterfowl.


eelgrass, a submersed native plant found in Florida lakes and streamsEel Grass (Vallisneria americana)- Eel grass, sometimes called tape grass, is a submersed plant that spreads by runners and sometimes forms tall underwater meadows and is commonly found growing in lakes and streams nearly throughout Florida. Vallisneria americana blooms all year and occurs almost always (estimated probability 99%) under natural conditions in wetlands. Eel grass leaves arise in clusters from their roots. They are about one inch wide and can be several feet long. The leaves have rounded tips, and definite raised veins. Single white female flowers grow to the water surface on very long stalks. Eel grass fruit is a banana-like capsule having many tiny seeds.

Illionois pondweed, a common submersed plant in the Florida panhandleIllinois Pondweed (Potamogeton illinoensis)- Illinois pondweed is a common submersed plant. Illinois pondweed grows equally well in shallow ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida. It blooms from spring to fall. Illinois pondweed has two primary leaf shapes: the floating leaves are more-or-less elliptic in shape, and are much longer than they are wide; typically to eight inches long. The leaves are on long leaf stems or "petioles". The submersed leaves are about the same size, but are more lance-shaped. Submersed leaves have pointed tips and pointed bases. Illinois pondweed's greenish flowers are on spikes that are one to three inches long.

muskgrass as seen in a florida pondMuskgrass (Chara spp.)- Because of its size and complex structure, muskgrass may look like a higher plant, one that would produce flowers and seeds. However, it is actually a genus of multi-cellular macro-alga. Muskgrass grows attached to the bottoms of ponds, lakes, rivers, and ditches, sometimes forming underwater meadows. Muskgrass is named for its strong garlic-y odor. Once identified by smell, it will be remembered. This macro-alga has no true "leaves", only branches and branchlets. Muskgrass is relatively rough to the touch. During times of reproduction, dark, ball-like sporangia appear seed-like along the branchlets.

Southern Naiad, a submersed native florida plantSouthern Naiad (Najas guadalupensis)- There are about 40 species of naiads in the world and they are all submersed plants. Southern naiad may be found in springs, fresh and brackish lakes, ponds, and canals, sometimes forming mats. Five species of Najas occur in Florida. The stems of naiad species are very long and have many branches. All naiads have very narrow, inch-long leaves that have definite teeth on their margins. Southern naiad leaves are less than 1/16 inch wide. With a hand lens, very tiny teeth can be seen along the leaf margins. Naiad leaves are arranged oppositely on the stem, or sometimes in whorls of three. The leaves are deep green to purplish-green. The flowers are very small and inconspicuous.

water starworts a submersed florida native plantWater Starworts (Callitriche spp)- These are tiny flowering annual aquatics with 3 species scattered throughout Florida. They prefer to grow in quiet shallow water. All parts of the plants are eaten by ducks. Water-Starworts  are so called because of the shape of their floating apical rosettes. Water-Starworts  have slender Stems and long, thin submerged leaves which expand  when they reach the surface. The submerged leaves are Characterized by the notched ends. Water-Starworts  are extremely polymorphic, taking on different leaf shapes in different environmental conditions.
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