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Maryland; Bay Grasses: Wild Celery Fact Sheet

Maryland; Bay Grasses: Wild Celery Fact Sheet

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Maryland; Bay Grasses: Wild Celery Fact Sheet
Maryland; Bay Grasses: Wild Celery Fact Sheet

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Maryland Conservation Publications 101 on Dec 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/02/2013

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Wild Celery Fact Sheet  Bay Grasses in Classes
 31
 
Wild Celery Fact Sheet
Description:
Vallisneria americana
is often calledtapegrass, freshwater eelgrass, or wildcelery, even though it is not related toedible garden celery. It is a
perennial
plantand is found in fresh water and slightlybrackish water. It has
submerged
orfloating leaves that are ribbon-shaped andmay be as much as two meters long,depending on the depth of the water. Theleaves all grow in clusters (a
rosette
) fromthe base of the plant. The leaves have finely toothed (
serrulate
) edges, a blunt roundedtip and are approximately 2 cm wide. A light green stripe runs down the center of theleaves; this stripe is easier to see if the leaf is held up to the light and helps to identify theplant. The plants grow from nodes along the creeping underground
rhizome
. Each planthas finely branching (
fibrous
) roots.Wild celery can sometimes beconfused with eelgrass (
 Zosteramarina
). However, eelgrass has
alternately
arranged leaves which lack the light green stripe and prefers highsalinity water. Because wild celeryprefers freshwater or low salinitywater, the two species are usually notfound in the same location.
Distribution:
Vallisneria americana
is found mainlyin eastern North America, as far northas Nova Scotia, west to North Dakotaand south to the Gulf of Mexico. It hasrecently been reported as far west asArizona, New Mexico andWashington. It is also found in theMiddle East, Asia, the South Pacificand Central and South America. In theChesapeake Bay it is mainly found infreshwater, although it is sometimesfound in brackish water (up to 12-15ppt). It has been found in both movingand still water.
 
 
Wild Celery Fact Sheet  Bay Grasses in Classes
 32
 
Reproduction:
Wild celery is able to reproduce both sexually and asexually.
Sexual:
Wild celery is a
dioecious
plant
,
meaning that male and female flowers are onseparate plants.
 
Wild celery flowers from
 
July through September. The female, or
pistillate
, flower is located on a long flower stalk, called a
peduncle
, that grows longenough to allow the flower to reach the water’s surface. This is necessary for pollination.The female flowers have 3
sepals
and 3 white petals. The male, or
staminate
, flowers arecrowded together and enclosed in an egg-shaped
spathe
on a short peduncle at the baseof the plant. Each spathe consists of about 2,000 male flowers.When mature, the male flowers, which contain pollen, break free and float to the watersurface. Wind and water currents help spread the pollen where it may come into contactwith a female flower. Once fertilization is complete, the stalk of the female flower coilsup, pulling the developing fruit underwater. A long pod is produced that contains manysmall dark seeds. In late summer or early fall, some of these fruit pods break open andrelease a jelly-like substance containing the seeds. This mass settles to the bottom closeto the parent plant. Other fruit pods do not open until later when the plants have brokenfree and floated away. This helps scatter the seeds.
 
 
Wild Celery Fact Sheet  Bay Grasses in Classes
 33
 
Asexual:
In the late summer,
V.americana
forms winter buds whichremain dormant in the substrate overthe winter. In the spring, these budsbegin to grow longer and send out a
stolon
to the surface of the substrate,much like a strawberry plant sends out“runners”. A new rosette of ribbon-like leaves grows from this stolon.During the growing season, each plantcan send out as many as 20 rhizomesthat grow next to the parent plant. Inlate summer rosette production stopsand some rosettes form winter buds.After winter bud formation, theremaining stem tissue breaks free of the substrate and floats free until itdecomposes.
Importance:
Wild celery is one of the mostvaluable SAV species in theChesapeake Bay. It is importantbecause of its food value for manyspecies of waterfowl. In fact, thescientific name of the canvasback duck,
 Aythya valisineria
, shows thisduck’s dependence on
Vallisneriaamericana.
Canvasback ducks andother diving ducks depend on thewinter buds for food during migrationand over the winter. Wild celery isalso a source of food for a largenumber of aquatic
 
invertebrates andfishes, and for other birds andmammals that visit aquatic habitats.All parts of the plant may be eaten.In addition, the roots, rhizomes and stolons help reduce erosion and provide shelter for
benthic
 
algae
and invertebrates. The leaves also provide shelter, support and anincreased oxygen supply for aquatic animals.
V. americana
also acts as a nutrient bufferby using dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus for growth. This helps reduce algae bloomsby making the nutrients unavailable for the algae.

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