Aquatic Plants
ENV 311/EEB 320 - Rivers, Lakes, and Wetlands

Below are images of the aquatic plants seen in lab, or those we are likely to see
during field trips. During the term, learn to associate the type of plant with the

Unless specifically indicated, plant images are provided by the Information Office
of the University of Florida, IFAS, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (Gainesville).
Do not replicate these images without permission of UF. Details can be found at
their web site >>

Phylum Bryophyta* - Nonvascular Plants (mosses and liverworts)

Family Sphagnaceae* - Sphagnum spp. - sphagnum mosses

ID: feathery foliage, often growing in dense mats that readily absorbs water
Habitat: bogs, acid wetlands, fens, responsible for bog formation, acid foliage grows on itself
Notes: mosses are incredibly diverse and important in aquatic ecosystems

source of image: >>

Phylum Tracheophyta* - Vascular Plants

Family Equisetaceae* - Equisetum sp. - horsetails, scouring rush

ID: green stem with dominant ridges, no branches or leaves. Strobilus on top made of sproangia.
Habitat: disturbed wet areas.
Notes: stem contains silca. Ancestors were once the dominant plant of the carboniferous age.

Family Polypodiaceae - Onoclea sensibilis* - sensitive fern

ID: fruiting stalk looks like grapes, relatively simple diamond shaped frond
Habitat: streamsides, wet woods
Notes: no seeds but spores, ferns pre-date all other plants except horsetails, older than dinosaurs
Relatives: royal fern, wood fern, ostrich fern

Photo by Dan Skean, 1985. Source: >>

Family Lythraceae* - Lythrum salicaria - purple loosestrife

ID: stalks of purple flowers growing densely in almost pure meadows
Habitat: streamsides, lakeshores, marshes
Notes: extremely agressive invasive species, wiping out many other native riparian species, and is hard to control.
Relatives: waterwillow

Photo Credit: Paula McIntyre, Great Lakes Commission

Learn more about the control of this non-native species>>
and >>

Family Poaceae - Phragmites australis* - common reed

ID: blades ofrm a round sheath, wheat-like fruit
Habitat: streamsides, fens, marshes, other open wetlands
Notes: non-native, has become established around the world, many other aquatic/wetland genera in Michigan
Relatives: wild rice, wheat, barley, hops, corn

Family Potamogetonaceae - Potamogeton spp. - pondweed

ID: lots of variety between species, most are floating leaved, attached plants with opposite leaves and a pink flower in summer
Habitat: range from submerged to floating leaved to emergent

Explore the diversity of the genus Potamogeton:

Knotts' Aquatic Garden 

Wetland Plants of Wisconsin

Family Typhaceae* - Typha spp. - cattail

ID: long, flat fleshy leaves, seed head large and brown (like a hotdog on a skewer)
Habitat: usually everywhere except bogs
Notes: emergent, extremely prolific especially in areas of stable water level and high nutrient loads;
two main species - T. latifolia and T. angustifolia - may hybridize
(Photo on right:

Family Cyperaceae* - sedges

ID: flattened blades are often keeled, triangular at base
Habitat: fens, marshes, wetlands
Notes: hundreds of species in Michigan, often dominate groundcover in fens, marshes

Common genera : Carex, Cyperus
Relatives: Egyptian papyrus

source of photo: >>

Interesting "carnivorous" plants found in Michigan nutrient-poor bog substrates. These plants get their nutrients principally
from "captured" insects and other invertebrate animals.

Family Sarraceniaceae* - Sarracenea purpurea - pitcher plant

ID: leaves shaped into a pitcher-like shape in which water accumulates
Habitat: sphagnum bogs and tamarack swamps, also fens and boggy interdunal flats and pools, surviving in
both acid and alkaline habitats
Notes: invertebrates fall into accumulated, often cannot escape because of downward-pointed hairs on the
inside of the plant. Some insects and mites live in the water, including the larvae of the non-biting mosquito,
Wyeomyia smithii Coq. (Diptera: Culicidae), which only is found in these plants.

Sundew - Drosera rotundifolia - Droseraceae

ID: leaves fringed with gland-tipped tentacles
Habitat: on sphagnum hummocks in bogs, cedar and tamarack swamps, also fens and boggy interdunal
flats and pools, both acid and alkaline habitats
Notes: 3 species and one hybrid in Michigan.
Relatives: venus flytrap (Dioneae muscipula Ellis).

Woody plants associated with aquatic environments

Family Salicaceae* - Salix sp. - willow

ID: narrow, toothed leaves, single budscales, appressed buds, yellowish twigs
Habitat: open wet places, streamsides, lakeshores, often colonizing newly exposed ground
Notes: trees or shrubs with roots in water, aspirin made from bark, cotton-like seeds are common to family

(Photos:, springtime/xl/Salix.htm)

Family Betulaceae* - Alnus incana or rugosa - speckled alder

ID: alternate leaves, blunt ends, lenticels, cones and male catkins, gray branches
Habitat: near groundwater seeps, not found in bogs
Notes: very shade intolerant


Family Pinaceae - Larix laricina* - t amarack, larch

ID: pegs (short shoots) on twig
Habitat: moist soils = fens and bogs (peatlands)
Notes: only deciduous conifer in our area


Family Pinaceae - Picea mariana - black spruce

ID: pegs (short shoots) on twig
Habitat: moist soils = fens and bogs (peatlands)
Notes: only deciduous conifer in our area


Family Ericaceae* - Chamaedaphne calyculata - leatherleaf

ID: leatherly leaves with powdered undersides (tiny hairs), distinctive fruit
Habitat: very open, acid wetlands (bogs), forms dense knee-high thickets
Notes: member of an acidophilic family, limited to certain habitats, common in northern Michigan
Relatives: blueberry, huckleberry, wintergreen


Family Cornaceae* - Cornus spp. - dogwoods

ID: opposite, simple leaves with latex veins, red stems, green when young, lenticels
Habitat: streamsides, lakeshores, wetlands known for it propensity to form arching stolons
Notes: other red dogwood (C. amomum) has hairy twigs, and round lenticels in similar habitat
Relatives: flowering dogwood, bunchberry


Family Aceraceae* - Acer spp. - maples

ID: Opposite with usually palmately lobed leaves; distinctive "key" fruit shaped to distribute seeds in the wind
Habitat: Bottomlands, stream banks, floodplains

Notes: Acer negundo, Acer saccharinum, Acer rubrum are commonly associated with aquatic habitats