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Monday, September 20, 2010

A Curly Aquatic Mystery- Solved

spiral plant

Loretta is here for a few days. (Tomorrow I'll probably do some family pics), but today we went for a walk at Ludington State Park. As we were crossing the boardwalk at the edge of Lost Lake, I noticed these spiral submerged plants. The pictures are fuzzy and dark because the plant is completely under the water surface.

Now, this really bugs me, because this is my area of expertise, wetland plants. But I don't know what this is! And, I haven't been able to find it.
spiral plant

As you can see the stem is tightly spiraled, and the plant is growing completely underwater. The water here was about a foot deep. I went looking for cultivars that might have escaped, or new invasives that I haven't heard of. The only two tightly corkscrewed aquatic plants that I could find are Variegated Corkscrew Rush, Juncus effusus, "Frenzy," or Corkscrew Rush, Juncus decipiens. I couldn't find where either of these will grow completely submerged.
spiral plant

But then I realized that this plant is probably not a rush. Can you see the funny thickened end of each stalk? It's a straight extension of the curly part. I've never known any rush that grows like that.
spiral plant

Finally, look at what is on the end of each of those extensions, There is a little three-petaled flower. One of them is blooming underwater, and the other has just broken the surface. So this can't be a Juncus at all. They don't flower that way. This is some actual flowering plant.

I may have to email the park naturalist.

Update: 2011- This is Vallisneria spiralis, spiral vallis, or eelgrass. The leaves are tapelike, but the flower stalk grows in this tight spiral with the small three-petaled flower on the end.



11 comments:

Duxbury Ramblers said...

Juncus effusus f. spiralis (Corkscrew rush) sprang to mind as it grows here in wet areas and is a popular pond and garden plant, never seen anything like yours under water, looking forward to the ID. Arn't plants diverse and wonderful :)

rainfield61 said...

I'll go crazy if keep asking all these ID's.

You are great.

Ann said...

A mystery to solve and a very interesting one at that.

dondi045 said...

I find it very interesting! Hope you could identify the plant.

Joops said...

At the first picture, I thought that it is kind of notebook spring.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Shark, I've seen these spiraled plants in the gardens though not underwater. I don't know that it could be the same thing but I will check out the name this week when I'm out there. Great shot.

Sharkbytes said...

Carol- I'm really mystified with that flower.

rainfield- that's me... crazy

Ann, Dondi- maybe tomorrow I can email the park guy

Joops- it really looks like that, doesn't it. The second one is really curled tightly.

Jo- OK! Maybe you can find me a couple more choices.

matt.rowbotham@gmail.com said...

Alright, my plant friends say: Vallisneria americana

What ya think?

-m

Sharkbytes said...

Matt- the flowers are right, but I can't find any Vallisneria that are this curly. But I suspect this is on the right track. It's definitely a flowering plant, not a rush.

RNSANE said...

Detective Sharkbytes,

I know that you won't rest until you solve the mysetery!

Sharkbytes said...

Carmen- maybe we can be a forensic botantists.

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