Getting to Know Our Aquatic Pests - Coontail

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Aquatic pest managers run into a number of different species that need some form of control. At first glance many of these species may appear to be beneficial and should not be controlled. However, this is not always the case, even with native species. Native species can spread uncontrollably in certain situations, choking out entire lakes and ponds.

One of these species is Coontail, Ceratophyllum demersum. Coontail is a submersed aquatic plant with coarse, bushy stems and no roots. The stiff leaves are fork-divided (generally forked once or twice), flattened, and arranged in whorls of 5 to 12 leaves. The leaf margins are finely serrated. In some cases the teeth are tipped with a small spine. Whorls of leaves are more closely spaced towards the end of branches giving the plant a raccoon tail appearance. Tiny flowers, followed by spiny fruits are produced in the leaf axils.

Coontail is native to much of North America and is widely considered a beneficial species. Under many circumstances, this aquatic plant is very beneficial. It provides valuable habitat for fish such as bass and bluegill. This plant protects smaller fish from predators while also providing a location for aquatic insects to live, resulting in an important food source. Coontail also helps with the clarity of water. The plant filters out sediments allowing a lake or pond to be very clear which helps with the production of dissolved oxygen in the water.

While Coontail is loved by fish, it is often despised by aquatic pest managers. Coontail can grow uncontrollably and can completely take over a lake or pond. Once this occurs, management is absolutely necessary. Grass carp can help control a Coontail population over time, but aquatic herbicide treatment will typically be required to control this plant in the short term. Again, this plant is a native and can be beneficial if managed properly, but you may find that treatment and other tools are necessary to do so. Turn to your aquatic pest managers to determine the best management options for your particular lake or pond.

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Lee Abernathy has 1 articles online

Lee Abernathy is an Environmental Scientist for Virginia Lake Management, offering lake management and pond management services for Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia.

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Getting to Know Our Aquatic Pests - Coontail

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This article was published on 2010/03/29