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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Ceratophyflum demersum L.)

The leaves of a coontail
Figure 10 - Leaves

HORNWORT FAMILY (Ceratophyllaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A submerged herb lacking true roots, but may be anchored by modified leaves. The leaves are in whorls of 5-12, and are stiff and dichotomously forked. Leaves have thread-like divisions with teeth along one side. The leaves are usually much more crowded toward the tip, thus the "coontail" appearance. There is great variability in the length and crowding of the leaves. The flowers are unisexual. Fruit is a nutlet. In flower from July to September.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Coontail is abundant in lakes, streams, marshes, ditches, and Mississippi River backwaters, in shallow water to depths of 18 feet. Coontail is tolerant of nutrient-rich water and fluctuating water levels. It can become a nuisance by forming thick masses that interfere with swimming, fishing and boating.

Most reproduction is by fragmentation of the stem. Pollination is by a unique method. The staminate flowers are released underwater and float to the surface. Pollen is then released and drifts downward through the water column where it may, by chance, land on a pistillate flower.

SOURCE: Fassett (1957); Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Martin et al. (1951); and Voss (1985).

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