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Sago Pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus L.):
A Literature Review



Harold A. Kantrud

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
P.O. Box 2096
Jamestown, North Dakota 58402

Throughout the world, communities of submersed angiosperms are important feeding and rearing habitats for waterfowl, fish, and many other organisms. Some of the most important of these communities to waterfowl are dominated by sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus L.), which is unique among Potamogeton taxa in its nearly worldwide distribution and often great abundance in monotypic stands. The importance of sago to staging and migrant waterfowl is so great that, at least in North America, continental migration pathways of some species can be determined by the location of large water bodies dominated by the plant. Unfortunately, the abundance of sago (and other important waterfowl food plants) has declined drastically in many wetlands that have a history of substantial use by staging and migrant waterfowl. Therefore, efforts are currently under way in several areas of the United States to restore sago and other submersed macrophytes to their former abundance. The success of these endeavors will require a thorough knowledge of the life histories and environmental requirements of the plants involved.

There are several brief life histories of sago (Moore 1915; Yeo 1965; Stevenson and Confer 1978; Wallentinus 1979) and many reports on the effects of several environmental variables on the distribution and abundance of the plant in many parts of the world (e.g., Craner 1964; Aleem and Samaan 1969a,b; Kollman and Wali 1976; Anderson 1978; Howard-Williams and Liptrot 1980; Verhoeven 1980a,b; Van Vierssen and Verhoeven 1983; Van Wijk 1988). Sago is easily cultured in pure liquid media in the laboratory but is also a nuisance plant that clogs irrigation facilities and interferes with fishing and recreational boating. These attributes have resulted in much information on sago physiology and control methodology that can be useful to waterfowl managers. In addition, there are numerous references to use of sago by waterfowl and to methods whereby sago production can be increased to attract greater numbers of waterfowl.

There have been no recent attempts to assemble and synthesize the available information on sago, despite its nearly worldwide ecological importance. I have tried to assemble such information in this report so that sago can be properly protected and managed. Some material is included that is possibly of interest only to specialists. This report is largely based on material in English or with English summaries, but much foreign material, often not seen by me but cited by other authors, is included. Not included are many references to the simple occurrence of sago in various wetlands worldwide, early taxonomic studies, mostly foreign, of sago, and reports of tests of potential chemical control agents.

This resource is based on the following source (Northern Prairie Publication 0753):
Kantrud, Harold A.  1990.  Sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus L.): A 
     literature review.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fish and Wildlife
     Resource Publication 176.  89pp. 
This resource should be cited as:
Kantrud, Harold A.  1990.  Sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus L.): A 
     literature review.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fish and Wildlife
     Resource Publication 176.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
     (Version 16JUL97).



Classification and Distribution
Autoecological Classification

Development and Reproduction
Sexual Reproduction
Asexual Reproduction


Growth and Production
Chemical and Caloric Content


Wetland Type
Wetland Area and Fetch
Water Column
Bottom Substrate

Communities and Associated Biotic Limiting Factors
Organic Pollutants
Diseases and Parasites
Amphibian and Reptile


Propagation and Management

Control Methods
Physical and Biological

Research Needs


References A-L
References M-Z

Appendix A-- Sago Pondweed Biomasses and Probable Limiting Biomass
Appendix B-- Origins of Nutrient Enrichment in Wetlands Where Sago Pondweed Occurred
Appendix C-- Bottom Substrate Types Supporting Sago Pondweed Growth
Appendix D-- Use of Sago Pondweed as Food by Groups of Waterfowl

Table 1-- References and subject material about the development and reproduction of sago pondweed
Table 2-- Density and yield of sago pondweed propagules under various conditions
Table 3-- Elemental composition of aboveground green tissues of sago pondweed
Table 4-- General habitat features for sago pondweed occurrences arranged according to increasing observed tolerance of water depth
Table 5-- Salinities of sago-inhabited waters, arranged according to increasing maximum observed salt tolerance
Table 6-- Chemical content of natural waters inhabited by sago pondweed
Table 7-- Extractable compounds and elements in bottom sediments used by sago pondweed
Table 8-- Co-occurences of sago pondweed in same water body with other vascular submerged macrophytes and Chara in areas throughout the world

Figure-- Stages of growth for sago pondweed

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