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Redhead Grass

Potamogeton perfoliatus

Redhead grass grows in fresh to moderately brackish tidal waters that have a slow current and a firm, muddy bottom. (Augustin Roche/Wikimedia Commons)
Redhead grass grows in fresh to moderately brackish tidal waters that have a slow current and a firm, muddy bottom. (Augustin Roche/Wikimedia Commons)

Redhead grass is a bay grass with flat, oval leaves that wrap around the base of straight, slender stems. It grows in fresh to moderately brackish tidal waters in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Straight, slender stems that are reddish or whitish
  • Flat, oval leaves with curled edges and visible veins
  • Leaves grow in an alternate or slightly opposite pattern
  • Base of the leaves wrap around the stem
  • Spikes of tiny flowers that poke above the water’s surface in early-mid summer
  • Extensive root and rhizome system

Habitat:

  • Grows in fresh to moderately brackish tidal waters that have a slow current and a firm, muddy bottom

Range:

  • Found in the upper to middle Chesapeake Bay and in many Maryland rivers
  • Not recently documented in Virginia

Predators:

  • Migratory waterfowl

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Reproduces sexually in early-mid summer when flowers are pollinated and the plants produce dark-colored fruits that contain seeds. The fruits eventually mature and sink to the bottom, releasing the seeds.
  • Reproduces asexually when buds that develop over the summer produce shoots the following spring

Other Facts:

  • Also known as clasping leaf pondweed
  • Probably named after the redhead, a duck that was once a common winter visitor to the Bay region
  • Young shoots of redhead grass can be confused with curly pondweed

Sources and Additional Information:

  • Underwater Grasses in Chesapeake Bay & Mid-Atlantic Coastal Waters by Peter W. Bergstrom, Robert F. Murphy, Michael D. Naylor, Ryan C. Davis and Justin T. Reel
  • Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
  • Chesapeake Bay: Nature of the Estuary, A Field Guide by Christopher P. White
  • Bay Grass Key: Redhead Grass – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • PLANTS Database: Potamogeton perfoliatus – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

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