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Sago Pondweed

Potamogeton pusillus

Sago pondweed has bead-like flowers that grow along a slender spike. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
Sago pondweed has bead-like flowers that grow along a slender spike. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Sago pondweed is a bay grass with bushy clusters of thread-like leaves that grow alternately along slender, branching stems. It grows in fresh to moderately brackish waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Long, thread-like leaves that spread out like a fan
  • Leaves taper to a point and grow to about 4 inches long
  • Leaves are arranged alternately along slender, branching stems
  • Bead-like flowers grow along a slender spike in early summer
  • May have a whitish pointed tip, or bayonet, in the sheath at the base of the leaves
  • Long, straight roots with thin rhizomes

Habitat:

  • Grows in fresh non-tidal to moderately brackish tidal waters
  • Found in silty or muddy sediments
  • Tolerates strong waves and currents better than most bay grasses because of its long roots and rhizomes
  • In fresher waters, tends to be less abundant in years with high rainfall and lower salinities

Range:

  • Found in the upper and middle Chesapeake Bay and in tidal and non-tidal tributaries throughout the Bay watershed

Predators:

  • Migratory waterfowl feed on the entire plant, particularly its nutrient-rich seeds and tubers

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Asexual reproduction, the more common reproduction method, takes place when tubers form, break off the plant and grow into new plants later in spring
  • Sexual reproduction takes places from June-August when flowers bloom and release pollen, which floats on the surface of the water. After fertilization, seeds form on the flower spike and fall into the water in autumn.

Other Facts:

  • One of the most important sources of food for waterfowl in North America
  • Can be confused with slender pondweed, horned pondweed and widgeon grass. Sago pondweed can be distinguished by its bushy clusters of leaves that grow alternately along the stem and by the white bayonets at the base of the leaves.

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: Sago Pondweed – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • PLANTS Database: Stuckenia pectinata – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Places:




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