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Plants & Trees

More than 2,700 types of plants grow throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, ranging from tiny, single-celled algae to tall, sturdy trees. Plants grow in nearly every habitat, from upland forests to the Bay's shoreline to our own backyards.

Plants can help indicate the health of the larger Bay ecosystem. For example, large algae blooms are often a sign of nutrient pollution in the water. Bay grasses—also called submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV—are sensitive to pollution but quick to respond to improved water quality, so their abundance is also a good indicator of Bay health.

Plants are critical to the Bay ecosystem because they help trap pollution, keep our air and water clean and provide habitat for countless animals, including fish, birds and mammals.

Click on the images below to learn about some of the plants and trees that grow in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

There are hundreds of flowering plants that are native to the Chesapeake Bay region. These flowers are technically known as herbaceous plants, meaning they die off at the end of the growing season.


Algae are simple plants lacking roots, stems, leaves and a vascular system. Like all other plants, algae go through photosynthesis and need sunlight to grow. Some algae species can be confused with bay grasses, because they look similar and grow in the same places.


At least 50 types of trees grow in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Some trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves each autumn and grow new ones in spring. Other trees are evergreen and do not lose their leaves.


Bay grasses—also known as submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV—are plants that grow in the shallow waters of the Bay, providing food and habitat for fish, crabs and waterfowl. More than 16 species of bay grasses grow in the Bay and its tributaries.


Wetland plants grow in damp, moist soils, whereas aquatic plants grow directly in water. Many are technically emergent plants, meaning they grow in standing water. Although native to wetlands and marshes, these plants are common in parks, yards and other areas.




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