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Water Stargrass

Heteranthera dubia

Water stargrass gets its name from its distinctive yellow star-like flowers, which bloom in summer. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
Water stargrass gets its name from its distinctive yellow star-like flowers, which bloom in summer. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Water stargrass is a bay grass with long, grass-like leaves and distinctive yellow, star-like flowers along freely branching stems. It grows in the fresh waters of the upper Chesapeake Bay and tributaries throughout the Bay watershed.

Appearance:

Water stargrass is made up of long, grass-like leaves that grow alternately along freely branching stems. The base of each leaf wraps around the stem. In summer, small, yellow, six-petaled flowers project above the water’s surface.

Habitat:

This grass is found in shallow tidal and non-tidal fresh waters. It usually grows in clay or chalky sediment but is sometimes found in streams with a gravel bottom.

Range:

Ranges from the upper Chesapeake Bay to freshwater rivers, streams, lakes and ponds throughout the Bay watershed. Water stargrass has been recorded in rivers such as the upper tidal Potomac River and the Bush, Elk, Magothy, Middle and Sassafras rivers in Maryland.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Asexual reproduction occurs when stem fragments break off and overwinter at the bottom before growing into a new plant in spring. Sexual reproduction takes place in summer when the plant flowers. Seeds form in late summer and autumn, then grow into new plants in the spring.

Other Facts:

  • Gets its name from its yellow flowers, which look like tiny stars floating above the water
  • Can grow on land if it washes ashore. The land-growing form has smaller leathery leaves and very few branches, but still produces the characteristic star-like flowers.

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: Water Stargrass – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • PLANTS Database: Heteranthera dubia – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

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