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Wild Celery

Vallisneria americana

Wild celery has long, flat, ribbon-like leaves. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
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Wild celery has long, flat, ribbon-like leaves. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Wild celery is a bay grass with long, ribbon-like leaves that have a light green stripe running down the center. It grows in fresh and slightly brackish waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Long, flat, ribbon-like leaves that can grow to nearly 5 feet long
  • Leaves have finely toothed edges; blunt, rounded tips; and a light green stripe running down the center
  • Leaves grow in a cluster from the base of the plant, which is white
  • In late summer, female plants have tiny, white flowers that grow at the end of a stalk that reaches the water’s surface

Habitat:

  • Grows in fresh non-tidal and fresh to slightly brackish tidal waters
  • Prefers coarse soil that is silty or sandy
  • More tolerant of murky, nutrient-rich waters and withstands waves better than other bay grasses

Range:

  • Found in the upper Chesapeake Bay
  • Also grows in tidal and non-tidal waterways such as streams, rivers and impoundments throughout the Bay watershed

Predators:

  • Waterfowl rely on wild celery’s buds and roots while migrating and during their winter stay in the Bay region

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Asexual reproduction takes place when buds form at the stem in late summer and grow into new plants in spring.
  • Sexual reproduction occurs in late summer, when male flowers release pollen and fertilize female flowers. This produces a long cylindrical seed pod.

Other Facts:

  • The scientific name for the canvasback, Aythya valisineria, comes from the first part of wild celery’s scientific name, Vallisneria
  • Can be confused with eelgrass. You can distinguish wild celery by the light green stripe running down the center of each leaf. Additionally, wild celery grows mostly in fresh water, while eelgrass only grows in the saltier waters of the middle to lower Bay.

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: Wild Celery – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • PLANTS Database: Vallisneria americana – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Places:




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