Eelgrass is an underwater grass with long, ribbon-like leaves. It grows in the saltier waters of the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.
Eelgrass is made up of long, ribbon-like leaves. Leaves can grow to be 4 feet long, but vary in size depending on the plant’s location. A wide, tube-shaped sheath is at the base of each leaf. Eelgrass has thick, creeping rhizomes with many roots and nodes.
Cownose rays root through bottom sediments for their prey and destroy eelgrass beds in many areas.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Asexual reproduction takes place when the rhizome grows and winter buds called turions form. Sexual reproduction takes place in early summer, when female flowers are fertilized by drifting pollen and develop into seed-bearing shoots. The shoots eventually break off, float to the surface and release their seeds.
Did You Know?
Part of its scientific name, Zostera, means “belt” in Greek. This refers to the plant's ribbon-like appearance.
Migratory waterfowl such as brants, redheads, widgeons, black ducks and Canada geese feed on eelgrass, as do green turtles.
Eelgrass provides important foraging areas and habitat for blue crabs. Juveniles and molting adults hide from predators among eelgrass beds.
It can be confused with wild celery. You can distinguish eelgrass by its leaves, which are narrower than wild celery’s. Additionally, eelgrass only grows in the saltier waters of the middle to lower Bay, while wild celery grows mostly in fresh water.