Fresh non-tidal to moderately brackish tidal waters, in silty or muddy sediments
Found in the upper and middle Chesapeake Bay and in tidal and non-tidal tributaries throughout the Bay watershed.
Sago pondweed is made up of long, thread-like leaves that spread out like a fan. Leaves taper to a point and are arranged alternately along slender, branching stems. They grow to 4 inches. Bead-like flowers grow along a slender spike in early summer.
Sago pondweed may have a whitish pointed tip, or bayonet, in the sheath at the base of the leaves. Its long, straight roots have thin rhizomes.
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.
Did You Know?
- Sago pondweed is one of the most important sources of food for waterfowl in North America.
- Migratory waterfowl feed on the entire plant, particularly its nutrient-rich seeds and tubers.
- This grass tolerates strong waves and currents better than most underwater grass because of its long roots and rhizomes. In fresher waters, it tends to be less abundant in years with high rainfall and lower salinities.
- It 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 Maryland Sea Grant
- 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
- SAV Key: Sago Pondweed – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- PLANTS Database: Stuckenia pectinata – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service