Saturday, September 14, 2013

Snail Lake - What Lies Beneath

Tessa, Natural Resources Intern, checks the water
depth at each survey point.

Photo by Maddy Jackson.
Over the past few weeks, District staff had the opportunity to spend some quality time checking out the underwater plant communities on several of the lakes in the Grass Lake area. Since Maddy Jackson sent us her wonderful photos of the ‘underwater forest’ on Snail Lake, we thought we would take the opportunity to let you know about some of the interesting plants we found during our Snail Lake survey.

One of the most abundant plants we found in Snail is wild celery, (Vallisneria americana) also known as eel grass. Wild celery is a rooted aquatic plant with tape-like leaves that undulate with the waves. In the late summer this plant sends a stalk spiraling up to water’s surface, eventually producing a small creamy flower. This slippery plant is an important wildlife food source – keep your eyes peeled for scattered ‘corkscrews’ coming up from a stand of green ribbons.

A customized grid helps us hit roughly the same survey points on a lake each time we go out.  On most of our lakes, we aim to hit at least 100 points outside of the deepest areas where we don't expect to find much vegetation (the light blue areas in the above map).

Northern water nymph (Najas flexilis) is another common Snail Lake plant that is important to wildlife – ducks will eat the entire plant. This water nymph is a bushy, short-leaved plant often found in sandy areas 3 feet or more deep.

We found several of the broad-leaved pondweeds (Potamogeton amplifolius, P. illinoensis & P. richardsonii) in deeper waters. These plants are commonly called ‘muskie cabbage’ or ‘bass weed’ and the name pretty much describes their importance; they are marvelous habitat for fish

Photos by Maddy Jackson.

One thing we were happy to not see this year - invasive aquatic plants. We found the native, Northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum), but not the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil. We did not find any curlyleaf pondweed either; but that plant is generally not present this late in the season.

Although not accounted for in our plant survey, we also spotted nine egrets all fishing the shallows on the north end of the lake. The overall report is a happy one; we found a diverse, healthy native submersed plant community thriving in a lovely lake!

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