Emergent Vegetation

Emergent Plants are rooted plants found along the shoreline that stand above the surface of the water.  These are semi-terrestrial plants that can be either rooted in the water or land, but all can endure inundation for differing lengths of time.  These plants usually only become a nuisance if they inhibit enjoyment of the pond (fishing, etc.)

Alligator Weed: Alligator weed forms very dense stands or mats that make shoreline access difficult. It has hollow aquatic stems that can be single or branched. Leaves are opposite, long, elliptical or lance-shaped. Often roots develop at leaf nodes. Single flowers are small, white, and fragrant in clusters of 6 to 10 florets


Arrowhead: There are many species of arrowhead and all have arrowhead-shaped leaves with 3 points.  The leaves grow in clusters from the base and can be from less than a foot tall to over 4 feet.  Flowers are on separate stalks above the water in whorls of three and are usually white to light pink with three petals.

Bulrush: There are several species of bulrushes. Bulrushes are grass-like plants and can grow to 10 feet tall in shallow water or in moist soils.  Flowers usually occur just below the tip of the stem.

Cattail: There are several species of cattails and all have flat to slightly rounded leaves that twist slightly over their length and can grow to 5 or 10 feet in height. Flowers form a dense dark brown, cigar-shape at the end of spikes (called the catkin). Cattails can be partially submerged or in boggy areas with no permanently standing water.

Common Buttonbush: Buttonbush is a woody shrub that can be found above water or in water up to 4 feet deep. It has shiny dark-green spear-or egg-shaped pointed leaves.  Flowers of buttonbush are easily identified by their greenish-white tube flowers in dense ball-shaped clusters about 1 inch in diameter.  Seed heads are brown.

Creeping Water Primrose: Water primrose stands erect along the shoreline but also has long runners (up to 16 feet) that creep across wet soil or float out across the water surface.  Leaves range from lance-shaped to willow-like and are green to reddish depending on the species. The single flowers are yellow with 4 or 5 petals depending on the species. Flowers vary in size from 1 inch to 2 inches in diameter.

Giant Reed: The giant reed is a tall, cane-like grass that can grow to over 20 feet in height.  Leaves are elongate, 1-2 inches wide and a foot long. Flowers appear in August and September, are 2 feet long, plume like, and stand erect.

Horsetail: Horsetail is a very primitive plant with dark-green hollow, jointed or segmented stems with no true leaves. Stems may be singular or have whorls of branches. Only single stems produce the cone-shaped spore producing body at the tip.

Lizard's Tail: Lizard’s tail has a hairy erect stem with few or no branches and can grow up to 4 feet tall. Leaves are lace to heart-shaped, alternate.  Flowers are borne on a long hairy stem, consisting of a spike of many small whitish flowers that forms an arching, tail-like shape. As the greenish seeds develop, the “tail” takes on a wrinkled appearance and hence the common name. Lizard’s tail has a distinctive orange like-smell.

Sedges: Kentucky has over 200 species of sedges and they are difficult to identify without using detailed botanical keys. In general, sedges resemble grasses, grow in shallow water or moist soils, and can reach 4 feet in height. Sedges often grow in thick clusters or tussocks. Stems of sedges are usually triangular. Spikes occur on the upper sections of the plant and can be single or in groups.

Smartweed: Smartweed forms dense colonies in shallow water or moist soils and can grow to 3 feet tall.  Leaves are lance-shaped.  Flowers are on spikes at the end of stems that begin as greenish then turn whitish or light pink in color as they mature.

Spikerush: There are many species of spike rush but in general, they are small and look similar to other rushes, grasses, or sedges. Slender spike rush can grow completely underwater and appear as a submerged plant.

Water Willow: Water-willow is common along stream and lake margins.  It grows to 3 feet tall and often forms dense colonies that help stabilize shorelines.  The leaves are long and narrowly tapered with smooth margins and a distinctive whitish midvein.  The leaves look very much like those of the willow tree.  The flowers are on long stems originating from the base of the leaves. Flowers are 5-petaled, orchid-like (3/4 inch diameter), and white with purple/violet streaks on the lower petals.

Willow: Willows range from small bushes to large trees up to 70 feet tall. Leaves are bright green above and pale-green beneath, alternate, simple, lance-shaped, finely toothed and attached to the stem by a short petiole. Flowers are small, borne in a catkin spike and develop in early spring as leaves develop.


Water Stargrass: Water Stargrass is grass-like plant with thin branching dark-green stems and alternate leaves.  It can grow up to 6 feet long and can form floating colonies. Flowers rise above the surface and are bright yellow and star-shaped with 6 narrow petals.

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