Native to Chesapeake Bay
- Family - Hydrocharitaceae
- Distribution - Wild celery is found from the Atlantic
Coastal Plain states west to Wisconsin and Minnesota. It is primarily a
freshwater species, although it is occasionally found in brackish waters (up to
12-15 ppt). Wild celery seems to prefer coarse silty to sandy soil, and is
fairly tolerant of murky waters and high nutrient loading. It can tolerate wave
action better than some other bay grass species.
- Recognition - Long, flattened, ribbon-like leaves
arising from a cluster at the base of the plant are minutely serrate with
bluntly rounded tips. Leaves grow to 1.5 m (5 ft) in length and approximately 1
cm (1/3 in) width. A light green stripe runs down the center of the
- Ecological Significance - Wild celery is particularly valuable
as a food source for waterfowl (Korschgen and Green 1998). For example, the
scientific name for the canvasback duck (Aythya
valisineria) is derived from its association with wild celery. Canvasback
and other diving ducks such as scaups,
scoters and redhead, rely on the winter
buds and rootstocks of wild celery for food during migration and in their
wintering habitats (Korschgen and Green 1998).
- Similar Species - Wild celery can be confused with
eelgrass (Zostera marina). However, wild
celery has a light green stripe in the center of its leaves and its leaves are
generally broader than those of eelgrass. Because wild celery prefers lower
salinity and eelgrass higher salinity, the two species are not know to occur in
the same location although their salinity ranges overlap slightly.
- Reproduction - Sexual and asexual reproduction are both common.
Asexual reproduction occurs when winter buds, or turions, form at the meristem
of wild celery plants in late summer. These winter buds elongate in spring,
sending a stolon to the surface from which a new plant emerges. During the
growing season, each plant can send out rhizomes that grow adjacent to the parent
plant. Sexual reproduction occurs in late July to September. Wild celery is
dioecious and individual plants are either male or female. Individual pistillate
flowers have three sepals and three white petals, and occur in a tubular spathe
that grows to the water surface at the end of a long peduncle. Staminate (male)
flowers are crowded into an ovoid spathe borne on a short peduncle near the base
of the plant. Eventually the spathe of staminate flowers breaks free and floats
to the surface where it releases its flowers. Fertilization occurs when male
flowers float into contact with female flowers. When fertilization is complete
the peduncle of the pistillate flower coils up and fruit develops underwater.
Fertilization produces a long cylindrical pod containing small, dark seeds.
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