Aquatic Plants of NE Illinois

The book Aquatic Plants of Northeastern Illinois, 1998, was a welcome guide to submersed and floating plants. Now out print, author Linda Curtis brought the underwater aquatic jungle to our eyes, separating out the plants so we can enjoy the beautiful leafy patterns through her photos. Most of the photos were taken with her camera aimed several feet down into the clear water of Cedar Lake in Lake Villa, Illinois while leaning over her canoe in early morning light. Other images were specimens put into a water tank in morning sunlight.

The underwater topographic maps of lakes show that lake bottoms are not flat and uniform, although those are one of many features, from slopes, to spring holes.

The vegetation is sparser on the wind-wave-bashed shore, where only the plants like tape grass can “go with the flow”. Shallow basins or bays also have their own association of plants, while the deepest waters includes the large-leaf Potamogeton and long strand vertical plants like native Milfoil, of genus Myriophyllum. meaning many leaves, in this case whorls of leaves.

Of course some invasive plants like Eurasian Milfoil, don’t behave well in our native plant jungles, and clog the fish channels. Lake home owners know raking and ridding is an on-going shore-cleaning task, but helping the lake stay healthy is their goal. At first herb iciding was thought a solution, but the rotting biomass just converted into algae blooms.

As awareness grows that lakes are living systems, not just human playgrounds, the appreciation will grow as tom what lives there, what is dependent on what, including turtles and shore birds.

It’s a beautiful world, wet and dry.

Chicago Wilderness, 1999 review

copyright © 2014 Linda Curtis, botanist

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