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Aquatic Plant Identification

The purpose of this section is to help you identify the type of aquatic plants that may be growing in your lake or pond. There are four broad general categories; Submersed, floating, emergent, and algae with the general definition at the top of each category.

Keep in mind that not all aquatic plants are bad. Yes, some such as hydrilla, fall into the noxious weed category. In fact, hydrilla is a non-native or “exotic” weed species considered quite undesirable. Other plants shown here may be native plants and are only considered undesirable when they are growing out of control or in places they are not wanted. Examples could be cattails, coontail and water lilies. In fact, many native species are considered desirable, especially since they can provide many benefits such as wildlife shelter and food, fish and fish food organism cover, absorption of undesirable nutrients, soil stabilization and aesthetics. Some native aquatic plants may even be protected.

Before attempting to control or remove any aquatic plants, we suggest that you contact The Lake Doctors who can identify the “good guys” and “bad guys” and make recommendations that will help you with any problems and at the same time protect the aquatic environment of your valuable lake or pond.

Submersed Plants
These plants are completely underwater and are generally rooted in the bottom sediment. If flowers exist, they may extend above the surface of the water. This group includes many introduced or exotic species that grow prolifically and are considered to be problematic. Theses include hydrilla, Brazilian elodea, slender pondweed, curly-leaf pondweed, slender naiad and Eurasian watermilfoil.
Hydrilla Coontail Curly-leaf Pondweed
Slender Pondweed Naiad / Southern Naiad Egeria / Brazilian Elodea
Elodia Fanwort / Cabomba Eurasian Watermilfoil
Bladderwort Chara Variable-leaf Watermilfoil


Floating Plants
These plants either float freely on the surface, deriving their nutrients directly from the water or they have leaves that float on the surface and are rooted in the bottom sediment. Examples include duckweed, watermeal, azolla, water hyacinth, and water-lily.
Duckweed Watermeal Salvinia / Water Fern
Azolla / Mosquito Fern Variable-leaf / Pondweed American / Longleaf Pondweed
Frog's Bit Water Lettuce Water Hyacinth
Watershield Spatterdock Fragrant Water Lilly
Floating Hearts    

These plants have most or all of their vegetative and flowering parts above the surface of the water or on the shoreline. They grow in shallow areas and banks of lakes, ponds, rivers and ditches. This group is also referred to as shoreline and wetland plants. Generally rigid, these plants do not need water for support. Many are not considered truly aquatic but can survive submerged in water or in saturated soils for extended periods of time. Plants in this category include cattails, alligatorweed, torpedograss, smartweed, purple loosestrife, arrowhead and pickerelweed.
Tape Grass / Vallisneria Cattails Arrowhead
Elephant Ear / Wild Tarro Bog Moss Pickerelweed
Lizard's Tail Smartweed Alligatorweed
Primroses Water Primrose (Water) Pennywort / Dollar Weed
Parrot-feather Water Willow Maidencane
Spikerushes Bulrushes Rushes


The algae are single-celled or multi-celled plants that lack true supporting or conducting tissues. Many species are commonly called pond scum, moss, or slime. The algae are separated into several groups: plantonic algae is composed of single cells or small colonies and are usually free-floating or suspended in the water column giving a green, brown or even sometimes red color to the water. Filamentous algae is a multi-cellular algae whose cells are attached end to end to form long threads. Macrophytic algae, such as chara and nitella, are larger, multi-branched algae mimicking underwater weeds.
Planktonic Algae Filamentous Algae Lyngbya
Chara Euglena  


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