What Is Elodea Plant?

Written by todd young
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What Is Elodea Plant?
Elodea can be found across the United States in bodies of freshwater. (pond image by Soja Andrzej from Fotolia.com)

Elodea is a long thin aquatic plant that stays completely submerged. The scientific name is Elodea canadensis. The elodea is a perennial plant, which means that it can survive for multiple seasons without having to be replanted or re-established. It is a native of the United States and can often be found in aquariums. Its natural habitats are areas such as rivers and ponds.

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Plant Structure

The leaves of elodea grow out from the plants stem, and the leaves are curled. The leaves grow in groups of three. The leaves are a dark green colour and maintain a thin appearance. The average size of the elodea leaf is 3/5 inch long and 1/5 inch wide. The flowers have white petals with a wax cover that allows them to float. The flower is the only part of the plant that is above the water.

Use of Elodea in the Environment

Elodea is not a food source for fish or other wildlife. Instead, it contributes to the ecosystem by providing shelter to the small invertebrates and micro-organisms that live in America's waterways. When the elodea dies, bacteria break it down. This provides food, called detritus, to the small invertebrate creatures in the water.

Special Properties of Elodea

Elodea is highly adapted to survive in an aquatic environment. Although the plant has a root system, which attaches to the bottom of the pond or river, this plant can also survive after it has been uprooted as a plant fragment that floats on the top of the water.

Problems with Elodea

Elodea is known as a water weed. It has been introduced into the waterways of Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The introduction of this plant can clog the waterways to boat traffic and many areas of the world consider elodea to be a problematic weed. Elodea can grow to over 9 feet tall. With such tall growth, even a plant well below the surface can disrupt boat traffic overhead. Elodea can also reduce the overall water flow of a channel due to its large size.

Similar plants

Similar, tall, thin aquatic plants that people confuse with elodea are hydrillia and egeria. The main difference between these plants is that hydrillia has five leaves from each whorl and egeria has four leaves from each whorl. Elodea only has three leaves on each whorl.

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