Freshwater Macrophytes

Freshwater macrophytes include macroscopic algae, bryophytes, vascular plants, and more. Most of these plants are rooted with a limited number floating freely. There are emergent macrophytes attached to the bottom of the river or lake by roots with leaves, stems, or flowers above the waters surface. They are usually found in water shallower than 1.5 meters. These are extremely productive organisms that utilize gas transfer with their leaves at the surface.

Some examples of emergent macrophytes are:



Floating leaf macrophytes are attached to the bottom of the lake or river by roots and have leaves that extend via petioles (underwater non-supportive stems) to float on the surface of the water. They occur in water 0.3-0.5 m in depth.

Some examples of floating leaf macrophytes are:



Submersed macrophytes are rooted in the bottom of the river or lake and both the leaves and stems are fully submerged. They usually occur at any depth that light can still reach for photosynthetic purposes. These provide important habitat and food sources.

Some examples of submersed macrophytes are:


Freely floating macrophytes are not rooted and may float freely on the surface of the water or be mainly submersed. These range from very small to very large. They often contain very invasive aquatic leaves.

Some examples of freely floating macrophytes are:





These are just some of the freshwater macrophytes, but these are the more common species that you can easily find out in the field.

The pictures in this post are from Dr. Huryn’s Freshwater Studies class from Fall 2013.

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