Ceratophyllym Demersum - Coontail

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Ceratophyllym demersum (also known as the Coontail) is an undersea rootless perennial plant with several branches with rigid bushy whorls of split dark green leaves. This underwater plant is often seen growing in lakes, streams, ponds and slow running waterways all over the country. There are several species of Coontail which have now made Florida their home.

When the water is nutrient rich, Coontail tends to form thick colonies anchored to each other or suspended near the surface. The leaves of the Coontail are about 2-4 cm long and are pronged or forked. The margins of the leaves may be serrated and the leaves do feel crunchy. The leaves are arranged in whorls with dense growth towards the stem tip. The stems of the Coontail are rather thin/fragile and do break very easily. The fan shaped leaves resemble a raccoon�s tail and this explains why the plant is often called Coontail. The leaves of the Coontail have very tiny projections (teeth like) which give the plant a rough texture.

Coontail grows in ponds, rivers, water ways, streams, lakes, lagoons and irrigation canals in most parts of the country. The plant is quite hardy and water resistant, tolerating high levels of turbidity and hardness.

The Coontail also produces submerged tiny flowers at the leaf bases. Both male and female flowers occur on the same plant but the different genders occupy different parts of the plant. Flowering is more commonly see throughout summer- from June to September.

The Coontail also produces small oval shaped fruits with 3 long spines. The fruit is quite tiny and feels hard to touch. The seeds of the fruit are most likely spreads by water and mammals that eat the fruit.
The Coontail lack roots and float freely below the surface. Sometimes the leaves may modify and anchor themselves to surrounding structures. Propagation of the Coontail is via seeds, plants or fragments that have broken off. The Coontail is vital for the water ecosystem. It is an important habitant for sea-life, fish, small aquatic mammals and a variety of aquatic insects. A number of waterfowls feed on the seeds and foliage. Some landscapers plant the Coontail in aquariums and swimming pools.

The plant is very tolerant of hard water and does not require a lot of sunlight to thrive. The Coontail is often confused with other water based plants like the musk grass, water weeds and milfoils.
The Coontail does have a few negatives. When the water has good nutrients, the plant can become dense and thick. Large growths of the Coontail can limit recreational use of the water. Along major water ways, Coontail growths have also restricted movement of navigation vessels and boats. Unlike many other water plants, the Coontail can grow in environments that are unsuitable. The plants can also crowd out other plants and destroy the water habitat.
When the growth is controlled, the Coontail invites a large diversity of aquatic life and can add structure and tugged natural beauty to the environment.

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Author: Tammy Sons

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