Dynamic plant life communities in Skaneateles Lake

Dynamic plant life communities in Skaneateles Lake

Robert G. Werner

In our surveys for milfoil patches this year we noticed that a shift seems to be occurring in the plant communities in Skaneateles Lake. While milfoil is declining precipitously as a result of our matting efforts, a native species seems to be expanding, filling in many of the places that milfoil used to occupy. A preliminary identification of this plant is that it is the clasping leaf pondweed (Potamogeton perfoliatus), a native, non-invasive plant. We have taken samples from 10-12 areas on both the east and west side of the lake and they all appear to be clasping leaf pondweed.

We are fortunate in that clasping leaf pondweed is not a threat to the lake like milfoil. Milfoil is a very aggressive plant that takes over an area and fills the space with dense heavy plant biomass, largely pushing out everything else. In contrast, clasping leaf pondweed is not aggressive, grows in relatively open stands and is much less likely to cause any serious problem to the lake. In fact, it was most likely a part of the original underwater plant community in the lake. It also offers shelter for young fish from predators and food for waterfowl. There is another positive benefit to this species in that the presence of clasping leaf pondweed in the locations where milfoil has been removed will inhibit the return of milfoil to those sites.

You can tell milfoil and clasping leaf pondweed apart quite easily.  Milfoil has a feathery leaf with small leaflets coming off of the midrib. The leaf looks like a green wet feather.

News from the SLA 8.13.15 Skan Press Milfoil photo

Clasping leaf pondweed has a flat, elongate, blade shaped leaf with a wavy form to it and a smooth edge to its leaf. The base of the leaf tends to wrap around the stem of the plant, thus the name.

News from the SLA 8.13.15 Skan Press Clasping Leaf Pondweed photo

While it can be risky to try to predict what Mother Nature will do, it seems that the lake is beginning to move toward a more natural condition with respect to its underwater plant community. Let’s hope so.

The SLA thanks the following individuals for their additional donations in support of the Milfoil Boat and the Lake Stewards (names with an asterisk are those whose annual memberships and additional donations or a matching donation were received in the last few months of 2014):

 Milfoil Boat Sponsors: Aug. 3 *Susan & Curt Andersson; Aug. 4 *Erica & Ken Byrne, *Anne & Robert McKenty; Aug. 5 *Patience Brewster & Holly Gregg; Aug. 6 *Judy & Phil Hider, *Amy & Christopher Neumann, *Mary Beth & William Gleason: Aug. 7 *Mr. & Mrs. Gardner McLean; Aug. 10 *Lorraine Gudas, * Ellen Brown & Carl Schramm; Aug. 11 * Linda & Russell Ruthig, * Patricai & Ralph Troisi, Dr. Robert Vitkus, Patricia & David Stone; Aug. 12 *Patience Brewster & Holly Gregg; Aug 13 & 14 *Ellen Brown & Carl Schramm

Steward Sponsors: July 30 * Charlene & Edward McGraw; July 31 – Aug. 9 Donations made in memory of Grace Parcells; Aug. 10 Suzanne & David Nagle; Aug. 11 The DuBois Family; Aug 12 Mary & Michael Hearn; Aug. 13 Judy & Doug Robertson

Source:  Skaneateles Press 8/12/2015