Chara: A Lake Lover’s Friend
If you love lakes you should really get to know this large alga. Here is why. It is:
- A favorite waterfowl food (300,000 reproductive structures discovered in the stomach of a single duck),
- Valuable for fish habitat,
- A refuge for plankton and game fish fry,
- An excellent source of food for both large and small-mouth bass,
- A stabilizer of lake bottoms, keeping sediments from being riled up by intense wave action, thereby helping maintain water clarity, and it
- Prevents release of phosphorus from bottom muds, thereby reducing algal blooms in lakes.
Identifying this plant-like alga is easier than you might think. Chara:
- Prefers sandy or muddy bottoms,
- Has long skinny stems periodically interrupted by whorls with a crusty, rugged feel to them,
- Has a pungent skunky odor,
- Has a grayish green color, and its
- Height ranges from ankle to knee high.
By holding sediments in place, Chara helps maintain clear water in our lakes. By holding sediments in place, less phosphorus is released, therefore less blue-green algae is produced. That makes it less likely your lake takes on the “pea soup” look.
Hats off to Chara!
Interested in native aquatic plants? See the book Through the Looking Glass: A Field Guide to Aquatic Plants, published by the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership.