Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) is well known for their work assessing Minnesota's prairies and forests, but did you know that they also study the 'hidden forests' that occur underwater in our lakes and rivers? Recently, MBS Plant Survey Supervisor, Hannah Texler, provided an update about the aquatic plant team's latest endeavors!
"Many Minnesotans may not think about aquatic plants unless they are wrapped around their boat propeller, but these plants provide valuable and essential ecological services to our lakes and rivers. They stabilize sediments, purify water and provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife. The types of plants present in a lake can even provide clues to the overall lake water quality and habitat. Courtney Millaway, MBS' new Aquatic Botanist, has recently begun working with biologists in DNR's Lake Habitat Program to assess these under-studied aquatic plant communities and survey for rare aquatic plants in MN.
Several aquatic plants have been designated as rare in MN and their populations are threatened if lake habitat is degraded. An example is the endangered species Purple-flowered Bladderwort (Utricularia purpurea). It is an underwater plant with carnivorous capabilities that can be easily overlooked - until it flowers! As its name implies, it produces small purple flowers that are held above the water on slender stalks. While this species is more common in Eastern U.S., it has been found in only a few MN lakes. Courtney has recently been involved in studies to learn more about this plant and the lake types it inhabits. Reports from past aquatic plant surveys along with other information about lakes can be found on the DNR's Lakefinder site."