A guide to aquatic plants

Identification & management

If you've spent any length of time at your favorite Minnesota lake, chances are you're no stranger to aquatic plants. Maybe you've cast into lily pads looking for bass, watched minnows dart to safety in plant beds, pulled in an anchor covered with green vegetation, or waded through a few plants while swimming.

Unfortunately, most people see aquatic plants as problems. They perceive lakes or lakeshores with lots of so-called "weeds" as messy and in need of cleaning. But what a cabin owner sees as a weedy mess is an essential part of a lake's or river's ecosystem. Without aquatic plants, lakes would have fewer aquatic insects, minnows, and other wildlife. If too many aquatic plants are removed from lakeshores, fish and wildlife populations and water clarity may suffer. Aquatic plants are an essential part of the natural community in most lakes.

Minnesota is home to about 150 species of aquatic plants, most of which are native species. When native plants interfere with boating or swimming some control may be desired. But what most native aquatic plants need is protection, not elimination, so they can continue to function as part of healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Some aquatic plants in Minnesota are not native and they may cause problems. Control of these species may be done to reduce interference with boating or swimming, to reduce the risk of spread of invasive species to un-infested water-bodies, or in some situations to attempt to produce ecological benefits such as increases in native plants. Learn more about permits to manage aquatic invasive plants.

The purpose of this guide is to help you:

  • understand the distribution of aquatic plants in lakes and their value to the lake community,
  • understand situations where control may be allowed,
  • understand the Minnesota DNR's Aquatic Plant Management Program, and
  • identify 25 common aquatic plants found in Minnesota including non-native, invasive species.

These webpages may be particularly useful to:

  • lakeshore property owners interested in knowing what's growing near their shoreline,
  • all lake users who want to know more about plants growing in lakes or who are on the lookout for problems such as nutrient additions and non-native, invasive plants, and
  • anglers hoping to improve their fishing.


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