What is Chara by Kelly Duffie
Chara is a commonly occurring genus of a higher aquatic algae, with over 30 different species found throughout regions of the U.S.
Although Chara resembles a “plant” to the casual observer, as an algae, it lacks the vascular system and root structures that most aquatic plants possess. During early stages of development, Chara is usually pale green and relatively smooth in texture. Upon maturity, Chara’s color normally transitions to a dark green. However, it often has a mottled, greenish-gray color in association with the formation of calcareous deposits, which also produce a very course texture to the touch, particularly within the mineral-rich waters that Chara prefers.
Chara is frequently confused with a common aquatic plant known as coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), even though the two species differ in many physical characteristics. While neither species possesses any root structures, Chara is readily distinguished from coontail by inspecting the branchlets that radiate in whorls around the main stalks of both organisms. Chara’s branchlets are always straight, while the branchlets (true leaves) of coontail display a two-pronged fork – much like that of a snake’s tongue (see comparison photos). Chara also exhibits a unique and very noticeable musky aroma when compressed; a feature that earns it the nickname “skunk weed.”
While all forms of algae and plants may play a role in maintaining healthy fisheries, excessive growths often interfere with aesthetics and recreational activities in lakes and ponds, such as fishing, boating and swimming, and can also negatively impact the use of infested water-impoundments for irrigation and potable water purposes.
Kelly Duffie is a 30-plus year veteran of the aquatic vegetation management industry, having served multiple times as the president of the Texas Aquatic Plant Management Society. He provides product and technical assistance to Helena’s aquatic customers from his base in Houston, Texas.