Reservoirs, Lakes and Ponds

Chara | Chara

Chara L.: Muskgrass, stonewort, stinkweed. Characeae (stonewort family). Stoneworts. Found in slow-moving waters of lakes, ponds and streams; often in hard water. These algae grow submersed as upright, plant-like structures, 8 - 40 in (20 - 100 cm) tall, attached to the substrate by a root-like rhizoid (holdfast). The shoot has a sequence of whorls made up of 6 to 16 very slender linear structures that superficially resemble leaves or thin branches; these 'branchlets' are not further divided. Branchlets have short spines along their edges that help make the whole alga rough to the touch. An additional whorl of much shorter, downward-pointing fibers that resemble stipules may occur at the node. The branchlets may have small spherical reproductive bodies attached to them, but being algae, do not produce flowers. The whole structure often feels hard or stony due to the crust of lime (calcium carbonate) it can accumulate. Chara species contain sulfur compounds that produce a distinct garlic or skunky odor when the algae are crushed, unlike Ceratophyllum demersum or the other aquatic plants they resemble. They can grow densely enough to cover the bottom of a water body and crowd out other vegetation.