One of the ways that the Chesapeake Bay maintains its health is with submerged aquatic vegetation, which are grasses and other plants that grow under the water. These plants help counteract the effect of sediment and nutrient pollution from the surrounding communities.
How do the grasses help the health of the Bay?
They help sediment particles settle out of the water and stabilize the sediments that are already present on the bottom of the Bay. The plants also absorb nitrogen and phosphorous from the water. Many aquatic creatures rely on bay grasses as a source of food and habitat. The plants produce oxygen as a part of the photosynthesis process, and the also reduce the erosion of the shoreline by slowing down wave action.
This instructable will show you how to propagate two different species of grasses, one by seed germination and one by vegetative reproduction. The process is easy to manage and fun to do in a classroom with students to help them learn about the importance of the bay grasses as well as the reproduction of plants.
The whole growing process takes about 10 - 15 weeks before the plants are ready to be planted into restoration plant beds. Where the grasses are planted is important, your local outdoor education center or nature center can usually direct you to a scientist or group of scientists who have studied the area and established a restoration grass area to which your plants can be added to give them the best chance of success.
Step 1: Gather Your Seeds and Cuttings
I have helped propagate two different types of plants, Wild Celery Grass (Vallisneria americana) and Water Stargrass (Heteranthera dubia).
Wild Celery Grass reproduces sexually through seed production, it has male flowers and female flowers on separate plants. It produces long black seed pods reminiscent of vanilla pods with many tiny black seeds in late summer to early fall. When the seed pods are gathered keep them in water and keep them in the refrigerator for the winter until you are ready to plant in the spring.
Water Stargrass propagates sexually through seed production. It produces tiny yellow flowers that emerge above the water surface and are either self pollinated or wind pollinated. These seeds are tiny and difficult to collect, so fortunately it also easily reproduces asexually through cuttings. In the Bay the cuttings will overwinter in the sediment and begin to grown when the weather warms in the spring. These cuttings must be kept in water -- remember these are underwater grasses!
Step 2: Equipment Needed to Germinate and Grow Your Plants
Step 3: Assembling Your Planting Vessel
Step 4: Planting Your Seeds (Wild Celery)
Step 5: Planting Cuttings (Star Grass)
Step 6: Maintaining the Tank
Step 7: Preparing the Plants for Planting in the Bay
Step 8: Planting in the Bay!
Step 9: Enjoying a Healthier Bay With a Bit of Snorkeling (Optional)
Step 10: So What Is Submerged Aquatic Vegetation?
Here is a basic information on the bay grasses that grow in the Chesapeake Bay:
Each year the a survey of the grass population is completed and posted here:
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory has a wealth of information about the research they do related to the bay.