July 1, 2014: The Friends of Claytor Lake, alongside AEP, VDGIF, The Bass Federation, and the Claytor Lake State Park started our Native Vegetation Project. This project reintroduces native vegetation of water celery and water willow back to the lake that was choked off by the overwhelming growth of Hydrilla over the past few years. With the Hydrilla now at what appears to be a manageable level, it was the perfect time to plant vegetation that not only has a better chance of growth but is also less susceptible to the Hydrilla’s hostile takeover.
With some helpful advice and tips from Army Corp. of Engineers Lynde Dodd, FOCL purchased and brought in 628 water willow and 148 water celery plants from North Carolina along with specialty cages from New Jersey in order to complete the project and allow the vegetation to flourish while providing the shoreline of Claytor Lake to not only become more stabilized but also serve as needed aquatic habitat.
Water-willow is a perennial that is common along stream and lake margins. Water-willow grows to 3 feet tall and often forms dense colonies that help stabilize shorelines. The stems do not usually branch and have prominent whitish lines. The leaves are opposite, long and narrowly tapered (up to inches 6 long and ½ inch wide) with smooth margins and a distinctive whitish midvein. The leaves look very much like those of the willow tree. Water-willow flowers from May through October. The flowers are on long stems originating from the base of the leaves. Flowers are 5-petaled orchid-like (3/4 inch diameter), white with purple/violet streaks on the lower petals. Water-willow can spread from seeds and forms extensive rhizomes by which it forms colonies and spreads rapidly.
Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. Deer will browse the leaves while beaver, muskrat, and nutria will consume the rhizomes of water-willow.
Variegated Water Celery is a colorful, low spreading plant typically planted in water gardens partially submerged at the margins. The colorful, serrated leaflets of the Variegated Water Celery pops with beautiful pink tips! About mid summer, tiny white flowers in umbels bloom. Also known as the Flamingo Plant or Java Dropwort, it’s a popular favorite for Koi ponds since it makes a nutritious snack for hungry mouths. Some gardeners recommend rotating two planters – keeping one in the pond for koi and another kept away from koi and allowed to grow back – to maintain a constant supply on hand.
Though it is a lovely ornamental plant, the Variegated Water Celery is fast growing so take care in placement and expect plenty of spread. When placed properly, the Variegated Water Celery makes an excellent ground cover and a great choice for bog filters. Plants will grow fastest in wet soil under direct sun.
Close to 30 volunteers from The Friends of Claytor Lake, American Electric Power, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, The Bass Federation, and the Claytor Lake State Park were on hand for what turned out to be an entire day of planting.