Potamogeton crispus
Potamogeton crispus
(curly-leaf pondweed)
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Potamogeton crispus L.

Common name: curly-leaf pondweed

Synonyms and Other Names: [Curly, curly-leaved, crispy-leaved, crisped] pondweed

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Potamogeton crispus grows entirely as a submersed aquatic plant with no floating leaves.  Leaves are alternate, 4-10 cm in length and 5-10 mm wide.  Leaves are conspicuously toothed along leaf margins, sessile (attached directly to the stem), narrowly oblong, undulate (wavy like lasagna noodles) with a conspicuous mid-vein.  Leaf tips are obtuse (rounded or blunt), olive-green to reddish-brown, and somewhat translucent. Stems are flattened, channeled, with few branches.  Rhizomes are pale yellow or reddish, rooting at the nodes.  Small flowers (3 mm wide), with greenish-brown or greenish-red sepals form on a terminal spike above the waterline producing 3-4 achenes (fruits) per flower.

The unique seasonal phenology of P. crispus differentiates the species from other submersed aquatic plants found in North American waters.  In the colder regions of its range, turions (the primary reproductive propagule) break dormancy in the fall when water temperatures drop (Nichols and Shaw 1986). P. crispus survives the winter as whole, intact leafy plants (even under thick ice and snow cover) (Stuckey et al. 1978), then grow rapidly in early spring when water temperatures are still quite cool (10-15°C).  In early June plants flower, fruit, and form turions, and then plants senesce by mid-July (Tobiessen and Snow 1983) in most areas of its range.  The winter growth form of P. crispus is morphologically different from its spring or summer growth form, with leaves that are flattened, narrow, and blue-green in color with few stems and thin rhizomes (Tobiessen and Snow 1983).

Size: up to 5 meters in length (Holm et al. 1997)

Native Range: Eurasia, Africa, and Australia (Catling and Dobson 1985)

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Nonindigenous Occurrences: Potamogeton crispus L. was introduced into the United States in the mid 1800’s (Stuckey 1979). The earliest collection of the plant was recorded in 1841-1842 in Philadelphia with distribution limited to the northeastern portion of the United States and a small portion of California prior to 1900. Curly leaf pondweed encompassed the United States and most of Canada by 1978.

State occurrences:

  • Alabama: Cahaba (University of Alabama Biodiversity and Systematics 2007), Guntersville Lake, Mobile-Tensaw (Stuckey 1979), and Middle Alabama (Zolczynski and Shearer 1997) drainages, and DeKalb County (Haynes 1980)
  • Arizona: Little Colorado (Stuckey 1979), Lower Colorado, San Pedro-Wilcox, Verde (Arizona State University 2003), Lower Colorado-Lake Mead, Lower Gila, and Santa Cruz (University of Arizona Herbarium 2008) drainages
  • Arkansas: Benton County (Smith 1988)
  • California: All drainages except Black Rock Desert, North Lahontan, Oregon Closed Basins, and Walker (Consortium of California Herbaria 2014; Stuckey 1979)
  • Colorado: Evergreen Lake in South Platte drainage (Stuckey 1979), and Dinosaur National Park in the Green River in Upper Green drainage (Utah State University 2007)
  • Connecticut: Connecticut Coastal, Lower Connecticut, and Lower Hudson (University of Connecticut 2011) drainages
  • Delaware: Wilmington in Brandywine-Christina drainage (Stuckey 1979)
  • District of Columbia: Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 2015) drainage
  • Florida: Jackson Blue Spring in Chipola drainage (Stuckey 1979), and Lake Jesup in Upper St. Johns drainage (Wunderlin and Hansen 2007)
  • Georgia: Lake Seminole in Lower Flint (Stuckey 1979) and Spring (Gholson 1968) drainages, and Rock Eagle Lake in Upper Oconee drainage (University of Florida Herbarium 2016)
  • Idaho: Idaho Falls, St. Joe (Falter et al. 1974), Lower Bear (Tom Woolf, ID Dept. of Ag., pers. comm.), Middle Snake-Boise (New York Botanical Garden 2015), and Pend Oreille drainages, and Washington County (Rice 2008)
  • Illinois: All drainages (Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health 2015; Loyola University Chicago 2013; Stuckey 1979)
  • Indiana: All drainages (Aquatic Control, Inc. 2007; Aquatic Weed Control 2007; Central Hardwoods Invasive Plant Network 2010; IN DNR 1997; Miller 2016; Stuckey 1979)
  • Iowa: Apple-Plum (Loyola University Chicago 2013), Big Papillion-Mosquito, Upper Wapsipinicon (University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute 2008), Coon-Yellow (Beal and Monson 1954), Copperas-Duck (Stuckey 1979), and Little Sioux (Weisman 2016) drainages, and Monona County (McGregor and Barkley 1977)
  • Kansas: All drainages (Jason Goeckler and Jessica Howell, KS DWPT, pers. comm.; Stuckey 1979; University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute 2008)
  • Kentucky: Smokey Valley Lake of Carter Caves State Park in Little Scioto-Tygarts drainage, and Boone, Bracken, Gallatin, Henderson, and Madison Counties (Beal and Thieret 1986)
  • Louisiana: Eastern Louisiana Coastal, Lake Maurepas, Lower Mississippi-New Orleans drainages (Chabreck and Condrey 1979; Stuckey 1979)
  • Maine: West Pond in Saco drainage (Madsen et al. 2010)
  • Maryland: Lower Susquehanna (Mercurio et al. 1999), Potomac, and Upper Chesapeake (Stuckey 1979) drainages
  • Massachusetts: Connecticut Coastal (Hellquist 1972), Lower Connecticut, Massachusetts-Rhode Island Coastal (University of Connecticut 2011), and Merrimack (Acadia University 2012) drainages
  • Michigan: All drainages except Northeastern Lake Michigan and Southeastern Lake Superior (GLIFWC 2008; Michigan State University 2015; Stuckey 1979; University of Alabama Biodiversity and Systematics 2007; University of Connecticut 2011; Voss 1972)
  • Minnesota: Minnesota (Anderson 2016), Mississippi Headwaters, Rainy, Upper Red (Balgie et al. 2010), Northwestern Lake Superior, Upper Mississippi-Black-Root, Upper Mississippi-Crow-Rum (Stuckey 1979), St. Croix (GLIFWC 2008), and Upper Mississippi-Maquoketa-Plum (Utah State University 2007) drainages
  • Mississippi: Davis Lake of Tombigbee National Forest in Tibbee drainage (Dennis Riecke, MS DWFP, pers. comm.), and Trace State Park Lake in Town drainage (Madsen 2010)
  • Missouri: Big (Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health 2015), Current, Eleven Point, Lower Missouri, Upper Grand, Lower Missouri Blackwater (Missouri Botanical Garden 2007), Meramec, Spring (Stuckey 1979), and Peruque-Piasa (Loyola University Chicago 2013) drainages, and Pike County (Yatskievych 1999)
  • Montana: Marias, Upper Missouri (Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health 2015), Missouri Headwaters (Utah State University 2007), and Pend Oreille (Rice 2008) drainages, and Valley County (McGregor and Barkley 1977)
  • Nebraska: Hayes Center WMA lake shore of the Red Willow drainage (University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute 2008) and Bridgeport State Recreation Area in Middle North Platt-Scotts Bluff drainage, and Cass, Dodge, Pawnee, and Valley Counties (McGregor and Barkley 1977)
  • Nevada: Nevada - Carson Desert, Truckee (New York Botanical Garden 2015), Long-Ruby Valleys (Utah State University 2007), Potomac (Delwiche 2001), and Pyramid-Winnemucca Lakes (Stuckey 1979) drainages
  • New Hampshire: Black-Ottauquechee, Nashua (NH DES 2015), Middle Connecticut (IPANE 2001), Piscataqua-Salmon Falls, Upper Connecticut-Mascoma (Padgett and Crow 1993), and West (Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health 2015) drainages
  • New Jersey: New Jersey - Lower Delaware, Raritan (Stuckey 1979), and Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (Schuyler 1989) drainages
  • New Mexico: Isleta of Tena Indian Reservation in Rio Grande-Albuquerque drainage (Stuckey 1979)
  • New York: All drainages (iMapInvasives 2015; Scott Kishbaugh, NY DEC, pers. comm.; Michigan State University 2015; Mills et al. 1993; Stuckey 1979; Titus 1994; University of Connecticut 2011)
  • North Carolina: small stream at state fish hatchery near Marion in Upper Catawba drainage (Stuckey 1979), and Hertford, Mcdowell, and Wilkes (Radford et al.l 1968) Counties
  • North Dakota: Lake Sakakawea (North Dakota Game and Fish Department 2015), Lower Sheyenne (Stuckey 1979), Painted Woods-Square Butte (Associated Press 2008), and Willow (Jason Lee, ND GFD, pers. comm.) drainages
  • Ohio: All drainages (Central Hardwoods Invasive Plant Network 2010; Stuckey 1979)
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma - Blue (McGregor and Barkley 1977), Cache, Illinois, Lake Texoma, Little (Stuckey 1979), Lower Canadian-Deer, and Red-Washita (Nelson and Couch 1985) drainages, and Ottawa County (Correll and Correll 1975)
  • Oregon: Oregon - Deschutes, Lower Columbia (iMapInvasives 2012), Klamath, Middle Snake-Boise (Oregon State University 2013), Middle Columbia (Rice 2008), Northern Oregon Coastal (Carr 2009), Southern Oregon Coastal, and Willamette (Stuckey 1979) drainages
  • Pennsylvania: All drainages (Pennsylvania Flora Database. 2011; Stuckey 1979)
  • Rhode Island: North Smithfield in Blackstone drainage, and Silver Hook in Narragansett drainage (University of Connecticut 2011)
  • South Carolina: Cooper River and Goose Creek Reservoir in Cooper drainage (University of Connecticut 2011), and Lake Murray in Saluda drainage (Steve de Kozlowski, SC DNR, pers. comm.)
  • South Dakota: Burbank Lake (oxbow of Missouri River) in Lewis and Clark Lake drainage (Stuckey 1979), and Cold Brook Reservoir in Middle Cheyenne-Spring drainage (University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute 2008)
  • Tennessee: Lower Cumberland (Chester 1975), Lower Clinch, and Lower Cumberland-Sycamore drainages, and Anderson, Carter, Grundy, Hamilton, Hawkins, Knox, Lake, Marion, Obion, Roane, Stewart, and Sullivan Counties (Stuckey 1979)
  • Texas: Austin-Travis Lakes, Bois D'arc-Island (Stuckey 1979), Lower Colorado-Cummins (Utah State University 2007), Lower Frio, Lower Guadalupe (Rhandy Helton, TX PWD, pers. comm.), and San Marcos (Lemke 1989) drainages, and Dallas and Randall Counties (Odgen 1966)
  • Utah: Lower Bear-Malad (Utah State University 2007), Lower Weber (Bartodziej and Ludlow 1997), and Provo (New York Botanical Garden 2015) drainages
  • Vermont: Black-Ottauquechee (Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health 2015), Lake Champlain (Stuckey 1979), Mettawee River (Dritschilo 2010), West (University of Alabama Biodiversity and Systematics 2007), and Winooski River (University of Connecticut 2011) drainages
  • Virginia: Lower James (University of Florida Herbarium 2016), Lower Potomac (Orth et al. 1979), Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan (Stuckey 1979), and Upper Roanoke (Tarbell and Associates Inc 2007) drainages, and Gloucester, Surry, and Virginia Beach Counties (Harvill et al. 1977)
  • Washington: All drainages except Washington Coastal (Falter et al. 1974; McKern 1972; Parsons 1998; Parsons 2005; Rice 2008; Stuckey 1979; University of Washington Burke Museum 2007)
  • West Virginia: Greenbrier, Little Kanawha (Stuckey 1979), Upper Ohio-Shade, and Upper Ohio-Wheeling (Robynn Shannon, Fairmont State Univ., pers. comm.) drainages
  • Wisconsin: All drainages except Duck-Pensaukee, Lower Fox, and Trempealeau (GLIFWC 2008; Michigan State University 2015; Stuckey 1979;WI DNR 2008; WI DNR 2010)
  • Wyoming: Clear, New Fork, Pathfinder-Seminole Reservoirs (Bear 2012), Lower Wind, Upper Belle Fourche (Bear 2013), Shoshone (Bear 2014), and Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (Lichvar and Dorn 1982) drainages

Canada: Alta., B.C., Ont., Que., Sask.; No specimens have been seen from New Brunswick, but the species is to be expected there.

Ecology: Potamogeton crispus can survive and grow at very low light levels (less than 1% of the surface irradiance) and low water temperatures (1-4°C) (Stuckey et al. 1978; Tobiessen and Snow 1983).  As such, the plant thrives in “polluted waters” with low light penetration.  P. crispus is often found growing in the deepest vascular plant zone and, in waters with higher light penetration, can be found in 5-7 meter depth contours (Tobiessen and Snow 1983).  P. crispus survives under the ice throughout the winter, then exhibits rapid growth in the spring when water temperatures rise above 10°C at a growth rate of 8-10 cm/day (Tobiessen and Snow 1983), allows P. crispus to exploit the warming waters before other aquatic plants begin to grow.

Germination of seeds is not well understood, but not considered to be the primary means of reproduction (Catling and Dobson 1985; Godfrey and Wooten 1981; Nichols and Shaw 1986).

Although examination for P. crispus hybridization has been limited, two hybrids exist globally, and one hybrid is known to exist in North America.  The hybrid Potamogeton crispus x P. praelongus (= P. x undulatus Wolfgang ex Schultes & Schultes f.) has been confirmed from a northeastern Indiana lake (Alix and Scribailo 2006).  Potamogeton x cooperi (Fryer) Fryer, a hybrid between P. crispus and P. perfoliatus, was found in Europe (Kaplan and Fehrer 2004). Both P. crispus and P. perfoliatus are found in the Great Lakes, but P. x cooperi has yet to be discovered in North America.

In waters too turbid to support other submersed macrophytes, P. crispus may provide ecosystem benefits for fish and wildlife habitat and a source of macroinvertebrate food organisms.  Several species of dabbling ducks are known to eat P. crispus seeds and turions (Hunt and Lutz 1959).

Means of Introduction: The species has spread across much of the United States, presumably by migrating waterfowl, intentional planting for waterfowl and wildlife habitat, and possibly even as a contaminant in water used to transport fishes and fish eggs to hatcheries (Stuckey 1979). According to Balgie et al. (2010), P. crispus can also spread by plant fragments attached to boats and equipment that are not properly cleaned.

Status: Established in all of the continental United States and Ontario in Canada.

Impact of Introduction: Potamogeton crispus can outcompete native species for light and space early in the growing season; often reducing plant diversity and altering predator/prey relationship (ENSR International 2005; WI DNR 2012). P. crispus can provide habitat for aquatic life in the winter and early spring when native plants are not present (IL DNR 2005). Populations provide habitat for macroinvertbrates and fish, including spawning substrate (Catling and Dobson 1985; ENSR International 2005; GLC 2006; Lembi 2003). Aqueous extracts of P. crispus demonstrated antimicrobial activity against 17 different microorganisms including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus (Fareed et al. 2008).

Large infestations of P. crispus can impede water flow and cause stagnant water conditions (Catling and Dobson 1985; ENSR International 2005; Lui et al. 2010). A large amount of phosphorus is released during decomposition, which can lead to eutrophication and algal blooms (Benson et al. 2004; WI DNR 2012), and oxygen concentration in the water can drop significantly, impacting fish (IPANE 2013; Lui et al. 2010). P. crispus has been shown to remove organic contaminants such as dibutyl phthalate and phthalic acid esters (Chi and Cai 2012; Chi and Yang 2012), and inorganics such as cerium, cobalt, cesium, cadmium, and their isotopes (Hafez et al. 1992; Sivaci et al. 2008).

Surface mats of P. crispus can inhibit aquatic recreation, such as boating, fishing, and swimming, and reduce the aesthetic value of waterfront property (IL DNR 2009; Jensen 2009; WI DNR 2012). Expensive control programs are often needed to reduce the impacts on recreational activities and to maintain waterfront property values (IL DNR 2005). Waterfront property owners in Michigan spend an estimated $20 million annually to control aquatic invasive plants—primarily Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed (MSGCP 2007).

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Author: Thayer, D.D., I.A. Pfingsten, L. Cao, and L. Berent.

Revision Date: 3/18/2016

Citation Information:
Thayer, D.D., I.A. Pfingsten, L. Cao, and L. Berent., 2017, Potamogeton crispus L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=1134, Revision Date: 3/18/2016, Access Date: 8/16/2017

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [8/16/2017].

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