The Engelmann’s Quillwort is a small, inconspicuous aquatic grass with long, thin leaves that can grow to be approximately 20 cm in length. The leaves are hollow and soft to the touch, and they range in colour from green to yellow. They are often found with other very similar looking species of Quillwort, and they can only be distinguished from other Quillworts through examination of the spores.
Habitat and Biology:
The Engelmann’s Quillwort is found throughout Eastern North America, but it is rare across its range. It is found sparsely throughout the eastern United States, from New York down to Florida, and west to Tennessee. In Canada, Endelmann’s Quillwort can only be found in The Land Between along the Severn River in Muskoka and Simcoe, and along the Gull River near West Guilford.
This species prefers shallow, flowing waters with a relatively neutral pH in areas ranging from full sunlight to partial shade. It grows near the shores where it is protected by waves and heavy currents. Endelmann’s Quillwort is often found in large, dense clusters and roots in layers of sandy substrates over clay, in partial shade or full sunlight. It is typically completely submerged, but can be found partially exposed in some areas later in the summer. Reproduction occurs in August through the mixing of spores from male and female plants that are dispersed by water currents. Engelmann’s Quillwort is commonly found growing with Eel-grass, Spiny Quillwort (with which it often hybridizes), Najad, Waterweed, Pondweeds and various species of Arrowhead.
Conservation and recovery strategies:
Research is currently underway to develop a better understanding of the habitat requirements of Engelmann's Quillwort, as well as to study the relationship between American and Canadian populations of the species. Ontario has come up with seven objectives for recovery, which include determining population size and distribution, ecological requirements, identifying and monitoring subpopulations, identifying and mitigating negative impacts, conservation and regulation, and establishing educational tools and outreach programs.
Why You Should Care:
- This species of Quillwort is only found in two locations in all of Canada, both of which are in The Land Between! As stewards for this land, it is our responsibility to do all that we can to protect and maintain this delicate species
- The presence of Engelmann's Quillwort is an indicator of a healthy and diverse aquatic habitat that is necessary for swimming and fishing
- Engelmann's Quillwort was first discovered in Canada along the Severn River in Muskoka in 1988
- Engelmann’s Quillwort frequently hybridizes with the Spiny Quillwort to form a sterile hybrid called Eaton’s Quillwort
- Quillworts, including Engelmann's Quillwort, are members of a group known as “fern allies”. Fern allies are similar to ferns in that they reproduce through the release of spores (as opposed to seeds like most other plants), but differ primarily in that they do not have the same, fan-like leaf structure characteristic of most ferns
Government of Ontario. 2014. Engelmann’s Quillwort. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/page/engelmanns-quillwort
Government of Ontario. 2017. Engelmann’s Quillwort Recovery Strategy. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/page/engelmanns-quillwort-recovery-strategy
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