tape grass, eel grass, American wild celery
Species commonly cultivated
Vallisneria americana (Michx.) (and varieties) (America, Asia, Oceania, Caribbean)
V. nana R. Br. (northern Australia)
V. spiralis L. (and varieties) (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Oceania)
Annual or perennial, dioecious. Stem stoloniferous, compact or elongate. Leaves typically in a basal rosette or rarely alternate along elongate stem, sessile; strap-like, linear, highly elongate to less so, width variable, sometimes twisted, venation distinctly parallel; margin serrulate. Inflorescence axillary; spathe of two united bracts subtends flower(s); male flowers small, numerous; when spathe opens flower buds liberated and open at water surface; female flower solitary, on a pedicel that elongates until flower reaches water surface and opens. Sepals 2-3, large (female flowers); 3, unequal, reflexed (male flowers); petals rudimentary or absent. Dispersal by seed and runners.
still or running waters of rivers, streams, lakes, and artificial water bodies
The taxonomy of Vallisneria is highly problematic, resulting in numerous species being described and these names being widely distributed in the aquarium plant trade. Reliable identification of species is only possible by examining floral structures. Recent taxonomic consensus is that outside of Australia, there are two poorly defined species, V. americana and V. spiralis. Both species are now considered to contain numerous regional varieties: from the highly twisted narrow leaves of V. americana var. biwaensis (Miki) Lowden, to the very long and wide leaves (3 cm wide by >2 m long) of V. americana var. gigantea (Graebn.). Vallisneria caulescens F.M. Bailey & F. Muell. and V. triptera S.W.L. Jacobs & K.A. Frank are two closely related species from northern Australia that grow as stem plants, with leaves arranged alternately along the stems, rather than as compact, basal rosettes. Both species have recently been introduced to the aquarium trade.