Any plant that grows in water (salt water or freshwater) is called an aquatic plant. Some aquatic plants grow around water and they are called macrophytes or hydrophytes, since they float, submerge or emerge and others which grow in marshes are called helophytes because of their partial submergence in water. Macrophytes have been known to serve as substrate for invertebrates and cover for fishes in water. In other instances, they act as a form of sustenance for wildlife.

New Zealand is a home to several species of aquatic plants and most of which are native plants. Below are some the known aquatic species found in New Zealand:

  • Charophytes – Often referred to as Stoneworts, Charophytes are the macroalgae of the Nitella and genera Chara, and they are usually found in alkaline or hard waters containing a sizeable deposit of calcium which are sometimes found on the surface of plants. Due to the neutrality (pH 6-7) and slight acidity of the New Zealand waters, deposits of calcium are scarce to find on Charophytes. Meadows are formed by Charophytes beyond the lake beds down to about 40 metres in clear water, this occurs when they are in their natural environment. They provide shelter for budding fishes, aid in water condition and serve as a haven for bountiful collection of small fauna which is why they are more needed in natural waterbodies and even in ponds. Nearly all the six species of Nitella and the four species of Chara are profound natives of New Zealand and they are also cosmopolitan.
  • Bryophytes – Commonly found in muggy shaded places such a lake margins, underneath forest and onward rocky rivers, the Bryophytes comes in two species namely the liverworts and mosses and are found abundantly in New Zealand. Known to be largely dominant in forested waterbodies, Bryophytes are tolerant of low light conditions and they can grow too slowly which makes them perfect for specialized low light tanks where their dominance cannot be interfered with. Many biologists have concluded that when they are taken from wild sources and conserved in a low light tank, they fare better. Mosses and liverworts have been discovered in a recent discovery to be breeding inside clear water of glacial lakes and they tend to grow up to 70 metres. There are few aquatic liverworts when compared to the mosses, the two popular cosmopolitan liverworts include Riccia Fluitans (also called crystalwort) and Ricciocarpus natans of which are both New Zealand’s native aquatic plants.

Functions of Aquatic Plants


  • They are used in the removal of N and P from polluted water around constructed wetlands
  • They aid in the sedimentation process of suspended solids by decreasing their current velocities
  • With their soil stabilization structure, erosion is heavily prevented
  • They uptake dissolved nutrients (N and P) from water
  • They indirectly affect cycling of nutrients
  • They provide a habitat for fishes and aquatic invertebrates
  • They can be used for aesthetic and aquarium beautification




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