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I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell?

Q: I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell?

Dan – W Jefferson, OH

A: Though it resembles a pond weed, chara—also called muskgrass or skunkweed—is actually a type of bottom-growing algae that can efficiently take over your pond or lake.

Can’t tell the difference between the two? Here are some tips to help identify and treat the chara.

IDing Chara

Pull out some of the plant in question and take a close look at it. Does it have these characteristics?

  • No Roots: Unlike pond weeds with traditional leaves and well-established root systems, chara is a gray-green branched multicellular algae that lacks flowers, true leaves and roots. Instead, it has six to 16 leaf-like branchlets that grow in spirals around the stem.
  • Distinct Odor: Next, smell it. Does it have a skunky, musty, garlicky-type smell? If so, it’s probably chara. Simply walking close to or around your pond will tell you right away if you have a chara problem, particularly late in the pond season.
  • Crunchy Texture: When you rub the plant between your fingers, what does it feel like? Chara has a crunchy or gritty-type texture that’s different than pond weeds.
  • Quickly Disintegrates: Finally, when you leave it on the dock, what happens to it after a few hours? If it almost disintegrates after a few hours, you’ve got chara.

Treating Chara

Once you determine it’s chara and not a pond weed, you’ll need to treat it with an algaecide rather than an herbicide. We prefer to use Pond Logic® Algae Defense® Algaecide, a fast-acting liquid formula, but use Cutrine®-Plus Granular as for chara growing in water deeper than 3 feet.

About two weeks after treating the chara, we suggest to use a Pond Rake to rake out as much as you can Doing this will help you gain control relatively quickly. (Important tip: Do not rake out chara before treating it because it will spread).

Pond Talk: What kinds of problems do you have with pond weeds or algae?

Eliminate Bottom Growing Chara - Cutrine®-Plus Granular

Properly Getting Rid of Chara (Algae) – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of chara, an erected form of algae.

Q: I have been treating for Algae/Chara about every two months throughout the summer although with fall approaching (and cooler temperatures) should I still be treating it or should I wait until spring? – Paul of Michigan

A: In general we suggest that you wait until water temperatures are above 50°F: Although the real answer is that you can treat Algae/Chara anytime it is actively growing. In most cases (in the Midwest) you can start treating algae as early as March or April and continue treatment through the month of October.

Treating for Algae/Chara: Chara, although it looks like a plant is actually just an erect from of Algae.

When treating for Chara and/or floating algae always take in to consideration the following:

  • Benefits of Chara: Chara unlike planktonic and floating algae is not always an eyesore and can benefit your pond in many ways such as: naturally filtering the water, providing fish habitat, and preventing more aggressive plant grow. Chara can be selectively treated in swimming and fishing areas in larger bodies of water.
  • Treatment Area: Only treat 1/3 of your pond at a time, waiting 7-10 days between treatments to minimize oxygen depletion caused by rotting vegetation.
  • What Product Works Best: In almost every case we would suggest using liquid Algae Defense® due to its cost and effectiveness. Although if your pond contains Trout, Koi or Goldfish you must test for hardness before any treatments. If the water hardness is not above 50ppm then Clipper™ should be used to reduce the chance of a fish kill.
  • The Best Time of Day For Treatment: Treat early on a calm sunny day; this will give you optimal conditions for your treatments to work.

Preventive Tips:

  • Removing and/or raking dead Algae and Chara after a treatment (wait 5-7 days) can help prevent it from coming back in the future by removing excess nutrients.
  • Always consider a proactive solution over a reactive one when possible consider aeration , natural bacteria and other alternatives for a long-term solution to your problems.

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