It’s a warm afternoon on the Chesapeake Bay, with a light breeze and the clouds piled high, and Brooke Landry, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is in a skiff motoring toward Marshy Creek.
After weaving between channel markers, she finally reaches a cluster of floating islands of underwater grasses. It’s a dense jungle, with seedpods projecting from the surface like clusters of grapes. Hundreds of minnows dart between the branches and a Chesapeake stingray glides past.
Landry, chair of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s aquatic vegetation research workgroup, reaches down into the forest and pulls up a handful of plants.
“The one I’ve got in my hand right now is Elodea canadensis, Canadian waterweed,” she says, fingering a feathery shaft. “It’s a lovely, beautiful plant. The second one I managed to grab was redhead grass, Potamogeton perfoliatus. It’s different from a lot of grasses in the bay because it has these small, maybe one inch long leaves that grow alternately all the way up the stalk.”