Coontail is a very common aquatic plant in Pennsylvania ponds and lakes. It has whorls of stiff leaves that get more compact toward the end of the stem. The leaves are forked at each end. Coontail lacks true roots, so it may be very loosely anchored to the bottom or float freely. It can grow in deep water (>6 feet) and often stays green and continues to grow throughout the winter. Value and Concern to the Pond Coontail has tremendous value to the pond or lake because it provides food and habitat throughout the year. The dense stems are great habitat for insects and provide a source of food for fish and other wildlife. Waterfowl will feed directly on the plant. Coontail can grow to nuisance levels in ponds and lakes with excessive amounts of nutrients.
Overabundant growth is a symptom of excessive nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) in the pond water. These nutrients may come from barnyards, crop fields, septic systems, lawns, and golf courses. Control of coontail is best accomplished by reducing fertilizer applications near the pond, maintaining nearby septic systems, redirecting nutrient-rich runoff away from the pond, and maintaining vegetative buffer strips around the pond.
Coontail does not respond well to cutting, raking, or harvesting because it can reproduce from small plant fragments left behind.
Grass carp can be used to control coontail. Grass carp must be purchased from an approved hatchery after receiving a state permit. Consult the grass carp fact sheet available from your local PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) office or at http://extension.psu.edu/water/ponds.