If You Care About Chara, Read This Post

Chara is a genus of algae that occurs in waters of high pH and is also known by the common name stonewort. Perhaps you have seen this light tan, pondweed-like, branching algae clogging the waters of calcareous ponds, streams, and fens (see photo). It’s brittle texture results from a covering of calcium carbonate precipitate and calcium salts in the cell walls. See more about this interesting plant in the Wikipedia entry and the web page of Dr. Kenneth Karol at the New York Botanical Garden.

Chara filling the water of a marsh in Monroe County. Photo Kim Smith.

Dr. Karol has been working with Characeae for several years now. He uses the two volume 1964 monograph of Chara by Wood and Imahori for identifications. Dr. Karol states that this is an excellent monograph but the broad species concepts and numerous subspecific taxa make it difficult to work with. Given that this is the most recent comprehensive work on Characeae, he has a long-term goal of revising the monograph and updating the keys. If you would like to help him with his work, he needs specimens! If you come across this unique algae in the field, collect a specimen (with the permission of the landowner) and send it to him at the following address:

Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics
2900 Southern Boulevard
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126 USA

Phone: 718-817-8615
email: kkarol@nybg.org

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