What are Macrophytes?

Let’s break the term macrophyte down into its parts to find its definition

Macro means it can be seen with the naked eye.

Phyte comes from the Greek phyton meaning plant.

Aquatic Vegetation

Aquatic Macrophytes

The term is most often used to describe the plants living in wetlands or in truly aquatic environments like lakes.  Why not just say plants you ask.  The reason biologists use this unique term often is that it includes the macroalgae like Chara and Nittella.  These two genera of algae are large and look like Coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) plants with “leaves” and branching stems.  Some large colonies of algae are often visible with the unaided eye, but these usually appear as clumps, or long green strings, these are not considered macrophytes.  Algae are technically not plants but group of organisms that are not necessarily closely related.

All the weeds, I mean aquatic plants, that you are familiar with are macrophytes.  Macrophytes can be plants that  have submergent, emergent, or floating-leaf growth forms.

Aquatic macrophytes are extremely important to healthy lake environments.  They provide a direct source of food for fish and wildlife.  They provide habitat for many species that we easily recognize and the plant also harbor dozens of species of invertebrates that feed larger fish and wildlife.

Macrophytes in lakes also reduce turbidity by holding in lake sediments, removing excess nutrients and reducing the abundance of phytoplankton (algae).  Without macrophyte lakes, especially shallow ones degrade into environment with “dirty” water and undesirable fish species.


This bay is inhabited by many aquatic macrophyte species (White Water Lily, Stiff Arrowhead, Invasive Cattails, and Flowering Rush), including those under the water.

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3 Responses to What are Macrophytes?

  1. Dieter says:

    Sorry the definiton of macroalgae are no macrophytes seems stupid to me. Characeen belong to the Streptophytes and so by definiton are plants, if you argue even on the evolutionary trait. Algae in the ocean are animals and no plants? Who is then doing the primary production by oxygenic photosynthesis? Higher plants (phytes) only, only seagrass? So according to ecophysiology, of course algae are plants, what else, and occupy the same niche/function in water as the green primary producers on dry land. Moreover, the so called higher plants developped from Zygnematophyceen thus algae. A reason that phycologist (which are also botanists) call the macroalgae also macrophytes. The name plant is not a clear definition, so I cannot agree to your defintion above.

  2. khalil says:

    what is the vegetation zone of macrophyte in lakes?

  3. Earica says:

    Macro actually means large or big in size 😉

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