From Plant Press, Vol. 17, No. 4, October 2014.
Smithsonian botanist Mark Strong, following in the footsteps of early generations of D.C. and vicinity botanists, examines Scarlet Ammannia (Ammannia coccinea) and associated plants along the floor of the historic Alexandria Reservoir below the Masonic Temple in the City of Alexandria, Virginia, in August 2014. The reservoir was built in the 1850s and is one of the oldest public water reservoirs in the nation. Local botanist Nellie C. Knappen studied this site in the early 1920s and documented Scarlet Ammannia, among many other plants that persist there today.
Ammania coccinea is a nonshowy, uncommon, native wetland plant in the Loosestrife family (Lythraceae). Also known as Valley Redstem, it occurs in fresh marshes and on pond margins, and is one of those easily overlooked plants that plays an ecological role not readily apparent to us—it is useful as a source of food for waterfowl. During the fall and winter, the seed capsules are eaten by ducks such as Mallards, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teal.