• Don Yurewicz

Coontail (aka Hornwort)

Updated: Sep 14

This native plant has been identified by Maria Gross in Wiley Brook inlet (Zone 7).

Coontail collected in Wiley Brook inlet (Zone 7). Photo by Maria Gross.


Coontail is a is a free-floating submerged plant with no roots, however, it often lies across the bottom, giving the appearance of being rooted. Unlike rooted aquatic plants that draw their nutrients primarily from the sediments, hornworts draw nutrients directly from the water. The leaves are fork-divided and arranged in whorls of 5 to 12 leaves. Whorls of leaves are more closely spaced towards the end of branches giving the plant a raccoon tail appearance. The leaves are relatively stiff to the touch and typically hold their shape and position when pulled from the water, unlike many other plants with finely divided leaves.


Hornworts are tolerant to low light and cool water, hence, they are able remain active and photosynthesize during the winter and resume with vigor in the spring.


Look Alikes: May be confused with other plants that have finely divided leaves including fanwort, bladderworts, mermaid weed, water crowfoots, water marigold, and leafy water-milfoils


(Excerpted from Maine Field Guide to Invasive Aquatic Plants and their common native look alikes)

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