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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - July 03, 2012

From: Castleton, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Water Gardens, Wildlife Gardens
Title: Plants for swan food
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr Smarty Pants, I have a farm in VA with a large pond or lake fenced in. I am rescuing a pair of swan and want to grow plants around the fence and pond that they can eat. Could you suggest anything. What about Gogi Berry Plants? Please help.

ANSWER:

Since our focus and expertise are with plants native to North America, we would not recommend Goji berry (Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense) since both or native to Asia.  Swans will eat a variety of aquatic plants and algae according to TheSwanSanctuary.org and AvianWeb.com.  They prefer eating in the water so submerged and emergent plants are what you are looking for.   They will also eat grasses and plants that grow on the damp shoreline.  You can do a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database to find aquatic plants native to Virginia by selecting "Virginia" from the Select State or Province option, "Herb" from Habit (general appearance) and "Wet - soil is saturated with water" from Soil moisture.  To find appropriate grasses, substitute "Grass/grass-like" for "Herb" in the search.  Here are some recommendations from that search, but you can also do the search yourself for other possibilities.

Nymphoides aquatica (Big floatingheart)

Lemna minor (Common duckweed)

Justicia americana (American water-willow)

Eriocaulon aquaticum (Common pipewort)

Hydrocotyle umbellata (Manyflower marshpennywort)

Najas guadalupensis (Common water nymph)

Pontederia cordata (Pickerelweed)

Potamogeton nodosus (Knotty pondweed)

Sagittaria latifolia (Broadleaf arrowhead)

Utricularia gibba (Bladderwort)

Vallisneria americana (American eelgrass)

Juncus effusus (Common rush)

Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)

Carex stipata (Owlfruit sedge)

Rhynchospora colorata (Starrush whitetop)

Spartina alterniflora (Saltmarsh cordgrass)

You can check on the AvianNet page for plants toxic to birds that you will want to avoid.

 

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