Occurrence, Composition and Formation of Ruppia, Widgeon Grass, balls in Saskatchewan Lakes


  • Randy W. Olson W. P. Fraser Herbarium, University of Saskatchewan, 51 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A8
  • Josef K. Schmutz Centre for Studies in Agriculture, Law and Environment, University of Saskatchewan, 51 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A8
  • Theodore Hammer Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E2




Ruppia maritima, Widgeon Grass, plant balls, saline lake, Saskatchewan


Widgeon Grass (Ruppia maritima) is an aquatic vascular plant (Ruppiaceae) which has been the source for rare balls of plant material found at the shores of lakes on four continents. In North America, the lakes involved were in North Dakota, Oregon, and now northern and southern Saskatchewan. The formation of the balls has not been observed in nature, but similar balls have been produced in other studies with Posidonia or Turtle Grass (Hydrocharitaceae) fibers under the wavelike action in a washing machine. Our samples are from a saline lake in southern Saskatchewan (49°N), and an over 40-year-old sample from an unknown lake north of the boreal transition zone (52°N). Comparisons of the plant material with herbarium specimens confirm that the balls are almost entirely comprised of Ruppia maritima, with minor items including invertebrate animal parts, sand pebbles and feathers. The context in which the material was found is consistent with the proposition that they are formed by Ruppia inflorescences breaking apart, drifting to near shore due to wind and being rolled into balls by wave action.