Last Tuesday, April 25, volunteers convened at Pah Wah Point in Orleans to scope out the eelgrass beds and learn basics for identifying eelgrass. The group brought viewing tubes to get clear visuals of the eelgrass up close. To the stewards' surprise, picking out the vibrant green and yellow reproductive shoots was much easier than expected. In a sea of dark green and brown, slivers of luminescence peak out; these are the reproductive shoots. Looking closely, stewards could identify the seeds themselves, like small grains of rice stacked one on top of the other in a zig-zag formation.
Out of the water and on the beach, stewards dug through the rack line, sorting through piles of washed-up eelgrass for signs of life. Stewards pulled out multiple reproductive shoots (some with visible seeds) and even found an example of eelgrass with the rhizome still intact. Eelgrass expert, Holly Plaisted, gave the stewards some pro tips for telling vegetative and reproductive shoots apart from each other: 1) reproductive shoots branch while vegetative shoots do not; 2) reproductive shoots have more structure than vegetative shoots -- they are harder to the touch and have a rounder-feeling stem whereas vegetative shoots feel comparatively flat.
The next stewardship field day will be on Monday, May 15 at 6:00 PM. Location TBD.