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Stoneworts under water

These are very strange plants. They are the Charophyta, a small ancient group of plants and not really closely related to any other group. The nearest link is to the algae but they are more complex. The species above is one of the Chara genus. They all have a rather unpleasant smell, some say like rotting tomatoes. The name stonewort comes from the fact that some species are found in ponds and lakes that are strongly alkaline. The calcium then coats them to make them almost stone-like. The long and robust stems have whorls at intervals with nine to eleven branchlets. The male reproductive structure consists of orange spheres whilst the females are like tiny pineapples. Much of coal can be made up of fossilised species of Chara. The species Nitella is another stonewort but will live in all kinds of pond including those on heathlands. It does not hav e the stone material on the body. Instead they are a bright green colour. The cells making up the "stem" are very large - up to several centimetres long. Much cell research has been done using these Nitella cells because of their size.

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