Water-Lettuce – You Can’t Get It Wet

25 Dec

Pistia stratiotes


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Honeymoon salad (lettuce alone) (by Evan Rogers)

John is away for Christmas, so my substitute field companion today was son Evan, down from North Carolina with camera in hand. We’ve been out in recent days hanging around with hawks and sandhill cranes, mostly by canoe with water-lettuce impeding navigation.


Hawk guarding the marsh (by Evan Rogers)

Is water-lettuce native? One of my most-used local plant handbooks says, “native to Africa,” but that’s the trouble with single sources. Weeds get around, and the small seeds are conceivably transported by migratory birds or even on floating debris.

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All strung together by stolons…canoe traps (by Evan Rogers)

Who’s to say it didn’t arrive on is own? Aroid specialist Sue Thompson in the Flora of North America is open-minded (and see Notes below):

“Some botanists consider the genus to have been introduced into the United States and many regional floras state that fruits and seeds are not produced in the flora area. However, s Seeds with high rates of germination have been reported from many sites in Florida, however … The status of Pistia as native to the United States has not been resolved; available evidence suggests that it is indigenous.”

Whenever and however it arrived, Water-Lettuce goes back in Florida about as far as botanical exploration.

Water-Lettuce is one of the odder members of the odd Aroid Family, known to native plant enthusiasts for arrow-arum, golden-clubs, and jack-in-the-pulpit. Gardeners and florists love aroids as anthuriums, philodendrons, and spathiphyllums. Funeral homes like them too, as calla-lilies. The sign of an aroid is having small flowers in a spike called a spadix, and a colorful specialized leaf called a spathe wrapped around the spadix.


Pixie spathe  (white)  around spadix

The spathe and spadix in water-lettuce are pretty, reminiscent of a tiny peace-lily. The folded water-lettuce spathe has two expanded openings, the top gap allowing a whorl of male flowers to jut out; below those a single female flowers peeps from its own gap.


The yellow star is a whorl of male flowers. Below it is one white female flower.

Naturally hydroponic, the fuzzy rosette floats with its roots dangling.   With full sun, swimming in water, nutrients in the soup, and stolons to sprawl forth and conquer, this weed can expand!   That’s bad if it clogs and shades waterways, jams pumps, or decays and stinks.

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Dangling participles (by Evan Rogers)

On the good side, however, here’s a plant able to pull “sewage” nutrients out of over-enriched waters, suck heavy metals and pesticide residues out of canals, and generate truckloads of biomass if you want biomass. It is not a true lettuce so put away the croutons, but water-lettuce is easily generated compost, although not on edible crops.  And we all cheer for biomass biofuels not competing with food crops, fertilizer-free, and providing bioremediation as a bonus.



Just try to get it wet:   SPRINKLE HERE

For more on the native vs. non-native question CLICK


Seed spreader (by Evan Rogers)





Posted by on December 25, 2015 in Uncategorized, Water-Lettuce


Tags: ,

12 responses to “Water-Lettuce – You Can’t Get It Wet

  1. Felicity Rask

    December 25, 2015 at 6:03 am

    This made for an unexpected and pleasant Christmas morning read! Yesterday, we did come across a definite Spanish introduction in the T.M.Goodwin water management area: two huge black pigs with their 12 adorable piglets. Well, I thought they were adorable while John thought they would make tasty dinner table additions … A Merry Christmas to you and your family! Felicity Rask


    • George Rogers

      December 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Felicity, A dozen little piglets all in a row, don’t eat them cuties, let them grow…
      (to 700 pounds)

  2. theshrubqueen

    December 25, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Merry Christmas, George. Enjoyed the post and great pictures!

    • George Rogers

      December 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Amelia, Merry Christmas and thanks!

  3. Lynn Sweetay

    December 25, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Excellent paper by Evan! Agreed an unexpeced and pleasant Christmas morning read. Suggests several possible presentations that Native Plant Society folks might enjoy.

    • George Rogers

      December 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Hi Lynn, Thanks and Merry Christmas. Always hope & glad to help in any way. Have a great green New Year.

  4. Suellen Granberry-Hager

    December 25, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Great pictures, especially the sandhill cranes. I looked at the article briefly and plan to read it carefully this week. Wish I were out canoeing.

    • George Rogers

      December 25, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Hi Suellen, I love Sandhill Cranes, so beautiful, so trusting. Glad they appear to be doing ok now…it seems. Gotta work canoes into natives class! Think we’d lose anyone to gators?

  5. leonorealaniz

    December 26, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Wonderful article! How are such bio-mass creating plants promoted, especiallt when they gobble up bad sewage and toxins? Thank you so much for your work! Happy 20161!

    • George Rogers

      December 26, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Leonore, Been awhile. You do see some use of biomass in Florida where it grows so easily—there are biomass plants in FL relating to wood, citrus peels, sugar-sorghum, and algae. Hope you’re doing okay, and printing. My son is up in Massachusetts right now.

  6. uma Bhatti

    December 28, 2015 at 8:17 am

    we just learn Water- Lettuce.

    • George Rogers

      December 28, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Hi Uma, That is sure what brought it to my mind…that and pushing a canoe through it…..


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