Florida’s Native Freshwater Aquatic Plants
Cat-Tails (Typha species)
Cat-tails are named after their long, cylinder-shaped flower spikes that are brown in color. Common to Florida’s wetlands, these plants grow out of the water and provide protection and nesting locations for wildlife.
Duck Potato (Sagittaria lancifolia)
Duck potato is named after its swollen underground stems that resemble potatoes. This emersed plant is known for its large lance-shaped leaves and white three-petal flowers extending high above its stems. Duck potato usually grows in Florida’s swamps, ditches, lakes and streams.
Lemon Bacopa (Bacopa caroliniana)
Lemon bacopa is an emersed, creeping herb with small blue petaled flowers, succulent thick leaves and a hairy upper stem. The “lemon” designation comes from the lemon-like smell of its crushed leaves.
Lake Hygrophila (Hygrophila lacustris)
Lake hygrophila is an semi-aquatic herb that is native to Central Florida’s swamps and wet hammocks. Lake hygrophila is characterized by small white flowers and narrow elliptic leaves.
Bur Marigold (Bidens laevis)
Bur-marigold is an emersed flowering plant from the daisy family. It is typically found in Florida’s marshes.
Free-Floating and Floating-Leaved Plants
Water Meal (Wolffia columbiana)
Water meal, the smallest flowering plant on earth, grows in Florida’s rivers, ponds, lakes and sloughs. It is a floating, rootless plant and is hardly visible to the human eye.
Small Duckweed (Lemna valdiviana)
Small duckweeds are tiny floating green plants with shoe-shaped leaves and a single root hanging underneath. Duckweeds are found in large floating mats in Florida’s still or sluggish waters.
Giant Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza)
Giant duckweed, despite its name, is a very small floating plant found in Florida’s rivers, ponds lakes and sloughs. The giant duckweed features 2-3 rounded leaves that are typically connected, and several roots handing beneath each leaf. The leaves are dark red on their under side surface.
Water Lily (Nymphaea aquatica)
The water lily is a common delicately flowering aquatic free-floating plant, common to Florida’s lakes and streams. The water lily is best known for its radially notched leaves and pink or white flowers.
Water Shield (Brasenia schreberi)
Watershield, found in Florida’s lakes ponds and slower streams in water up to six feet deep, is a free-flowing plant with long leaf stalks. The stalks extend downward and attach to a sprawling anchored root in the mud bottom. Watershield’s flowers are small and dull purple, extending from the water on a stalk. Its leaves are oval and shield-shaped and the undersides have a gel-like coating.
American Lotus(Nelumbo lutea)
The American lotus is and emersed or free-floating plant found in Florida’s muddy and shallow waters up to six feet deep. The easy-to-spot plant features very large yellow flowers that grow up to six inches wide on a long, stiff stalk. Leaves are circular and lack the radial “pie-piece” shaped cut of the water lily.
Grasses, Sedges and Rushes
Maidencane (Panicum hemitomon)
Maidencane is common to the Florida’s fresh water and dry banks. It has long, narrow stems up to six feet long and is an important provider of local wildlife nesting materials, food and protection.
Egyptian Paspalidium (Paspalidium geminatum)
Egyptian paspalidium blooms year-round and features long leaves on thick tufted stems. It is commonly seen leaning over Florida’s swamps and ponds.
Giant Foxtail (Setaria magna)
Giant foxtail grows in deep ditches in Florida’s swamps and wetlands and blooms year-round. It features a large spike on top of a long grass and its seeds provide food for wildlife.
Saw-Grass (Cladium jamaicense)
Saw-grass is common to Florida’s fresh and brackish water wetlands and provides food and shelter to birds and other wildlife. This large sedge has hollow stems that measure 4-10 feet tall and v-shaped angled leaf blades with small sharp sawteeth and reddish-brown spikelets.
Soft-Stem Bulrush (Scirpus validus)
Soft-stem bulrush is sedge with stems up to eight feet tall topped by a hanging cluster of flowers. Growing in marshes, streams and ponds of Florida, soft-stem bulrush provides food for wild birds.
Soft Rush (Juncus effusus)
Soft rush is found in clumps in Florida’s fresh and saltwater wetlands. It has pale green stems from 2-5 feet tall and no leaves. The base of the stem is wrapped in leafy reddish sheaths, and this rush’s clusters of small greenish-brown flowers appear to come out of the side of the stem.