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Jepson Interchange (more information)
©Copyright 1993 by the Regents of the University of California

  • Up-to-date information about California vascular plants is available from the Jepson eFlora.



Elizabeth McClintock

In CA perennial herb, terrestrial or aquatic, from short, generally erect caudex, often monoecious; elsewhere shrub, vine, or growing on other plant
Stems sometimes above ground in addition to caudex
Leaves simple or compound, basal (or cauline and 2-ranked)
Inflorescence: generally spike, fleshy, generally ill-smelling; flowers generally many, bisexual or pistillate below, staminate above; bract subtending spike 1, generally showy (petal-like), generally > spike, sometimes sheathing
Flower: perianth parts 4 or 6, free or fused; stamens generally 0, 4, or 6, free or fused; ovary superior to half-inferior and sunken in inflorescence axis, chambers 1–3, stigma ± sessile
Fruit: berry
Seeds 1–many
Genera in family: ± 110 genera, 1800 species: generally tropical, subtropical. Some cultivated for food (Colocasia , taro) or ornamental (Philodendron, Anthurium )
Reference: [Wilson 1960 J Arnold Arbor 41:47–63]
Needle-like crystals in most tissues cause intense irritation when chewed; those of Dieffenbachia, dumb-cane, may induce temporary speechlessness.



Species in genus: 1 sp
Etymology: (Greek: liquid, from aquatic habitat)


P. stratiotes L.

Perennial, aquatic, floating, monoecious, spreading from stolons; roots many
Stem short, corm-like
Leaves basal, whorled, sessile; blade < 20 cm, < 7 cm wide, widely wedge-shaped, tip truncate or notched, velvety-hairy
Inflorescence: spike < bract, fused to bract (except tip); bract ± 1.5 cm, hairy outside, upper half open, ± flared, reflexed, lower half closed
Flowers: perianth 0
Staminate flowers several, whorled, sessile; stamens 2–8
Pistillate flower 1; ovary ± superior, chamber 1, style stout, curved, persistent
Fruit green
Seeds many
Ecology: Ditches
Elevation: < 50 m.
Bioregional distribution: e Sonoran Desert (Colorado River), expected elsewhere
Distribution outside California: to se US, tropical worldwide

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