Field of Science

Name the Bug: Pistia stratiotes

Pistia stratiotes. Photo by Bhushan Dalvi.

As two readers correctly surmissed, the main subject of this photo is the aroid Pistia stratiotes, commonly known as water lettuce. While the specimens shown here appear to have become stranded, water lettuce grows as free-floating rosettes on the surface of open bodies of water. The leaves radiate from an extremely shortened central stem with the tiny flowers produced in pockets at the bases of the leaves. As well as producing flowers, water lettuce reproduces vegetatively by the production of lateral stolons that give rise to daughter rosettes. Given time, a colony of water lettuce can carpet an entire lake.

I said that this ID was a clue to the next Taxon of the Week. Pistia stratiotes is not the only floating member of the Araceae: the remaining examples will be the subject of the next post.


  1. Would you happen to know the background of the name? Stratiotes means "soldier" in Greek.

  2. Would you happen to know the background of the name? Stratiotes means "soldier" in Greek, which seems a tad unexpected for a small aquatic plant.

    (Sorry if this is a repeat comment. A previous incarnation appears to've disappeared into the aether.)

  3. I suspect it is a reference to Water Soldier, Stratiotes aloides, a native British water plant with spiny rosettes of floating leaves.

  4. Well, I am pleased with myself, that was a bit of a shot in the dark. A sharper picture would have shown the weird and distinctive leaf surface and it would have been too easy.

  5. Still don't get why you called it a "bug" -- you are just going to muck up search engines when someone puts in the word "bug" in the image search. :-(

  6. Go to this post. Scroll down to the last paragraph.

  7. it would appear that this individual cluster of plants has rooted to the damp soil and taken on a semi-terrestrial growing style, as they are very much alive and spreading. Stranded, yes, but by no means doomed unless the soil dries out.


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