Water lettuce is a floating plant. Experts disagree as to whether water lettuce is native to the U.S.: it has been present in Florida since as early as 1765 when the explorer, William Bartram, described and drew the plant in Lake George. This floating plant commonly forms large infestations which prevent boating, fishing and other uses of lakes and rivers. Water lettuce occurs in lakes, rivers and canals, occasionally forming large dense mats.
Water Lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes) is an invasive weed found in many areas of the southern United States. Water lettuce is a perennial monocot of the Araceae family. The plant consists of thick, soft, light green leaves (usually 6 inches in length) that form a rosette. The rosette conceals a small female flower and the seed bearing fruit of the plant. Water lettuce is supported by a large number of feathery roots submersed in the water beneath the leaves of the plant.
As its name implies, water lettuce resembles a floating open head of lettuce. Water lettuce has very thick leaves. The leaves are light dull green, are hairy, and are ridged. There are no leaf stalks. Water lettuce roots are light-colored and feathery. Its flowers are inconspicuous.
- water lettuce is a floating perennial
- floating, "obligate" (requiring a wet habitat)
- linked plants form dense mats in the water
- will halt boat traffic on rivers; will cover a lake surface from shore to shore
- an aquatic weed worldwide in rivers, lakes and ponds of temperate climates
- temperature tolerance: water lettuce is not winter-hardy; its minimum growth temperature is 15o C (59o F); its optimum growth temperature is 22-30o C (72-86o F); its maximum growth temperature is 35o C (95o F) (Kasselmann 1995)
Water lettuce reproduces using seeds and vegatatively. Vegetative reproduction involves daughter vegetative offshoots off of mother plants on short, brittle stolons. Rapid vegetative reproduction allows water lettuce to cover an entire lake, from shore to shore, with a dense mat of connected rosettes in a short period of time. In Florida water lettuce has been known to have densities of up to a 1,000 rosettes per m2.
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