American Water Plantain (Subcordatum)

The American Water Plantain (Subcordatum) is generally described as a perennial forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The American Water Plantain (Subcordatum) has green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The American Water Plantain (Subcordatum) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate.

The American Water Plantain (Subcordatum) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, seed, sprigs. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Waterfowl and upland birds readily consume the seed of this broadleaf species, but the roots have not been observed to be eaten. Its small white and yellow flower are attractive, having potential use in water gardens.

General Characteristics

This light to yellow green, erect herbaceous perennial can reach heights of about 3 feet. The ovate to lanceolate shaped leaves emerge from a 1 1/4 to 6 inch long stem. Each leaf has a primary mid-vein which is flanked by three subparallel veins. Leaf stems emerge from bulb-like corms which have shallow fibrous roots. Vegetative spread is slow and radial. This species relies on population spread by seed. Independent, single or multiple, whorl branched inflorescence rise from the plant base to a height of 3 1\2 feet. White to pinkish 3 petaled flowers bloom from June to September on compound panicles. Numerous flat, keeled, achenes form terminally in tight rings, mature from July to October. Seedlings will emerge on exposed soils, in stands of existing vegetation or newly disturbed locations.

Required Growing Conditions

The native range of water plantain is from Massachusetts to Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas. This broadleaf emergent can be found growing in shallow, quiet to slow moving water, and in mud of marshes, ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, and seeps. It requires organic or silty soils, with seasonally or permanently inundated freshwater (<0.5 parts per thousand salt content). To grow optimally, it requires full sunlight.

Cultivation and Care

This species can be established effectively by vegetative divisions or seed. Bare-root or containerized vegetative propagules are used to effectively establish plantain within its hydric regime. It is easy to handle this form of material due to its small size, ease of separation, and plantability. On site and nursery seedings are not as predictable; water plantain requires specific after ripening, stratification, and germination conditions before emergence will occur. Once established onto a site with ideal hydrology, this species will continue to re-seed itself for as long as the ideal environmental conditions exist. Ideal sites for germination require direct sunlight, finely textured soils, and adequate sustained soil moisture.

General Upkeep and Control

On manageable sites, water depths must be kept moist to flooded (<4 inches) for the growing season. In early spring, water depths must recede, exposing seeds to bare soil to germinate. This species responds well to low to moderate levels of fertilizer amendments; naturally released nutrients from sediments and organics are usually adequate for good plant growth.

Pests and Potential Problems There are no known detrimental pests of this species.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) There are no commercial varieties available, but local and regional collections are available from wetland plant nurseries.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Crown
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 0.5
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Seed, Sprigs
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 8
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–7 pH
Precipitation Range 35–35 inches/yr
Planting Density 1700–4800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 8
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA