Broadleaf Arrowhead (Latifolia)

The Broadleaf Arrowhead (Latifolia) 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 . The Broadleaf Arrowhead (Latifolia) has green foliage and inconspicuous yellow flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Broadleaf Arrowhead (Latifolia) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Broadleaf Arrowhead (Latifolia) will reach up to 4.9 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Broadleaf Arrowhead (Latifolia) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. 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.

Ethnobotanic: Sagittaria is an aquatic plant with tuberous roots that can be eaten like potatoes. Lewis and Clark found it at the mouth of the Willamette and considered it equal to the potato, and valuable for trade. Indian women collected it in shallow water from a canoe, or waded into ponds or marshes in the late summer and loosened the roots with their toes. The roots would rise to the top of the water where they were gathered and tossed into floating baskets. Today, the tubers are harvested with a hoe, pitchfork, or rake. Tubers are baked in fire embers, boiled, or roasted in the ashes. Tubers are skinned and eaten whole or mashed.

After roasting, some tubers were dried and stored for winter use. The Chippewa gathered the Indian potatoes in the fall, strung them, and hung them overhead in the wigwam to dry. Later they were boiled for use.

The tubers of Sagittaria species were eaten by many different indigenous groups in Canada, as well as many groups of Washington and Oregon (Kuhnlein and Turner 1991). The tubers were also widely traded from harvesting centers to neighboring areas. The tubers were also a major item of commerce on the Lower Columbia in Chinook Territory. Katzie families owned large patches of the plant and clearing the patches claimed ownership. Family groups would camp beside their claimed harvesting sites for a month or more.

A species of Sagittaria grows in China, and is sold in the markets of China and Japan as food, the corms being full of starch. Sagittaria latifolia is extensively cultivated in the San Francisco Bay area in California to supply the Chinese markets, and the tubers are commonly to be found on sale. The Chinese, on coming to California, used it for food and may have cultivated it somewhat. In so doing, they are believed to have extended its range into the southern part of the state (Mason 1957).

Medicinally, the Maidu of California used an infusion of arrowhead roots to clean and treat wounds. The Navajo use these plants for headaches. The Ojibwa and the Chippewa used Sagittaria species as a remedy for indigestion. The Cherokee used an infusion of leaves to bathe feverish babies, with one sip given orally. The Iroquois used it for rheumatism, a dermatological aid, and a laxative. The Iroquois used it as a ceremonial blessing when they began planting corn.

Wildlife: Tubers are planted as an wildlife food. Ducks eat the small, flat seeds of arrowheads, but the tubers are the most valuable to wildlife. Muskrat and porcupine are known to eat the tubers. Swans, geese, wood ducks, blue-winged teal, lesser and greater scaup, ruddy duck, ring necked duck, pintail, mallard, mottled duck, gadwall, canvasback, black duck and king rail are known to eat arrowhead seeds and tubers. For wildlife use, the tubers of Sagittaria latifolia are often too large and too deeply buried to be useful to ducks (Martin 1951).

Muskrats have evolved with wetland ecosystems and form a valuable component of healthy functioning wetland communities. Muskrats use emergent wetland vegetation such as Sagittaria species for food. Muskrat grazed areas increase wetland diversity by opening up the dense stands of Typha and Schoenoplectus (Scirpus) species, and providing opportunities for aquatic vegetation such as Sagittaria to become established in the open water. Muskrat huts provide a substrate for shrubs and other plant species. Indian people often sought caches of Sagittaria tubers stored by muskrat and beaver.

General Characteristics

General: Arrowhead Family (Alismataceae). Both Sagittaria latifolia and Sagittaria cuneata are aquatic plants growing in swampy ground or standing water in ponds, lakes, stream edges, and ditches (Hickman 1993). Both species have white or bluish tubers, which are edible. The leaves are sagittate, with leaf blades are either erect or floating on the surface of the water. S. cuneata leaf blades are smaller, from 5-15 cm, and the lower lobes of emergent leaf blades are less than the terminal lobe. In S. latifolia, leaf blades are from 6-30 cm, and the lower lobes of the emergent leaf blade are approximately equal to the terminal lobe. The inflorescence is simple or branching, often with the lower flowers pistillate and the upper ones staminate. The flowers are white, with three white petals and 3 sepals. Stamens are numerous and bright yellow. The pistils are numerous, spirally arranged on the receptacle. The fruit is an achene and is greenish colored. A diagnostic feature distinguishing the two species is the beak on the fruit of S. cuneata is ascending to erect and <0.5 mm; the beak on the fruit of S. latifolia is spreading and 1-2 mm.

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. Sagittaria species are obligate wetland plants found in marshes and wetlands throughout temperate North America. The ranges of S. cuneata and S. latifolia overlap. S. latifolia is found from central and southern British Columbia to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, south to California and into South America. In California, S. latifolia is confined to lower elevations <1500 m. Sagittaria species grow in ponds, slow streams, ditches and freshwater wetlands.

Cultivation and Care

Sagittaria species may be planted from bare root stock, by transplanting the tubers, and by seeding directly into wetland soil. Live plant transplants or transplanting tubers are preferred revegetation methods where there is moving water. It takes two years for seed to germinate; planting bare root stock or tubers gives faster revegetation results.

Live Plant Collections: No more than 1/4 of the plants in an area should be collected. If no more than 0.09 m² (1 ft²) are removed from a 0.4 m2 (4 ft2) area, the plants will grow back into the hole in one good growing season. A depth of 15 cm (6 in) is sufficiently deep for digging plugs. This will leave enough plants and rhizomes to grow back during the growing season.

Wild plants should be collected after the leaves begin to emerge in the spring until the first frost. The plants can be pulled up easily from wet soil. When collecting wild plants, rinse roots gently. Leaves and stems can be clipped from 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 inches); this allows the plant to allocate more energy into root production. The roots should always remain moist or in water until planted. Plants should be transported and stored in a cool location prior to planting. Water depth should be 0 to 6 and the soils should be wet.

Sagittaria grows prolifically around ponds or wetlands in shallow water. Plug spacing of 25-30 cm will fill in within one growing season. Soil should be kept saturated, with approximately 1/2 of water over the surface of the soil after planting. If water is low in nutrients (oligotrophic), fertilization will speed biomass production and revegetation. Many surface waters are already rich in nutrients (eutrophic), and fertilization is not necessary.

Indian potatoes transplant success may be greater with the tubers than with bare root stock. The little underground potatoes can be separated from the parent plants with a rake, hoe, or shovel. In unconsolidated soils, the tubers can be pulled up by hand by searching around the roots of the plant.

After collecting, the Sagittaria potatoes should be kept moist and cool, and stored in peat moss. Potatoes are then planted in shallow water, in the same conditions as described above for the whole plants. Potatoes should be collected and planted when plants are dormant, in the fall, winter and early spring.

Seed Germination: Seeds of Sagittaria species take two years to germinate, because they have a double dormancy requiring cold then warm then cold temperatures. Temperature has a multiple role in the regulation of timing of germination. Dormant seeds become non-dormant only at specific temperatures, non-dormant seeds have specific temperature requirements for germination, and non-dormant seeds of some species are induced into dormancy by certain temperatures. Once Sagittaria seeds germinate, they have fairly high viability. Procedures for growing Sagittaria seeds in the greenhouse have not been developed at this time.

Sagittaria seeds can be planted directly in wetlands or ponds. Prepare the area by creating a washboard in shallow water, at mudflat consistency. Seeds should then be scattered on the surface of the soil, as the seeds need sunlight to germinate well. Light and temperature in natural conditions will promote seed germination, and in two years Sagittaria plants will emerge.

General Upkeep and Control

Hydrology is the most important factor in determining wetland type revegetation success, and wetland function and value. Changes in water levels influence species composition, structure, and distribution of plant communities. Water management is absolutely critical during plant establishment, and remains crucial through the life of the wetland for proper community management. Sagittaria species require moist soils to standing water for successful revegetation.

We have no record of specific traditional resource management techniques other than anecdotal information of the use of fire to keep dense tule marshes open, which provided an opportunity for colonization and spread of Sagittaria species. The harvest of arrowhead was usually made in late summer as the stems and leaves were dying (and usually when the water table was lower) (Balls 1962).

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring
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 Bunch
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 4.9
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 18
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 4.7–8.6 pH
Precipitation Range 14–14 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Minimum Frost-Free Days 95 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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