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Water Plants of North Carolina

By Stan Kane ; Updated September 21, 2017

North Carolina is home to a wide variety of aquatic plant species including green ash, buttonbush, American cupscale, common reed and sawgrass. North Carolina's moderate climate, extensive inland lakes and waterways, and coastal plain region provide an ideal environment for many aquatic trees, grasses and sedges.

Green Ash

Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) is a tree species indigenous to wetland areas of North Carolina. Green ash can grow to 80 feet in height with green opposing leaves and inconspicuous flowers. Green ash prefers the lowland, brackish waters of the coastal plains.


Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a deciduous shrub native to North Carolina that grows from 3 to 10 feet in height. Broad, green elliptical shaped leaves are arranged opposite each other on twigs extending outward from the central stem with white, tube-shaped flowers occurring in clumps or "buttons" in mid-summer. Buttonbush is commonly found on lowland shores of freshwater ponds, marshes and rivers.

American Cupscale

American cupscale (Sacciolepis striata) is an aquatic, perennial grass that forms dense clumps up to 3 feet in height. The leaves of American cupscale grass extend outward from the central stem in thin, flat projections. The flowers form a thick, concentric ring around the upper stem above the water level and are brownish in color. American cupscale is found on the shoreline of North Carolina's freshwater marshes, lakes and rivers.

Common Reed

Common reed (Phragmites australis) is a perennial aquatic grass that can grow in excess of 12 feet tall, with narrow, flat leaves extending from a central stem that is round and hollow. Tan and purplish flowers bloom in clusters at the top of the central stem. Common reed grass grows in brackish, fresh and saltwater marshes and along the banks of streams and lakes.


Sawgrass (Cladium mariscus jamaicense) is a tall, perennial, aquatic sedge grass with coarse, thick stems extending up to 12 feet in height. Sawgrass grows in thick stands within brackish water in the coastal plain of North Carolina. Long, linear leaves arch outward from the stem with small seed pods dropping downward in thick clumps.


About the Author


Stan Kane is an experienced professional pilot and freelance writer. He enjoys writing about a diverse range of outdoor, science and technology topics. Kane has a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Tech and has been writing for Demand Studios since 2009.