Friday, September 4, 2015

Flower Friday: Is duck potato all its quacked up to be?

Sagittaria lancifolia. Photo by Eleanor Dietrich
Arrowhead or duck potato (Sagittaria lancifolia, S. latifolia.)

Arrowhead is a perennial emergent aquatic wildflower. Its flowers each have 3 white petals, yellow centers and 3 green (often red-tinged) sepals. They are born on erect, elongated stalks. The dark green leaf blades arise from long petioles at the base of the plant. S. latifolia leaves are broadly ovate, while S. lancifolia leaves are more narrowly lance-shaped.

Arrowhead typically blooms spring through fall. It occurs naturally
in marshes, swamps, streams, spring runs, rivers, lake edges and roadside ditches.

Its flowers are attractive to a variety of pollinators. Its fruits are eaten by birds and other wildlife. 

The genus name Sagittaria is derived from the Latin word sagitta, meaning "arrow." It refers to the leaf shape of most species within the genus. The common name "duck potato" comes from the potato-like corms that the plant produces. Despite the name, ducks do not eat the corms! Humans, however, have been eating them for centuries. S. latifolia is known to have the largest "potatoes."

Family: Alismataceae (Water plantain family)
Native range: Mostly throughout Florida
Hardiness: Zones 8–10
Soil: Rich, saturated to inundated soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: up to 3'+
Propagation: Seeds, division of rhizomes
Garden tips: Arrowhead is best suited for water gardens, retention ponds and drainage swales as it prefers to be inundated most of the time. It also does well in a wet container garden.

To see where duck potato occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2817 or www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2039.

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