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Close up showing upper surface and underside, including the leaf stalk attached to the center of the leaf.

Leaves shown floating on the surface of the water.

Brasenia schreberi

Common Name of Genus: Watershield, water target

Entry Author:  C. Westring
Description:  Identified by the thick coating of gelatinous slime covering the young stems, buds, and undersides of young leaves.  Sometimes considered a member of the water-lily family (Nymphaeaceae) by some taxonomists because of the floating leaves.  The plant has phytotoxic properties that allow it to inhibit the growth of other plants nearby and therefore allow it to become dominant.
Floating oval leaves, 4-12 cm long and 3-8 cm wide, that are attached via long reddish leaf stalks, up to 2 meters long, at the center, giving them an umbrella-like appearance.  The leaves have a green upper surface and purple underside.
Small, purple flowers that rise slightly above the water; not very showy.  The flowers are attached to 5-20 cm long flower stalks, and each flower has 3 sepals and 3 or 4 similar-looking petals.  Each flower measures 2.5 cm across
Two seeds are contained within a leathery, egg-shaped fruit between 6-8mm long.  The fruits ripen and decay underwater, releasing the seeds 
Stem:  Arise from submersed, branching, reddish creeping rhizomes
Branching Pattern:
   Branches rise through the water from an underground horizontal stem
Height:  Up to 3 meters
Conditions/Habitat/Kind of Forest:  Shallow ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams
Range:  Throughout most of the United States and southern Canada, in addition to Central America, Cuba, Africa, East Asia, and Australia
Conservation Status-US/ World Wide:  Not threatened
Uses (Human):  Leaves and stems are used in salads by the Japanese.  The leaves are astringent and the plant is sometimes used in the treatment of dysentery and to relieve thirst.  It can also be used in the treatment of cancer


Fassett, Norman C.  A Manual of Aquatic Plants (Revised ed.).  Wisconsin:  University of Wisconsin Press, 1957.

Floating Leaved Rooted Plants.  Washington State Department of Ecology.  Accessed:  January 17, 2006.  <>

Plants for a Future.  June 2004.  Accessed: January 17, 2006.  <>

The Pennsylvania Flora Project.  Botany Department, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.  Accessed:  January 20, 2006. <>

This page was created by: C. Westring, Muhlenberg College
Last updated 01/24/06