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Alisma plantago-aquatica (common water-plantain)

An attractive wetland plant, common water-plantain has delicate white, pale pink or lilac flowers that open in late afternoon and close again at dusk.
Flower of Alisma plantago-aquatica

Flower of Alisma plantago-aquatica (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Alisma plantago-aquatica L.

Common name: 

common water-plantain, devil's spoons, mad dog weed, thumbwort

Conservation status: 

Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Pond margins, ditches, canals, slow-flowing rivers, streams and marshes; in shallow water or fertile mud.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, medicine.

Known hazards: 

Poisonous if ingested in large quantities.


Genus: Alisma

About this species

Common water-plantain is a semi-aquatic or aquatic plant that is unrelated to true plantains, which are members of the genus Plantago.

Alisma is the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides’ name for a plantain-leaved plant. The specific epithet, plantago is from the Latin for the sole of a foot, referring to the flat leaves, and aquatica is from the Latin for ‘living in water’, referring to the plant’s habitat.

There are two subspecies of common water-plantain: Alisma plantago-aquatica subspecies plantago-aquatica, which is the most common and widespread of the two, and A. plantago-aquatica subsp. orientale, which occurs only in Asia.


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