Examples of Plants That Live in Water

A close-up of aquatic plants.
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Aquatic plants prevent erosion along shorelines, as well as supply oxygen to other plants and fish. A wide variety of wildlife feed on the seeds and nectar of flowering varieties, while providing a place for geese, ducks and other waterfowl to build their nests, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Plants that live in the water also bring color and texture to the landscape in the wild and at home.

American Lotus

A close-up of a pink lotus flower in bloom.
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American lotus plants are found near streams, ponds, rivers and lakes in water up to 8 feet deep. These aquatic plants grow from Maine to Florida, west to Texas and north to Michigan. The blue-green leaves measure 2 feet or more in diameter. They can be bowl-shaped, rising above the surface of the water, or lie flat on top of the water. The fragrant, yellow-white to pale yellow flowers bloom from June to September on stiff stalks rising above the leaves. Each multi-petaled flower is about 10 inches across and has an upside-down, flat-topped, cone-like structure in the middle. Each flower opens in the early morning and closes late in the afternoon every day. American lotus is a hardy water plant, able to tolerate the heat in southern states and the cold in the North.


A butterfly sips nectar from a pickerelweed plant.
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The vivid, blue-violet flowers of the pickerelweed plant brighten the shorelines of marshes and ponds. It forms in dense clusters from Minnesota to Texas and north Florida to New England. The 1-inch flowers bloom on 6- to 8-inch-long spikes from June to September, opening one at a time, starting at the bottom of the flower spike. Each 3-foot-long stem rises above long, shiny green, heart-shaped leaves that measure up to 8 inches across. The nectar in the pickerelweed's flowers attracts butterflies and bees, while waterfowl are drawn to the seeds.

Curly Pondweed

A person uses tree bark to collect a sample of curly pondweed.
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Curly pondweed is a submerged aquatic plant with stems up to 2.5 feet long. The leaves have a vein down the middle with secondary veins branching off it, much like a land-based plant. They are found in water up to 10 feet deep, providing shelter for insects and small fish. Curly pondweed plants increase the level of oxygen in the water, which is a vital part of a healthy, aquatic ecosystem, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. In the autumn, the plants sprout from dormant stem structures, called turions. During the winter beneath the ice, the plants grow rapidly, forming dense mats. They die back in late June, going into a dormant period when most water plants are growing.

Fragrant Water Lily

A close-up of two white water lillies.
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The fragrant water lily, also called American white water lily, is aptly named. The 2- to 6-inch, pink or white flowers have a pleasant fragrance and float on the surface of the water. The largest petals are on the outside, with the smallest petals near the golden yellow center. The flowers bloom in the early morning, closing at noon from March to October. Fragrant water lilies grow in shallow water, but can be found in water up to 8 feet deep in almost every state. The flat, round, bright green leaves are up to 10 inches in diameter with a single, narrow slice missing.

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