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Wetlands are vital to global existence, and next to the rain forests in importance, provide a necessary habitat for a wide range of plants and animals. These areas, which some deem as waste lands and a place to dump, are essential to clean drinking water and are important as flood control zones. Wetland are unique and and full of surprises.

Pickerelweed is one of those surprises. A native plant to the Americas, it thrives in a large swath of territory from Canada to Argentina. It is a common plant found in many wetland areas of the United States.

Officially known as Pontederia cordata, this perennial aquatic plant is perhaps best known for it’s brilliant display of sky-blue flowers, although the flowers can also be purple or white. The flowers appear above the water on spikes which can reach upwards from the water to three feet or more. The flowers appear in mid to late spring and the blooms continue for most of the summer.


The exotic blooms, often unseen by millions of people, begin in late spring and continue until late summer. The flowers, however, are seen by a wide variety of insects who feast on the pollen and nectar. A wide range of wasps, butterflies, bumblebees, honeybees and other insects, as well as, hummingbirds, enjoy visits to the plant’s flowers. One bee, the Dufourea novae-angliae, visits only the pickerelweed weed for nectar and pollen.

Deer are particularly fond of the pickerelweed as are muskrats. Waterfowl also  enjoy the seeds.

The leaves of this water plant, which grows in colonies, also provide a habitat for fish, frogs and other water life, such as tadpoles and pollywogs.

For humans, the shiny green heart-shaped leaves can be eaten after they are briefly boiled or eaten raw in a salad. The seeds produced by the flowers can also be eaten like nuts after they are dried and can be used in a variety of dishes.

These hardy water plants are often used in ponds and water gardens and are readily available at many commercial water garden outlets as plants to enjoy in the backyard. They can be started from seeds or rhizomes. They are winter hardy and can survive cold temperatures as low as minus 27.

They do require freshwater. The pickerelweed will grow in soggy soil but water from a foot to three feet deep is best.. They will thrive in areas with partial shade to full sun..

Pickerelweed is an amazing and important wetland plant; one that’s easy to grow in a water garden to dazzle and enchant, as well as to help a host insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles.

Two Fun Facts:

The official first name of pickerelweed,Pontederia, is named for the Italian botanist Guilio Pontedera (1688 – 1759); cordata is Latin for heart shaped.

Pickerelweed receives its unofficial name from the fish pickerel or the Northern Pike with whom it co-exists.

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