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Washington State Department of Ecology > Water & shorelines > Freshwater studies > Lake water quality > Aquatic Plant Guide home > Floating Leaved Rooted Plants > Nymphoides peltata

Aquatic Plant Identification Manual for Washington's Freshwater Plants

Floating Leaved Rooted Plants

Species: Nymphoides peltata (S. Gmelin.) Kuntze, yellow floating heart, water fringe
Family: Menyanthaceae

Yellow floating-heart is a perennial, waterlily-like plant that carpets the water surface with long-stalked, heart-shaped leaves. The showy five-petaled yellow flowers occur on long stalks and rise a few inches above the water surface. Yellow floating-heart is a native of Europe and has been introduced in Washington, particularly along the Spokane River near Spokane.

Leaf: The heart-shaped leaves are 3 to 10 cm across and alternately arranged on the stems or oppositely-arranged on the flower stalks. The leaves float on the water surface, have slightly wavy margins, and frequently have purplish undersides.

Stem: The rope-like stem grows partly underground or along the sediment surface (stolons).

Flower: Two to five flowers arise from erect flower stalks. The bright yellow flowers are 3-4 cm in diameter. Each flower has five petals that are arranged like the spokes of a wheel. Each petal has a distinctive fringe along the edges.

Fruit: The fruit is a long beaked capsule (to 2.5 cm) that splits on one side. One fruit is produced from each flower. Each fruit contains few to many smooth, shiny seeds with wing-like margins.

Root: Short, thick clusters of roots originate from modified stems (rhizomes) growing partly or completely below the sediment.

Propagation: Yellow floating heart spreads by water dispersed seeds and stolons. Broken-off leaves with part of a stem will also form new plants.

Importance of plant: Yellow floating-heart is a popular water garden plant, but a potential weed when introduced to the wild.

Distribution: Native to Eurasia, the Mediterranean area, and introduced to North America.

Habitat: Slow-moving rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ponds.

May be confused with: Spatterdocks (Nuphar spp.), which have much larger leaves, and cup-like flowers without fringed petals. Water shield (Brasenia schreberi) which has small oval Invasive Nonnative Plant Iconfloating leaves often with a jelly-like covering on the undersides, and small purple flowers. Also other species of Nymphoides  (N. aquatica and N. cordatum), which are be sold as ornamental plants.
Photographs: Nymphoides peltata closeup of flower, mat in Lake Spokane
Line Drawings: Nymphoide peltata

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