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WATER-LETTUCE, Pistia stratiotes L., Family Araceae, Arum Family
WATER-LETTUCE AFLOAT ON THE ST.JOHNS RIVER Floating islands…fields…lawns” of PISTIA and other aquatic plants
At Lake Dexter, Bartram penned the following “…a cove or bay of the river, out of which opened a large lagoon. The mouth or entrance from the river to it was narrow, but the waters soon after spread and formed a little lake, extending into the marshes, its entrance and shore within I observed to be verged with floating lawn of the Pistia and Nymphet and other aquatic plants; these I know were excellent haunts for the trout (=largemouth bass). Travels, 1791, Part II, Chapter V, p. 118).
Water-lettuce is a floating herb, with a rosette of furrowed gray-green leaves, resembling a head of lettuce, with long trailing feathery roots. The blades of the leaves are pubescent that keep them from being submerged. Individual floating heads are connected to one another with multiple runners or stolons. The greenish-white flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. The seeds are cylindrical, buoyant and germinate in the surface film of the water. They occur in ditches, ponds, creeks, and backwaters of rivers. Water-lettuce is native to peninsular Florida, but also occurs as far west as Texas. This beautiful aquatic plant extends into the New and Old World tropics. Bartram reported seeing them in the lower St. Johns River, Lake George, Salt Springs, Lake Dexter, below Lake Beresford, and in the Suwannee River.