Midwestern Arrowhead

Sagittaria brevirostra

midwestern_arrowhead_flowers.jpg

Photo of midwestern arrowhead male flowers and buds.
The male flowers of Midwestern arrowhead grow at the upper parts of the stalks. They are showy, with 3 white petals and many yellow stamens.
Edible
Other Common Name
Duck Potato; Wapato
Family

Alismataceae (arrowheads, water plantains)

Description

Aquatic perennial herb growing on muddy banks. Flowers erect, in mostly unbranched whorls of 3 (sometimes 2) on the flowering stalk. The flowers on the lowest 1–6 whorls are female, not showy, with many pistils, and bear green, rounded, burlike clusters of fruits, which turn brown in the fall. Flowers higher on the stalks are male, showy, with 3 white petals and many yellow stamens. Blooms June–September. Leaves basal. Leaf blades arrowhead-shaped or halberd-shaped, on long petioles that are often inflated, angled, or ribbed.

Similar species: Seven species of arrowheads are recorded for Missouri. This species can be distinguished by its large leaf blades, and the bracts at the base of each whorl of flowers, which are ¾–2½ inches long, linear to lanceolate, with a narrowly acute tip. Also, the female flowers are on stalks ½–1½ inches long.

Size

Leaf length (including the stem): 4 to 60 inches.

midwestern_arrowhead_plants.jpg

Photo of midwestern arrowhead plants with pond surface in background.
Midwestern Arrowhead Plants
The leaves of many arrowhead species typically have arrowhead-shaped leaves.
Habitat and conservation

An emergent aquatic growing along muddy margins of ponds, ditches, sloughs, sluggish streams, and similar habitats. Sometimes flowers in dried mud.

image of Midwestern Arrowhead Duck Potato Wapato distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered nearly statewide.

Human connections

The starchy corms (potato-like “tubers”) of some arrowhead species have been baked, roasted, boiled, and even candied. Native Americans valued them for food, drying them to eat in winter. Some species are commercially important as aquarium plants or aquatic ornamentals.

Ecosystem connections

Duck potatoes provide important food for wildlife. Ducks and geese feast on the submerged corms and the seeds. Butterflies, bees, wasps, beetles, and other insects cross-pollinate the flowers as they take nectar and pollen. Many insects and some mammals, such as muskrat, eat the plants.