Plants of
South Australia
Alisma plantago-aquatica
Common Water Plantain,
Water Plantain
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Prior names

Alisma plantago, orth.var., partly

Common names

Common Water Plantain

Water Plantain


Alisma is the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides’ name for a plantain-leaved plant. Plantago from the Latin 'planta' meaning sole of a foot; referring to the flat leaves that are similar to leaves of the genus Plantago. Aquatica from the Latin 'aquaticus' meaning living in water; referring to the plant’s habitat.

Distribution and status

Found in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges and the lower South-east in South Australia, growing in shallow water or fertile mud of pond margins, ditches, slow-flowing rivers, streams and marshes. It is considered naturalised in the northern Mount Lofty Ranges. Also found in New South Wales and Victoria. Introduced to Tasmania. Also widespread in Europe, western Asia, northern and central Africa and has been introduced and become naturalised in parts of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. Native. Rare in South Australia. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Southern Lofty, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

An aquatic or semi-aquatic perennial to 1 m high, with a clumped habit. Leaves ovate to oblong-elliptic or narrowly oblong-elliptic, to 28 cm long and 10 cm wide, base rounded to cordate, apex obtuse to acute. Inflorescence a tall open panicles of white flowers, sometimes with a pink or pale lilac tinge, petals and sepals are in threes. Flowering stems emerge from the centre of the leaf bases with the flowers unfurl in the afternoon for only a few hours, before closing again at dusk. Flowering between October and February. Fruits are brown cluster of numerous achenes to 7 mm wide, which are buoyant. Seeds are yellow reniform seed to 1.2 mm long and 0.6 mm wide. Seed embryo type is bent.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between January and April. Collect fruits when the segments are about to fall apart, usually when colour changes to pale brown. Place the fruits in a tray and leave to dry for a week. Then rub the fruit gently by hand to dislodge the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA88,000 (35 g)30+22-Mar-2016DJD3314
Southern Lofty
2-May-201775%+5°C, -18°C, -80°C
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.
Germination table: