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Marsh Pennywort

Hydrocotyle vulgaris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Araliaceae (Ivy)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, marshes, meadows, sand dunes, swamps, water, wetland.

Green, 5 petals
Tiny, greenish-pink, whitish or reddish flowers in tight flowerheads borne in the leaf axils. Yellow anthers.
Roundish and flattened, warty, winged fruit (2mm long). Very short stalked. In fruit from July to October.
A creeping perennial plant with disc-like or umbrella-like leaves. The leaf stalk joins the leaf at the centre. The leaves alternate along the stems. Mat-forming.
Other Names:
Common Pennywort, Copper Coin, Lucky Plant, Money Plant, Penny Rot, Sheep's Bane, Water Naval, Water Pennywort, White Rot.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Hydrocotyle vulgaris, also known as Marsh pennywort or water pennywort, is a perennial aquatic herb that is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It typically grows to be about 30 cm tall and has small, white or greenish-white flowers that bloom in the summer. The leaves are round, glossy and typically a bright green color. This plant is typically found in wetland habitats such as marshes, ponds, and ditches. It can also be found along the margins of slow-moving streams and rivers. It can quickly become invasive and can form dense mats in water bodies, which can have negative effects on native aquatic plants and animals. It's also known for its medicinal properties and it has been traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments, such as colds, headaches, and as a diuretic.


Marsh Pennywort, also known as Hydrocotyle vulgaris, is a perennial plant species belonging to the family Apiaceae. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, but has now been introduced to many other parts of the world. Marsh Pennywort is often found in damp and wet areas such as marshes, riverbanks, and ponds.

Appearance and Characteristics

Marsh Pennywort is a low-growing herbaceous plant that typically grows up to 30 cm in height. It has rounded, kidney-shaped leaves that are typically between 2-5 cm in diameter. The leaves are glossy and dark green, with scalloped edges and long stalks that attach them to the stem.

Marsh Pennywort blooms from June to August and produces small white flowers that are clustered together in umbels. The flowers are hermaphrodite, meaning they contain both male and female reproductive organs.

Uses and Benefits

Marsh Pennywort has been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to its many health benefits. It contains a range of active compounds, including triterpenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and diuretic properties.

The plant has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, and liver problems. It has also been used as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression, as well as to improve cognitive function.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Marsh Pennywort is also used in landscaping and gardening. Its low-growing, spreading habit makes it ideal as a ground cover or as a border plant. It is also commonly used in aquatic gardens, as it can be grown in shallow water.

Cultivation and Care

Marsh Pennywort is a relatively easy plant to grow and requires little maintenance. It prefers damp or wet soil, so it should be planted in an area that is consistently moist. It can be propagated by division or by seed, and should be planted in the spring or autumn.

To care for Marsh Pennywort, it should be kept well-watered, particularly during dry spells. It should also be fertilized regularly to ensure healthy growth. In the winter, the plant may die back to the ground, but it will regrow in the spring.


Marsh Pennywort is a versatile and useful plant that offers many health benefits as well as aesthetic value. Whether grown in a garden or used for medicinal purposes, it is a valuable addition to any collection of plants. With its easy cultivation and low maintenance, it is a plant that can be enjoyed by gardeners of all skill levels.

More about Marsh Pennywort

Marsh Pennywort has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, where it is known as ji xue cao. It is believed to have a cooling effect on the body and is used to treat fever, inflammation, and other conditions.

In Ayurvedic medicine, Marsh Pennywort is known as Brahmi and is used to improve cognitive function and memory. It is also believed to have a calming effect on the mind and can be used to reduce stress and anxiety.

In addition to its medicinal and aesthetic uses, Marsh Pennywort has also been used as a food source in some cultures. In Japan, the young leaves and stems of the plant are eaten as a salad vegetable. In some parts of India, the plant is used in traditional cuisine and is known as vallari keerai.

However, it is important to note that consuming large quantities of Marsh Pennywort can be toxic and should be avoided. The plant contains hydrocotyline, which can cause liver damage and other health problems if consumed in excess.

Overall, Marsh Pennywort is a valuable plant species that offers a range of benefits and uses. Whether grown in a garden or used for medicinal purposes, it is a plant that is worth exploring and learning more about.

Marsh Pennywort is also known for its ability to purify water. It is often used in constructed wetlands and other water treatment systems to remove pollutants and improve water quality.

Studies have also shown that Marsh Pennywort may have potential as a natural pesticide. Its active compounds have been shown to have insecticidal and antifeedant properties, making it a potential alternative to chemical pesticides.

In some parts of the world, Marsh Pennywort is considered an invasive species due to its ability to quickly spread and establish in wetland areas. In these regions, efforts are being made to control its spread and prevent it from outcompeting native plant species.

In terms of conservation, Marsh Pennywort is an important species for wetland ecosystems. It provides habitat and food for a range of wildlife, including insects, birds, and small mammals.

In conclusion, Marsh Pennywort is a versatile and valuable plant species with a range of uses and benefits. From its traditional medicinal uses to its potential as a natural pesticide and water purifier, this plant is worth exploring and understanding. It is a plant that reminds us of the importance of biodiversity and the value of wetland ecosystems in our environment.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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