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Nuttall's Waterweed

Elodea nuttallii

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Hydrocharitaceae (Naiad)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
3 metres long
Ditches, ponds, seaside, water, wetland.

White, 3 petals
The pinkish-white flowers are infrequent and up to 8mm across in size.
Narrowly ovoid capsule, up to 7mm in length.
Narrow, slightly twisted, lanceolate leaves.
Other Names:
Western Waterweed.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Elodea nuttallii is a species of waterweed known by the common name western waterweed or Nuttall's waterweed. It is native to North America and is an invasive species in Europe. It is a perennial aquatic plant which is monoecious, dioecious, or bisexual, and has floating flowers and roots at the nodes. It grows in freshwater or marine habitats and is found in lakes, ponds, canals, and rivers. Elodea nuttallii can quickly spread and form dense mats of vegetation. It can outcompete native species and reduce biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems. Control measures, such as mechanical removal and the use of herbicides, can be used to manage Elodea nuttallii infestations.


Nuttall's Waterweed, also known as Elodea nuttallii, is a submersed aquatic plant that is native to North America. This species is known for its ability to rapidly colonize and spread in waterways, leading it to be considered an invasive species in many countries outside of its native range.

Elodea nuttallii is a slender, green plant that can grow up to 1 meter in length. It is recognizable by its long, narrow leaves that are arranged opposite on the stem. The plant produces small white flowers that bloom in the summer and are visited by many species of insects.

In its native range, Nuttall's Waterweed provides important habitat for aquatic wildlife such as fish, frogs, and insects. The plant's leaves and stems provide shelter and food for these species, helping to maintain the diversity of aquatic ecosystems. However, when introduced to new areas, Elodea nuttallii can quickly spread and outcompete native species, leading to a decline in biodiversity.

The plant is well-suited to colonizing new habitats because it reproduces both sexually and vegetatively. Its seeds can be dispersed by water currents, and it can also grow new plants from fragments of stem or leaves that break off and take root. This makes it difficult to control once established, and efforts to remove the plant can be time-consuming and expensive.

In many countries, the importation and sale of Elodea nuttallii is restricted or banned in an effort to prevent its spread. In areas where it has become established, management strategies focus on removing the plant from waterways and preventing its spread to new areas. This may involve physically removing the plant, using chemical herbicides, or controlling its growth through the introduction of natural predators.

Nuttall's Waterweed is a fascinating and adaptable plant that has a significant impact on aquatic ecosystems. While it provides important habitat for many species in its native range, its ability to quickly spread and outcompete native species makes it a serious concern in many countries outside of its native range. If you are interested in aquatic plants and their role in the environment, Nuttall's Waterweed is a species worth learning more about.

In addition to its ecological impact, Elodea nuttallii also has several practical uses. For example, it is a popular plant in the aquarium and ornamental pond trade due to its attractive appearance and hardiness. The plant is also commonly used in classroom settings for demonstrating cellular processes, such as photosynthesis and respiration, because it is easy to grow and maintain in a laboratory setting.

However, it is important to remember that if you are keeping Nuttall's Waterweed in an aquarium or pond, it is best to use a species that is not invasive in your area. This will prevent the risk of accidental release into the wild, where it could become a problem.

Nuttall's Waterweed is a plant that has a significant impact on aquatic ecosystems and human activities. While it is a popular and useful species in some settings, it is also considered an invasive species in many countries and should be managed carefully to prevent its spread and negative impact on native ecosystems. If you are interested in aquatic plants, it is important to consider the potential ecological impact of any species you choose to keep and make informed decisions about their use and management.

In addition to its ecological and practical uses, Elodea nuttallii is also of scientific interest. The plant is a good model species for studying various ecological and physiological processes in aquatic plants. For example, it has been used to study the mechanisms of nutrient uptake and utilization, the role of phytoplankton in aquatic ecosystems, and the interactions between aquatic plants and herbivores.

Furthermore, the plant's ability to rapidly colonize new habitats and outcompete native species has made it an important subject of study in invasion biology. Researchers are interested in understanding the factors that allow some species, like Nuttall's Waterweed, to become invasive and the ecological and economic impacts of these invasions.

One of the key factors contributing to the success of Elodea nuttallii as an invasive species is its ability to rapidly adapt to new environments. This is due to its large and diverse gene pool, which allows it to quickly evolve and adapt to changing environmental conditions. Understanding the mechanisms of adaptation in invasive species like Nuttall's Waterweed can inform management strategies for controlling their spread and impact.

In conclusion, Nuttall's Waterweed is not only a fascinating and adaptable species in its own right, but it is also of scientific interest. Its ability to rapidly colonize new habitats, its use as a model species for studying various ecological and physiological processes, and its significance in invasion biology make it a species worth learning more about.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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