Open the Advanced Search

Marsh Water Starwort

Callitriche palustris

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Callitrichaceae (Water Starwort)
Life Cycle:
Annual or Perennial
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Ditches, marshes, mud, ponds, water, wetland.

Green, no petals
Tiny, green and without petals. Pollinated by water.
Narrowly winged fruit which is nearly spherical, about 2mm in diameter. The seeds mature in September and October.
An evergreen, perennial, aquatic plant with submerged and floating leaves. The densely-packed leaves are star-shaped. Near the surface of the water, the leaves are much narrower and form small rosettes.
Other Names:
Common Waterwort, Narrow-fruited Water-starwort, Spiny Water Starwort, Star Grass, Vernal Water-starwort, Water Chickweed, Water Fennel, Water Starwort.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Callitriche palustris, also known as vernal water-starwort, narrow-fruited water-starwort, or spiny water starwort, is a species of aquatic plant in the family Plantaginaceae. It is native to the northern hemisphere and typically found in shallow, still or slow-moving water of lakes, ponds, streams, and ditches. It typically grows to 0.3 m (1ft) in height and produces small, four-petalled white flowers in summer and long, narrow fruits in fall. The leaves are typically divided into floating, emergent, and submersed forms, and the plant can survive both submerged and terrestrial conditions. The plant is also considered a circumboreal species, meaning it is found in both North America and Eurasia. It has been used for medicinal purposes in the past and is beneficial for wildlife, providing food and habitat for aquatic invertebrates and fish.


Marsh Water Starwort (Callitriche palustris) is a fascinating and unique aquatic plant that grows in slow-moving bodies of water such as marshes, ponds, and ditches. This plant belongs to the family Callitrichaceae and is widely distributed throughout the world.

What sets Marsh Water Starwort apart from other aquatic plants is its unique and adaptable nature. The plant has both floating and submerged leaves, which allow it to thrive in a variety of water conditions. The floating leaves are typically large and oval-shaped, while the submerged leaves are small and feathery.

One of the key features of Marsh Water Starwort is its ability to withstand fluctuating water levels. As the water level rises and falls, the plant is able to adjust its growth and maintain its presence in the water. This adaptability makes Marsh Water Starwort a valuable component of wetland ecosystems, as it helps to maintain the delicate balance between land and water.

In terms of ecology, Marsh Water Starwort plays an important role in providing habitat and food for aquatic organisms. The plant provides a safe and sheltered environment for small fish, amphibians, and other aquatic creatures, making it an important component of the food chain.

In addition to its ecological importance, Marsh Water Starwort also has a long history of use by humans. In the past, the plant was used for medicinal purposes, with its leaves and stems being used to treat a variety of ailments. Today, Marsh Water Starwort is primarily used for ornamental purposes, with its unique and attractive appearance making it a popular addition to water gardens and aquaria.

Overall, Marsh Water Starwort is a fascinating and important aquatic plant that is well worth exploring. Whether you are an ecologist, a gardener, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty and diversity of nature, this plant is sure to captivate and inspire.

In terms of its physical characteristics, Marsh Water Starwort is a relatively small plant that typically grows to be between 10 and 30 centimeters in height. The plant's stems are thin and delicate, with small, oval-shaped leaves growing along the length of the stem. The floating leaves are usually larger and more robust, while the submerged leaves are smaller and more delicate.

In terms of its reproductive biology, Marsh Water Starwort is a monoecious plant, meaning that individual plants produce both male and female flowers. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, with the male flowers typically growing on separate stems from the female flowers. Pollination is typically accomplished through water, with the plant's tiny flowers being carried by the currents to other parts of the wetland.

Another unique aspect of Marsh Water Starwort is its ability to reproduce vegetatively. This means that the plant is able to grow new shoots from existing stems, which can then develop into new plants. This process of vegetative reproduction is especially important for Marsh Water Starwort, as it allows the plant to spread and establish itself in new areas even if it is not able to produce seeds.

In conclusion, Marsh Water Starwort is a fascinating and important aquatic plant that is well worth learning more about. Whether you are interested in its ecology, its biology, or simply its unique and adaptable nature, this plant has much to offer. So the next time you visit a marsh, pond, or ditch, take a moment to appreciate this fascinating and unique plant, and all that it has to offer!

Furthermore, Marsh Water Starwort is also a valuable indicator species, which means that it can be used to determine the health of the aquatic ecosystem in which it grows. If the population of Marsh Water Starwort is thriving, it can be a good sign that the ecosystem as a whole is healthy and functioning well. On the other hand, if the population of Marsh Water Starwort is declining, it can indicate that there are problems with the ecosystem that need to be addressed.

In addition to its ecological and biological importance, Marsh Water Starwort is also a popular plant for horticultural purposes. Its adaptable nature and ability to grow in a variety of water conditions make it an ideal plant for water gardens and aquaria. In these environments, Marsh Water Starwort can provide a beautiful and interesting addition to the underwater landscape, adding texture and depth to the underwater environment.

Finally, it's important to note that Marsh Water Starwort is not without its challenges. Like many aquatic plants, it can become invasive if it is introduced to an ecosystem where it is not native. This can cause problems for native plant and animal species, and can also lead to a decline in water quality. It is therefore important to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits before introducing Marsh Water Starwort to a new environment.

In conclusion, Marsh Water Starwort is a unique and fascinating aquatic plant that is well worth exploring. Whether you are an ecologist, a horticulturist, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty and diversity of nature, this plant has much to offer.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map