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Eriocaulon aquaticum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Eriocaulaceae (Pipewort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Bogs, gardens, marshes, ponds, swamps, water, wetland.

White, 2 petals
Tiny white flowers appearing in flat heads, up to 15cm across.
The fruit is a capsule.
Basal, grass-like, translucent, narrow leaves which taper into a fine point. A tuft-forming perennial.
Other Names:
Common Pipewort, Marsh Pipewort, Seven-angled Pipewort, Water Pipewort.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Eriocaulon aquaticum, commonly known as water pipewort or marsh pipewort, is a species of herbaceous perennial plant in the Eriocaulaceae family. It is native to North America and can be found in wetlands and other aquatic habitats such as marshes, bogs, and swamps. The plant has narrow, grass-like leaves and small, inconspicuous white or yellow flowers that grow in clusters. It typically grows as a low-lying groundcover and is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens, particularly for its attractive leaves and flowers. It is not known to have any medicinal use, it's not recommended for any use.


Pipewort, also known by its scientific name Eriocaulon aquaticum, is a unique aquatic plant that belongs to the family Eriocaulaceae. This plant is native to North America, where it grows in freshwater wetlands, bogs, and marshes. Pipewort is a relatively small plant, typically growing to be no more than 20 cm tall, and it has several distinctive characteristics that make it easily recognizable.

One of the most striking features of Pipewort is its unusual flower heads. These spherical flower heads are typically around 2-3 cm in diameter and are composed of numerous tiny flowers. Each flower head is surrounded by a series of bracts that are often colored bright white or light green. The flowers themselves are also quite unique, with long, thin petals that protrude outward from the center of the head, giving the appearance of a pipe or tube.

In addition to its distinctive appearance, Pipewort is also an important plant ecologically. It is an aquatic plant that can grow in shallow water or even on wet, muddy ground, and it is able to tolerate a range of environmental conditions. Pipewort is also able to grow in areas with low nutrient levels, making it an important contributor to the overall health of wetland ecosystems. In fact, because Pipewort is able to grow in areas with low nutrient levels, it is sometimes used as a bioindicator of wetland health.

Despite its ecological importance, Pipewort is not a widely cultivated plant, and it is generally only found in its natural habitats. However, there is some interest in using Pipewort in the horticultural industry, as it has potential as an attractive ornamental plant for use in aquariums or water gardens. Its unusual appearance and tolerance for a range of environmental conditions make it a potentially valuable addition to the aquatics industry.

Pipewort has a number of common names, including hatpins, pipeworts, and marsh candles, which reflect its unique appearance and the shape of its flower heads. The plant has a shallow root system, and its leaves grow from the base of the stem, forming a rosette of long, narrow, grass-like leaves. The leaves are typically around 20-30 cm long and up to 1 cm wide.

In the wild, Pipewort is an important food source for a variety of aquatic animals, including insects, snails, and small fish. The plant also provides habitat and shelter for these animals, as well as for other wetland species such as frogs and salamanders. Because of its importance to these wetland ecosystems, Pipewort is sometimes protected by local and state conservation efforts.

Pipewort is also sometimes used in traditional medicine, particularly by indigenous peoples in North America. It is said to have a number of medicinal properties, including as an antiseptic and as a treatment for respiratory problems. However, there is limited scientific research on the medicinal properties of Pipewort, and its use in traditional medicine should be approached with caution.

In terms of cultivation, Pipewort requires a moist, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. It can be propagated from seeds, which should be planted in a shallow container filled with a mixture of peat moss and sand. The container should be kept moist and placed in a sunny location until the seedlings emerge.

Another interesting aspect of Pipewort is its use in freshwater aquariums. Due to its unique appearance, Pipewort is a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts looking to add an interesting and unusual plant to their tank. In addition to its appearance, Pipewort is also relatively easy to care for in an aquarium setting, as it is able to tolerate a range of water conditions and does not require a lot of maintenance.

However, it is important to note that Pipewort may not be suitable for all aquarium setups. As an aquatic plant, it requires a substrate that is moist and well-drained, and it may not be compatible with certain types of fish or other aquatic animals. Before adding Pipewort to an aquarium, it is important to research its specific care requirements and ensure that it is a good fit for the tank.

In terms of conservation, Pipewort is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, as with many wetland species, Pipewort is threatened by habitat loss and degradation due to human activities such as agriculture, development, and pollution. Efforts to protect and restore wetland habitats are essential for the long-term survival of Pipewort and other wetland species.

In conclusion, Pipewort is a fascinating and unique aquatic plant with a range of ecological, ornamental, and medicinal uses. Its distinctive appearance, importance to wetland ecosystems, and potential for cultivation make it a plant worthy of further study and conservation efforts. Whether found in the wild or in an aquarium, Pipewort is a fascinating and beautiful plant that is sure to capture the attention of those who encounter it.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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