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Littorella uniflora

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
10 centimetres tall
Gardens, mud, ponds, sand dunes, water.

Green, 4 petals
The male flowers are greenish, solitary and stalked with long stamens (1 or 2mm long). The female flowers are unstalked and emerge from the base of the plant. Submerged flowers are rare.
A yellowish-brown, one-seeded nut (up to 3mm long and 1.5mm wide). The surface of the fruit is ribbed.
A non-hairy perennial aquatic plant with long, linear leaves. The leaves are flat on one side and rounded on the other.
Other Names:
American Shoreweed, Shore-weed.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Littorella uniflora is a perennial herbaceous plant species in the family Hydrocharitaceae. It is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow water and marshy areas, typically in acidic to neutral soils. It is native to the northern hemisphere, including Europe, Asia, and North America. It is commonly known as shoreweed, and has small white flowers that bloom in the summer. It is also used as an ornamental plant in water gardens and as a food source for waterfowl. Littorella uniflora is also considered as an indicator of good water quality and is often used in the monitoring of water bodies.


Shoreweed, or Littorella uniflora, is a small aquatic plant found in freshwater habitats around the world. This unique plant is adapted to life on the shorelines of ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams, where it grows in shallow water or wet soil. Despite its small size and inconspicuous appearance, shoreweed is an important part of many aquatic ecosystems, playing a vital role in the food chain and contributing to the overall health of the environment.

Description and Habitat

Shoreweed is a small plant that typically grows to only a few centimeters in height. Its stems are thin and delicate, and its leaves are long and slender, with a single leaf emerging from each stem. The leaves are a bright green color and have a smooth texture, and they grow in a spiral pattern around the stem.

Shoreweed is found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. It prefers shallow water or wet soil and is often found growing on the muddy shores of these water bodies. Shoreweed can tolerate a range of water conditions, including acidic or alkaline waters, and can even grow in areas with low oxygen levels.

Importance in the Ecosystem

Shoreweed is an important part of many aquatic ecosystems. It serves as a primary producer, using photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy that can be used by other organisms in the food chain. The leaves and stems of shoreweed provide shelter and habitat for a variety of small aquatic animals, including insects, snails, and other invertebrates.

In addition to providing habitat for other organisms, shoreweed also plays an important role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. The plant can help to stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion, reducing sedimentation and improving water quality. Its roots also help to absorb excess nutrients and pollutants from the water, making it a valuable tool in water quality management.

Conservation Status

Shoreweed is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While it is found in many freshwater habitats around the world, it is not considered a widespread or abundant species. Some populations of shoreweed have experienced declines due to habitat loss, pollution, and other threats, but overall the species is not currently at risk of extinction.

In some areas, shoreweed is protected by laws and regulations designed to conserve freshwater habitats and the plants and animals that live in them. These protections can help to ensure that shoreweed and other important aquatic species continue to thrive in the years to come.

Shoreweed may be small and inconspicuous, but it plays an important role in many freshwater ecosystems around the world. As a primary producer, it provides energy and habitat for a variety of aquatic animals, and its ability to absorb excess nutrients and pollutants helps to maintain water quality. While shoreweed is not currently considered an endangered species, it is important to continue to monitor its populations and protect its habitat to ensure that it can continue to contribute to the health of freshwater ecosystems for generations to come.

More Information

While shoreweed may not be a well-known plant, it has been the subject of scientific study and research, particularly in the areas of ecology and environmental management. For example, researchers have found that shoreweed can play an important role in reducing the amount of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, in the water. Excess nutrients can cause algal blooms, which can harm other aquatic organisms and reduce water quality. By absorbing these nutrients, shoreweed can help to prevent algal blooms and maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems.

In addition to its ecological importance, shoreweed has also been used in traditional medicine by some indigenous peoples. For example, the Navajo people of North America use shoreweed as a treatment for diarrhea and other gastrointestinal ailments.

Despite its benefits, shoreweed is not without its challenges. Invasive species, such as the common reed (Phragmites australis), can outcompete shoreweed and reduce its abundance in some areas. Changes in water levels and other environmental factors, such as drought or flooding, can also impact shoreweed populations.

Overall, shoreweed is a valuable and important plant in freshwater ecosystems around the world. Its role as a primary producer and water quality regulator make it an essential part of many aquatic food webs, and its ability to provide habitat for a variety of small aquatic animals helps to maintain biodiversity. While there are challenges to preserving and protecting shoreweed, continued efforts to monitor and manage freshwater ecosystems can help to ensure that this important plant and other aquatic species continue to thrive.

One interesting feature of shoreweed is its reproductive strategy. Shoreweed is a dioecious plant, meaning that individual plants are either male or female. The male and female plants produce separate flowers, with the male flowers producing pollen and the female flowers producing ovules. To reproduce, pollen from a male plant must be transported to a female plant, where it can fertilize the ovules and produce seeds.

This reproductive strategy can present a challenge for shoreweed populations, as male and female plants may not be present in equal numbers or may not be in close proximity to one another. However, researchers have found that some populations of shoreweed are able to reproduce asexually through a process called apomixis, in which seeds are produced without fertilization. This can help shoreweed populations to maintain genetic diversity and adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Another interesting feature of shoreweed is its ability to survive in low-oxygen environments. The plant can form specialized structures called aerenchyma, which are essentially air channels that allow oxygen to be transported from the leaves to the roots. This adaptation allows shoreweed to grow in areas with low oxygen levels, such as muddy shorelines or areas with high levels of organic matter.

In conclusion, shoreweed may be a small and inconspicuous plant, but it plays an important role in freshwater ecosystems around the world. Its ability to provide energy and habitat for other aquatic organisms, regulate water quality, and adapt to changing environmental conditions make it a valuable and fascinating plant. Continued efforts to protect and conserve shoreweed and other aquatic species can help to ensure that these important ecosystems continue to thrive for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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