Common Water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica) – Beginner’s Guide

Common Water-plantain

Alisma plantago-aquatica, also known as Common Water-plantain, European Water-plantain, or Mad-dog Weed, is a perennial flowering aquatic plant.

It grows in most parts of Europe and Asia and has spread to other parts of the Old and New World.

This plant is found in shallow water and has a fibrous root, basal leaves, and a triangular stem.

It produces small flowers from June to August, with fruits appearing as a ring of seeds inside each flower.

How Can You Identify Common Water-plantain?

Flower Description

The flowers of Common Water-plantain are small, around 1 cm (1/2 in) across, with three round or slightly jagged white or pale purple petals.

They open in the afternoon and have three blunt green sepals and six stamens per flower. The carpels often exist as a flat single whorl.

Similar Species

Narrow-leaved water plantain, Alisma lanceolatum, is a similar species that differs only in having acuminate leaf tips and narrow lanceolate leaf shapes.

Presumed specimens found in North America may actually be the similar A. subcordatum and A. trivale.

What Chemicals Are Found in Common Water-plantain?

Chemical constituents of Rhizoma Alismatis, the rhizomes of Alisma orientale (syn. Alisma plantago-aquatica var. orientale) used in traditional Chinese medicine, include alisol A 24-acetate and alisol B 23-acetate.

The content of these two compounds can vary significantly in Rhizoma Alismatis from different areas.

What Is the Origin and Distribution of Common Water-plantain?

The word “alisma” is said to be of Celtic origin, meaning “water,” which refers to the plant’s habitat. It was named after the Plantago due to the similarity of their leaves.

This plant species is widespread across most of Europe and Asia, from Portugal and Morocco to Japan, Kamchatka, and Vietnam.

It’s also native to northern and central Africa as far south as Tanzania and Australia.

It has been reportedly naturalized in southern Africa, New Zealand, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington state, and Connecticut.

What Are the Uses of Common Water-plantain?

Culinary Uses

The rootstocks of Common Water-plantain contain starch and can be boiled or soaked to remove bitterness before eating.

It’s important to cook aquatic plants to eliminate any parasites that may be present.

Medicinal Uses

A powder made from dried roots has been used in folk medicine as a cure for rabies, and crushed leaves are used against mammary congestion.

Fresh leaves are also used in homeopathy. However, this plant species is often confused with others of the same genus, so reported data may also refer to A. orientale or A. lanceolatum.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Alisma orientale, sometimes treated as a variety of Alisma plantago-aquatica (A. plantago-aquatica var. orientale), has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as “ze xie.”

However, it may have serious side effects or even toxic effects, such as hepatotoxicity, in patients with chronic hepatitis B.

Scientific Classification

Scientific Name:Alisma plantago-aquatica
Also Known As:Common Water-plantain, European Water-plantain, Mad-dog Weed
Conservation Status:Least Concern

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