Common Arrowhead

The bedrock terrace I’ve been writing about supports a surprising number of wetland plants. This one, Sagittaria latifolia, is not only a wetland obligate, it’s an emergent: an aquatic plant that roots in shallow water and produces stems, leaves, and flowers above water level.

Typical of monocots, S. latifolia has floral parts in multiples of three, with three sepals and three petals. The flowers are typically unisexual, the male flowers having numerous yellow-anthered stamens, the females having numerous green pistils. In bisexual flowers, the stamens ring the pistils, as shown here. The flowers are usually borne on racemes, sometimes on panicles, with flowers in whorls.

Although S. latifolia is found in every state in the union except Nevada and Alaska, and in much of southern Canada, it’s most common in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Upper Midwest. (It’s also in Hawaii, but considered alien there.) It’s endangered in Illinois, but considered weedy by the Southern Weed Science Society.

S. latifolia is in the Alismataceae, or water plantain family, which comprises anywhere from 80 to 120 species in about 15 genera, depending on which authority you consult. The Alismataceae is cosmopolitan, but most species are native to North America.

Common names include common arrowhead, wapato, wappata, and katniss. Some names refer to the plant’s appearance or habit: arrowleaf, bull-tongue, water-archer, water-lily, waxflower. Other names refer to edibility: Chinese-onion, duck-potato, muskrat-potato, swan-potato, swanroot, and tule potato.

New (to Me)

Though by no means an expert, I have a pretty good handle on what’s to be found in the area of the Billy Goat B and C trails. So I haven’t been out there as often this year, which means I haven’t found much that’s new and exciting.


So the other day I walked upstream from Old Angler’s Inn, past Widewater, and went just a little ways up one of the Billy Goat A access trails, and partway along Billy Goat A itself.

Billy Goat A is “the” Billy Goat Trail, as popular ’round here as Old Rag Mountain is in Shenandoah National Park. On a Wednesday afternoon in August, there was no escaping the sound of people talking.  Or the sight of people (and their dogs, prohibited on BGA) walking.

The problem (other than I hike for solitude in nature, not for listening to other people prattling on) is that the Billy Goat Trail and Bear Island are being loved to death.  Have been loved to death, really, over many years. So believe it or not, I was actually pleased to see this sign


along with many signs telling people not to leave the trail. Which is a bit of a bummer for me, but if that’s what it takes, I’ll comply.

Wish everyone else would, too.  Wish people would treat the area with a little respect while using it as their playground.


At any rate, in one of the side pools along the canal at Widewater something caught my eye.

small water plantain
Alisma subcordatum


Conditions were sub-optimal for close-up photography.  It was shady, breezy, and I didn’t have the tripod along, which meant in order to get a reasonably not-blurry picture I had to increase the shutter speed, which meant I had to bump the ISO way up (the above picture was shot at ISO 1600), which means noise and not-too-clear pictures…


…and no good close-ups of the flowers, which are itty-bitty. No more than 1/8″ across. Perhaps I’ll go back soon and try again.

Small water plantain is an emergent aquatic plant that can be found across most the the US and Canada, except for a few western and northwestern states and provinces.  And there’s really not much else to say about it, except that I found something new (to me).

20150812-20150812-_DSC0017stay still, darn it!