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Water Lettuce

Water lettuce, Pistia stratiotes, cover. Photo by Dr. Bill Haller, University of Florida

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Common Name: Water lettuce
Scientific Name: Pistia stratiotes
Origin: Africa and South America


Water lettuce is an often free-floating aquatic plant that resembles an open head of lettuce. Feathery roots grow under the plants, which can connect a large number of these plants by stolons. Leaves are light green, thick, softly hairy (pubescent), and have parallel veins and scalloped edges. Water lettuce produces a green berry that turns brown at maturity. Flowers are inconspicuous.


The plant can adapt to life in ponds, lakes and quiet areas of rivers and streams, but doesn’t tolerate salt water. While water lettuce is limited by cold winter temperatures, several populations of water lettuce have been observed in New York and Ontario, and they may be successfully reproducing.


Water lettuce forms thick mats that block sunlight and slow or prevent the growth of native aquatic plants. As the plant dies and decomposes, it removes oxygen from the water, which can disrupt fish communities. Dense mats of water lettuce can hinder swimmers and boaters, prevent other recreational uses of waterways, and restrict water flow in irrigation and flood control canals.


Small and isolated infestations can be easily controlled manually (hand pulling). Larger infestations can be addressed using harvesters, large machines that scoop up plants. Once large infestations have been decreased in size and density using harvesters, hand removal can be used to finish the job. Chemical control is also effective.

Regional Distribution

Early Detection

WNY PRISM Priority

Tier 2 – Eradication

Invasive Species Priorities – Tier Chart


Water lettuce was introduced to North America as an aquarium and water garden plant. It is often spread by the release of aquarium plants.