Brasenia schreberi

Water Shield

Water Shield, Photo Courtesy USDA Plants Database
Water Shield
Photo Courtesy USDA Plants Database

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Brasenia, named for Christoph Brasen, 1774, Moravian missionary and plant collector in Greenland and Labrador
  • schreberi, from the Latin, "of Schreber, Schreber's". Named for German botanist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber (1739-1810), a student of Linnaeus.
  • Common Name, from the shape of the floating leaf
  • Other common names include Dollar Bonnet, Purple Wen-dock, Schreber's Watershield, brasénie de Schreber (Qué), Junsai (Jap)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Magnoliidae
        • Order Nymphaeales, the Water Lilies
          • Family Cabombaceae
            • Genus Brasenia, the Watershields
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 18370
  • Also known as Brasenia peltata


  • Floating leaf, aquatic perennial herb of shallow lakes and ponds, slow rivers.
  • Leaves alternate, oval to elliptical, 2"-5" long and half as wide, with smooth, unnotched edges and centrally-attached leaf stems. Undersides covered with slippery gelatinous material.
  • Stem to 6' in length; trails through water, also covered with slippery gelatinous material.
  • Rootstalk long, creeping, anchored in muddy bottom.
  • Flowers small (about ¾" in diameter), dull purple, petals slightly longer and narrower than sepals, appearing singly above the water on long stalks from leaf axils. Flowers June to September.
    • Sepals usually 3, sometimes 4
    • Petals usually 3, sometimes 4
    • Stamens 12-18
  • Fruit oblong, segmented capsule, 3-5mm long, ripening July and after.
  • Seed ovoid, 2-3 mm long


  • Distinguished from water lillies by small oval leaves without a slit or notch
  • Clear gelatinous material coating stems and undersides of leaves is unique.


  • Nova Scotia and Quebec to Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas. In the west, from British Columbia and western Montana to Washington and south to California.
  • Also Mexico, West Indies, Central and South America, East Asia, Africa, and Australia.


  • Oligotrophic or mesotrophic ponds, sluggish streams, and shallow lakes, to depths of 6'-9'
  • In favorable settings it can cover large areas and inhibit boating and swimming.
  • In the BWCA, look for it on the Chub and Louse Rivers; offshore of portages


  • Birds: Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl eat the seeds, leaves, and underwater stems
  • Herps: Some freshwater frogs use the stalks for building nests.
  • Fish: Provides shade and shelter


  • Brasenia is known from the fossil record in Europe although it is not known to grow there currently.


  • In Japan, an ingredient of miso-shiru (miso soup). Also cooked as Sumisoae or Sanbaizu.
  • In China, may be fried as food. When cooked with crucian carp and bean curd, the soup is said to be fragrant and tasty.


  • Sexually by seed, flowering late spring through summer. Pollinated by wind.
  • Asexually by rhizomes


  • From seeds collected late summer from underwater seed casings, and sown immediately in trays containing wet mud. Cover the seedpots with water and then increase depth as plants grow.
  • From division of rootstalk


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun - full
    • Soil - rich
    • Water - still, lime-free, to 6' deep
  • A good plant for the water garden but difficult to establish.



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Last updated on 14 April, 2004