Elatine minima

Small Waterwort

Small Waterwort, Elatine minima, Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Herbarium and Robert W. Freckmann
Small Waterwort
Photo courtesy Wisconsin State Herbarium and Robert W. Freckmann

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


  • Elatine, from the Greek, 'elatinos (elatinos), "of the fir"; used by Pliny to refer to a plant of the genus Antirrhinum (Snapdragons).
  • minima, from the Latin, "small"
  • Common name from its size relative to other Waterworts


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Dilleniidae
        • Order Theales,
          • Family Elatinaceae, the Waterworts
            • Genus Elatine, the Waterworts
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 21411


  • A small, annual herb, forming small moss-like mats on mud.
  • Leaves opposite, oblong to obovate, rounded at tip, to 4mm long, petioles absent. Small membranous stipules in leave axils.
  • Stem smoothe, branching, to 2" long.
  • Roots unbranched, thread-like
  • Flowers small, single, and stalkless in leaf axils
    • Sepals 2
    • Petals 2
    • Stamens
    • Pistil 3 styles
    • Ovary superior (within blossom)
  • Fruit a round capsule
  • Seed has rows of small rounded pits


  • A small, inconspicuous plant of muddy shores and very shallow waters.
  • Distinguished from other small, inconspicuous shoreline plants by its opposite leaves with small, membranous stipules in the leaf axils.
  • Distinguished from the closely related, and in our area much less common, Long Stem Waterwort (Elatine triandra) by having flowers with 2 sepals and 2 petals rather than 3.


  • Newfoundland to Ontario and Minnesota, south to Maryland and Virginia.


  • Shallow water and wet shores along lakes and ponds, usually where sandy or mucky.





  • By seed



  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Not known to be available commercially.



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Last updated on 26 February, 2004