Non-rooted Floating Vegetation

Non-rooted floating Aquatic plants are true vascular plants whose entire body is floating on top of the surface of the water.  These plants can range from small plants (around the size of a grain of sand) with green flowers that are barely visible to larger plants that produce larger colorful flowers.  This plant group is distinguished from the others by having the entire plant floating on the surface of the water, without roots protruding into the soil.  There are 5 main types of non-rooted floating aquatic plants in Kentucky.

Mosquito Fern: Mosquito fern have small (1/2” – 1”) fern like leaves that turn from green to red as the plant ages.  Small roots dangle into the water from each leaf.


Water Hyacinth: Water hyacinth is a free-floating plant that can grow to a height of 3 feet. The dark green leave blades are circular to elliptical in shape with a thick root system. The water hyacinth has light blue to violet flowers. Water hyacinth is a very aggressive invader and can form thick mats.

Duckweed: Duckweed is a small light green, free-floating, seed bearing plant with has 1 to 3 leaves (fronds) that are 1/16” in length. A single root (or root-hair) protrudes from each frond.

Bladderwort: Bladderworts are about 8” tall, lack roots but have yellow flowers on erect stems above the water. Underwater leaf branches are fleshy and inflated with air which allows them to float. Leaves are whorled with 4 to 10 forked, lateral leaves.  Bladderworts have underwater leaves that bear small oval “bladders” which trap and digest small aquatic creatures. Bladderworts are usually found in quiet, shallow, acidic waters and can form dense mats.

Watermeal: Watermeal is a very tiny (less than 1 millimeter) light green free-floating, rootless plant. In fact, watermeals are the smallest seed-bearing plants in the world.

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