Photo credit: 영철 이, Flickr Creative Commons
Yellow Floating Heart
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Species at a Glance
This aggressive aquatic perennial was introduced as a garden ornamental from eastern Asia and has since spread throughout the United States and Canada. It forms dense mats of vegetation in the water that exclude native species and alter the ecology of waterways.
Leaves: Shiny, green, heart-shaped or nearly circular leaves are 5-15 cm (2-6 inches) long and are set on stalks that float at the water’s surface. Leaves are frequently seen with reddish-purple blotches and are slightly wavy or rippled. They are alternately arranged along the main stem and oppositely arranged on the flower stems.
Flowers: Occur from June to October and are produced on stalks just above the water’s surface. They can be either solitary or in clusters of up to five. Flowers have five yellow petals that have distinctive fringed edges, five sepals, and five stamens.
Fruits/Seeds: The 2.5 cm (1 in) long fruit capsules contain numerous flat, oval seeds with “hairy” edges. When ripe, they split open, releasing the seeds to float on the surface of the water.
Roots: Bottom-rooted with long branched stems that reach about 1 m (3 ft) or more.
Yellow floating heart may be confused with the native spatterdock (Nuphar variegate) or watershield (Brasenia schreberi). Spatterdock has larger leaves that grow to 30 cm (12 in) or more and has yellow flowers in the shape of a ball with six or more petals. Watershield has distinctive oval-shaped leaves, an inconspicuous purple flower, and can be easily recognized by a gelatinous slime that covers the stem and underside of the leaves.
Most commonly found in slow-moving waters about 0.5-4 m (1.5-13 ft) deep, such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and swamps, and can even grow on damp mud.
Because of its popularity in the aquarium trade, yellow floating heart can be easily purchased on the internet. Spread can occur when it escapes outdoor water gardens during flooding events, or when it is intentionally discarded into waterways. Since it spreads both by seed and fragmentation, pieces of plant and stiff seed hairs can be moved to new areas on water currents or as they hitchhike on the feathers or fur of waterfowl and other wildlife.
Native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean region, yellow floating heart was introduced as an ornamental plant into the United States. In the Mid-Atlantic region, it can be found in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.
Note: Distribution data for this species may have changed since the publication of the Mid-Atlantic Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (2016), the source of information for this description.
Yellow floating heart grows in dense patches that negatively impact wildlife habitats by outcompeting ecologically important native plants and creating stagnant areas of low oxygen under the mats. These mats also make recreational opportunities such as angling, boating, swimming, and paddling difficult.
Information for this species profile comes from the Mid-Atlantic Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (2016).