Scientific name

Phyllanthus L.

Common names




Could be confused with

Salvinia, Spirodela

Native distribution

tropical and subtropical regions of world

Species commonly cultivated

Phyllanthus fluitans Benth. ex Muell. Arg. (Mexico to Brazil)

Adventive distribution


Weed status

not weedy


small, free floating stem plant; rarely attached and ascending

Brief description

Perennial, free floating, monoecious. Roots numerous, red colored. Stem creeping horizontally, frequently fragmenting. Leaves alternate in a compact series, sessile; leaf blade orbicular, pubescent, venation pinnate, with regions between veins raised and swollen; margin entire. Inflorescence axillary, solitary. Flowers small, unisexual, short-petiolate; perianth of 5-6 imbricate segments, white. Berries red to green. Dispersal by seed and stem fragments.

Natural habitat

swamps and rivers, amongst other vegetation

Additional comments

Phyllanthus contains at least 600 species worldwide, but only two are aquatic: the free floating P. fluitans from Central and South America, and the submersed, attached P. leonardianus from Zaire. Only P. fluitans is cultivated for aquaria and ponds, although rarely traded commercially.