Scientific name

Proserpinaca L.

Common names

mermaid weed



Could be confused with

Gratiola, Hottonia, Limnophila, Myriophyllum

Native distribution

North America

Species commonly cultivated

Proserpinaca palustris L. (eastern North America)

P. pectinata Lam. (eastern North America)

Adventive distribution

information not available

Weed status

not weedy

Brief description

Perennial. Stem erect, ascending or prostrate. Rhizome slender, horizontal. Leaves alternate, sessile; leaf blade highly variable in shape, typically pinnate, but ranging from pinnate to entire within a single plant; emersed leaves sometimes entire with serrate margin. Inflorescence of solitary flowers, sessile in leaf axils. Sepals 3; petals absent; stamens 3. Dispersal by seed or stem fragments.

Natural habitat

shallow marginal waters of lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds, and wet ground

Additional comments

Proserpinaca contains two species from eastern North America. Its leaf morphology is highly variable, which leads to taxonomic problems. When its growth is emersed, P. pectinata has completely pinnate leaves, while P. palustris has entire, but serrate leaves. Both species are frequently cultivated for ponds and aquaria.