Alligator Weed

Scientific Name(s): Alternanthera philoxeroides
Abundance: plentiful
What: stems, leaves
How: cooked
Where: shallow water, full sun
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: extremely high in minerals, contains fair amount of protein
Dangers: accumulates toxic minerals if present in the water or soil.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of Alternanthera philoxeroides are arranged opposite-alternating along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are typically simple, lanceolate to ovate, measuring approximately 1 to 2 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate venation, with prominent veins running from the base to the tip of each leaf.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is entire (no teeth/serrations).

Leaf Color: The leaves are usually green but can turn reddish or purplish under certain conditions.

Flower Structure: Alligator Weed produces round clusters of small, spiked flowers at the terminal ends of stems.

Flower Color: Flowers are typically white or pale pink.

Fruit: The fruit is a small, spherical capsule containing seeds.

Seed: Inside the capsule are small, brown seeds.

Stem: The stem is typically prostrate and can form dense mats on the water's surface.

Hairs: Leaves and stems are hairless.

Height: Forms dense floating mats on water bodies, protruding up from the water's surface 4"-8".

Bed of alligator weeds.

Close-up of alligator weed stems, leaves, and flowers.


Close-up of alligator weed leaves.

Close-up of alligator weed flower.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Forming thick mats along the shores of shallow water, the invasive, foreign alligator weed has become an all too common sight on Texas shorelines and river banks. The vine-like plants start on shore and creep out to cover the surface of the water.

Cooked alligator weed has a mild, pleasant taste and is a wonderful source of minerals. Treat it like spinach but do not eat it raw. It must be cooked to kill any aquatic parasites. The stems are best chopped up so as to minimize any toughness they might have. The newest growth will be the most tender.

Warning: The water and mud in which it is growing must be free of any harmful minerals or heavy metals as the plant will gather and concentrate these toxic compounds. This accumulating power has been harnessed for bio-remediation of highly contaminated locations.

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