Water Hyacinth

Scientific name: Eichhornia crassipes
Abundance: invasive
What: young leaves, stems, bottom "flotation pods"
How: boiled, fried
Where: marshes, water
When: all year
Nutritional Value: Vitamin A
Dangers: Raw and cooked plants may cause itchiness in some people. Also, these plants collect and concentrate any toxin/pollutants in the water, so only collect them from areas of know high water quality. Water hyacinth is very prolific and invasive which has resulted in many places outlawing its transport. This means you might get arrested for taking some home to eat. Water hyacinths are a free floating plant that can be very invasive.

Leaf Arrangement: Rosette formation at the plant's center, with leaves emerging in a circular pattern.

Leaf Shape: Broadly ovate to rounded, typically 4 to 8 inches in diameter.

Leaf Venation: Veins radiate from the leaf base, visible and prominent.

Leaf Margin: The margins are wavy or crinkled, and entire.

Leaf Color: Bright green, often with a glossy surface.

Flower Structure: Flowers are borne on a spike, each with six petals and showy, distinctively arranged. Flower diameter is about 3".

Flower Color: Lavender to purple, with a yellow patch on the uppermost petal.

Fruit: The fruit is a three-celled capsule, but it is rarely seen as reproduction is mainly vegetative.

Seed: Seeds are small and numerous, though infrequently produced.

Stem: Short, thick, spongy stems that support the floating rosette.

Hairs: There are no hairs on the leaves or stems; surfaces are smooth.

Height: The plant floats on the water surface, with leaves and flowers rising a few inches to a foot above the water.  

Water hyacinths floating in a lake.
Water Hyacinth

Cluster of water hyacinths.


Closeup of water hyacinth air bladders.

Full plant removed from the water.

Closeup of water hyacinth flowers.


More pictures of water hyacinths.


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.

Sadly, the invasive Water Hyacinths are choking Texas waterways. They quickly reproduce from just a small bit of root, easily covering entire lakes in a few months. Imported from Asia as a decorative plant due to their beautiful flowers, these floating, bulbous plants are an ecological nightmare. Due to their incredible ease and speed of reproduction, it is illegal to transport Water Hyacinths even if your plan is to eat it.

In Asian countries the "heart" of the Water Hyacinth is cooked up and used in a manner like artichoke hearts. They must be cooked to kill any waterborne, infectious microbes. To prepare, cut away the leaves, flowers, and fine roots from the core of the water Hyacinth. Boil this heart or thinly slice it for use in a stir-fry dish.

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