Water lettuce (Ceratopteris species)

Water LettuceWater Lettuce, also known as Water Fern or Watersprite, is an aquatic or subaquatic fern buoyed via internal air pockets in its fronds.  The soft, pale green to brown (color depends upon how much light it receives) leaves of water lettuce are much like lettuce and are very tender and succulent. One of the easiest ways of distinguishing water lettuce is by the little plantlets that grow from the margins of the leaves, which are finely and narrow lobed. The plant can grow above the surface of the water, up to 21-30 inches above the waterline, and when it does, the leaves become brittle and fleshy.  These little plantlets grow in the shape of a rosette. Water lettuce plants often cover large areas in the regions where they are found.

Where to Find: Water Lettuce leavesFound in the tropics throughout the Old World in both Africa and Asia. Another kind is found in the New World tropics from Florida to South America. Water lettuce grows only in very wet places and often as a floating water plant. Look for water lettuce in still lakes, swampy areas, marshes, natural and man-made ponds, in the stagnant waters of slow flowing rivers, and the backwaters of rivers.  The plants are usually rooted in mud.

Edible Parts: Wash and eat the fresh leaves like lettuce. Be careful not to dip the leaves in the contaminated water in which they are growing. Eat only the leaves that are well out of the water.

Note: This plant has carcinogenic properties and should only be used as a last resort.

Water Lettuce plant growing in an aquarium