Herbs & Plants

Brasenia schreberi

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Botanical Name : Brasenia schreberi
Family: Cabombaceae
Genus: Brasenia
Species: B. schreberi
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Nymphaeales
Synonyms:Brasenia nymphoides, Brasenia peltata

Common Name:Water-shield (also watershield or water shield).

Habitat : Brasenia schreberi is widely distributed in warm temperate and tropical regions of the world.It grows throughout most of the United States and southern Canada. Also occurs in Central America, Cuba, Africa, East Asia and Australia. It is found in Shallow ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. It grows in water 0.5-3 m deep.


Brasenia schreberi is an aquatic perennial plant with floating, peltate leaves and rhizomatous stems. It is identified by its bright green leaves, small purple flowers that bloom from June through September, and a thick mucilage that covers all of the underwater organs, including the underside of the leaves, stems, and developing buds.

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Leaf: Oval leaves (4-12 cm long and 3-8 cm wide) float on the water surface. The leaves have purple undersides with long, centrally-attached leaf-stalks up to 2 m long. A slimy gelatinous substance usually covers the stalks and underside of young leaves and stems.
Stem: Arise from submersed, branching, reddish creeping rhizomes.

Flower: The 5-20 cm long flower stalks each bear a single purplish flower with 3 sepals and 3 (4) similar-looking petals. Each flower measures up to 2.5 cm across and is elevated slightly above the water surface. Blooms May to September.

Fruit: Each flower produces 4-18 separate narrowly egg-shaped, leathery fruits between 6-8 mm long. Each fruit usually contains 2 seeds. They ripen underwater and decay to release seeds.

Root: Slender, branched, creeping rhizomes

This plant  exhibits wind pollination. The flowers have a two-day blooming period. On the first day, the functionally female, or pistillate flower, extends above the surface of the water and exposes the receptive stigmas. The flower then recedes below the water surface and on the following day emerges as a functionally male, or staminate flower. It is elevated higher than on the previous day and the anther-bearing filaments are extended beyond the female carpels. The anthers dehisce, releasing the pollen, and the flower is then withdrawn below the water where the fruit develops. Brasenia spreads rapidly once it is established and is very difficult to control.

Edible Uses:
The rhizomes and leaves have been used for food and medicinal purposes by Native Americans. The Japanese use the young leaves and stems in salads. Provides habitat for fish and aquatic insects; seeds and vegetation are eaten by waterfowl.

Medicinal Uses:
The leaves are crushed and applied to abscesses and boils, and are also used in the treatment of phthisis and dysentery. A decoction of the seed is antidotal. It is also used in the treatment of dysentery and to relieve thirst.  The plant is used in the treatment of cancer.  The fresh leaves were used like lichen, in pulmonary complaints and dysentery; when dry the gelatinous matter almost disappears, yet they impart mucilage to the water.

Other Uses: Brasenia schreberi is cultivated as a vegetable in China and Japan (where it is known as junsai) and the mucilage it produces has been found to have anti-algal and anti-bacterial properties that may be useful as a natural weed control.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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