Sagittaria latifolia - Wapato


Identification

"Sagittaria latifolia is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water." [PFAF]

Subtaxa present in B.C.

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]

"General: Perennial aquatic or semi-aquatic herb from a tuber-producing rhizome; stems 20-50 (90) cm tall." [IFBC E-flora]

"Leaves: All basal, blades of the emergent leaves arrowhead-shaped, 5-25 cm long, long-stalked and sheathed at the base, blades of the submerged leaves lanceolate, or linear and essentially bladeless, up to 80 cm long." [IFBC E-flora]

"Flowers: Inflorescence an open, bracteate panicle of stalked flowers, the bracts egg-shaped, rounded or hooded at the tips, 5-10 (15) mm long; mature male and female flower stalks of equal length; petals white, 1-2 cm long; sepals 5-8 mm long." [IFBC E-flora]

"Fruits: Achenes, numerous in a globular cluster, winged, 2-3.5 mm long, sharp-beaked, the beaks extending at right angles to the body, 0.5-1.5 mm long." [IFBC E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Late Spring [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat / Range

"Wet ditches, ponds, lakeshores and marshes in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; infrequent in BC south of 56degreeN, absent from Queen Charlotte Islands, N Vancouver Island and adjacent coast; E to PQ, NB and NS and S to ME, PA, NC, FL, MS, TX, NM, AZ and CA; N South America, HI." [IFBC E-flora]

"Ditches, ponds, lakes and swampy areas in most parts of N. America[60].N. America - all areas except the far north. Naturalized in various parts of Europe[50]." [PFAF]


Edible Uses

Root

Roasted or boiled, the tubers become soft, palatable and digestible, and to travelers in the wild make a fairly good substitute for bread. [Saunders]

Root - raw or cooked[62, 105]. Excellent when roasted, the texture is somewhat like potatoes with a taste like sweet chestnuts[85, 92, 94, 159, 256]. The tubers can be eaten raw but they are rather bitter (especially the skin)[85, 102, 159]. It is best to remove this skin after the tubers have been cooked[183]. The tubers can also be dried and ground into a powder, this powder can be used as a gruel or mixed with cereal flours and used to make bread[85, 94]. The N. American Indians would slice the boiled roots into thin sections and then string them on ropes to dry in much the same way as apples[183].The egg-shaped tubers are 4 - 5cm long and are borne on the ends of slender roots, often 30cm deep in the soil and some distance from the parent plant[85, 92, 94]. The tubers are best harvested in the late summer as the leaves die down[92, 95]. They cannot be harvested by pulling out the plant since the tops break off easily, leaving the tubers in the ground[213]. [PFAF]

The roots (tubers) of this attractive water plant were much used for food by both the Indians and the Chinese. The harvest was usually made in late summer as the stems and leaves were dying. Indian women, wading in the water and pushing small canoes before them, loosened the tubers with their toes so that they Hoated to the surface and were gathered into the Hoating baskets. They were baked in the embers of the fire, skinned, and eaten either whole or mashed. Lewis and Clark reported the use of this root for food on their famous expedition to the Northwest. [EuCp. P. 31-32]

The tubers are borne at the end of the slender rootstocks and may actually be located some distance from the main cluster of the stems of the parent plant. These tubers become much larger in the fall and are said to reach the size of a man's fist. In our area we seldom get them larger than a hen's egg and they are often much smaller. They are solid and white-colored inside, covered with overlapping scales and are borne well below the soil surface, sometimes as much as a foot deep. This creates a problem when you attempt to collect an adequate supply. Arrowhead tubers were widely used by the North American Indians and the early explorers soon learned to eat them. For example, Lewis and Clark described how the Indian squaws waded into the water, sometimes up to breast-deep, dragging a canoe. The women would dig out the tubers with their toes, and the tubers, being light, would rise to the surface of the water to be collected later and thrown into the boat. The Indians would also raid muskrat caches in order to obtain a supply. Anyone in a bathing suit or hip boots, wielding a strong rake or potato fork, can obtain a good supply without too much labor.

Some people claim that these tubers can be eaten raw, but we have never cared for them that way. First, they have a distinctly bitter taste that may be unpalatable, although this seems to be more concentrated in the peeling. Even individual tubers seem to vary in the relative amount of this bitterness. Secondly, one may run a certain danger of contamination by eating them raw. We boiled them for about I5-30 minutes, removed the outer scales and ate them with salt, pepper and butter. We considered them excellent food, something on the order of potatoes, with little, if any, of the bitter taste remaining after cooking. We also roasted them for about 30-40 minutes at 375oF., wrapped in aluminium foil, and liked them even better.

The Indians used to boil them, then string them up to dry for later use. We cut some of the raw tubers in slices and allowed them to dry in the sun. Some three years later we found them quite palatable when allowed to soak in the mouth, or when they were soaked in water for about an hour, then fried in butter. The bitter taste did persist to some degree and we concluded that the Indian method of drying the boiled tubers was superior. It has been reported that a flour can be obtained by grinding up these tubers. The arrowhead plant is available for food throughout the whole year, even in winter if one is hardy enough or hungry enough to dig for it. The tubers are good boiled, fried or roasted; in fact, in any way that potatoes are prepared; they work in well with almost any other food. [Harringon]

Lewis and Clark record... "We purchased from the old squaw, for armbands and rings, a few wappatoo roots, on which we subsisted. They are nearly equal in flavor to the Irish potato and afford a very good substitute for bread." All through the winter of 1805-1806, when encamped near the mouth of this river, they continued to trade for wapatoo. It was their chief vegetable food, and was never out of season. On the return journey, Lewis, the botanist of the expedition, observed the Indian women collecting the roots where the Willamette joins the Columbia. The women used a very light, shallow canoe ten to fourteen feet long and two feet wide, that would hold one person and several bushels of roots. He says: ''She takes one of these canoes into a pond where the water is as high as the breast, and by means of her toes, separates from the root this bulb, which on being freed from the mud, rises immediately to the surface of the water and is thrown into the canoe. In this manner, these patient females remain in the water for several hours, even in the depth of winter. This plant is found through the whole extent of the valley in which we now are, but does not grow on the Columbia farther eastward.''[EWP]

Meskwaki Food (Winter Use Food) Boiled, sliced potatoes strung on a piece of basswood string and hung for winter supply.[UMD-Eth4]

This is the Indian potato whence St. Paul, Minn. was named. In early times they dried and stored it.[Huron Smith - Hocak]

Sagittaria latifolia Willd. Large arrow head. The milky juice is somewhat bitter. The plant is edible, when cooked. The root stocks of several species of the genus are eaten by the Indians and in China. Swamps.[MPP1]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


WapatoSagittaria latifolia

Part:TubersPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)103Ash (g)1.5Potassium (mg)922
Water (g)68Thiamine (mg)1.6Magnesium (mg)51
Protein (g)4.7Riboflavin (mg)0.25Calcium (mg)12
Fat (g)0.2Niacin (mg)1.4Phosphorus (mg)165
Carbohydrate (g)20Vitamin C (mg)5Sodium (mg)22
Crude Fiber (g)0.8Vitamin A (RE)0Iron (mg)6.6
Zinc (mg)0.7Manganese (mg)-Copper (mg)-

Sagittaria latifolia is known to have very high starch content (ca. 55.0% of dry matter), and in some parts of western North America, the tubers were the most important source of carbohydrates for indigenous peoples, and were a favoured staple food (Kuhnlein and Turner, 1991; Darby, 1996).[ETWP]


Cultivation & Propagation

"A pond or bog garden plant, it requires a moist or wet loamy soil in a sunny position[1]. Prefers shallow, still or slowly flowing water up to 12cm deep[1, 56]. Hardy to at least -20°c[187]. A polymorphic species[92]." [PFAF]

"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a pot standing in about 5cm of water. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and gradually increase the depth of water as the plants grow until it is about 5cm above the top of the pot. Plant out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Division of the tubers in spring or autumn. Easy. Runners potted up at any time in the growing season." [PFAF]


Synonyms


References

  1. http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Sagittaria%20latifolia&redblue=Both&lifeform=7,Accessed Jan 25, 2015
  2. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Sagittaria+latifolia, Accessed Feb 3, 2015
  3. [ThePlantList] http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-287465, Accessed May 24, 2014
  4. [UMD-Eth] Accessed Feb 3, 2015
    1. Hamel, Paul B. and Mary U. Chiltoskey 1975 Cherokee Plants and Their Uses -- A 400 Year History. Sylva, N.C. Herald Publishing Co. (p. 23)
    2. Herrick, James William 1977 Iroquois Medical Botany. State University of New York, Albany, PhD Thesis (p. 273)
    3. Turner, Nancy J., Laurence C. Thompson and M. Terry Thompson et al. 1990 Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia. Victoria. Royal British Columbia Museum (p. 112)
    4. Smith, Huron H. 1928 Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians. Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 4:175-326 (p. 254)

Sagittaria - Arrowhead

Annual, perennial herb; roots septate; generally monoecious; scape generally straight at inflorescence.
Leaf: petiole cylindric to 3-angled; submersed blades tapered to base; floating or emergent blades generally sagittate (linear to ovate).
Inflorescence: lowest node generally with 3 pistillate flowers, those above generally staminate.
Flower: sepals 3–10 mm, reflexed to appressed in fruit; petals generally entire.
Staminate flower: stamens 7–30.
Pistillate flower: receptacle convex; pistils many, spiralled on convex receptacle.
Fruit: body generally 2–3.5 mm, strongly compressed, abaxially winged or ridged; beak generally lateral, spreading to erect.

± 30 species: worldwide, especially America. (Latin: arrow, from leaf shape) Some species weedy; tubers of some eaten by humans, wildlife; Sagittaria brevirostra Mack. & Bush reportedly persisting at Stafford Lake and Chileno Laguna, Marin Co.
Unabridged references: [Bogin 1955 Mem New York Bot Gard 9:179–233] [Jepson]


Local Species;

  1. Sagittaria cuneata - arum-leaved arrowhead
  2. Sagittaria latifolia var latifolia - wapato

Key to the Species and Taxonomic Notes

1. Achenes with beaks extending at right angles to the body, the beaks 0.5-1.5 mm long; bracts of the inflorescences egg-shaped, rounded or hooded at the tips, 5-10 (15) mm long; mature male and female flower stalks of equal length.............Sagittaria latifolia
1. Achenes with beaks erect, the beaks 0.2-0.4 mm long; bracts of the inflorescences lanceolate, long-pointed at the tips, (5) 10-30 mm long; mature male flower stalks longer than the female flower stalks.................Sagittaria cuneata


Species Mentioned;

Sagittaria latifolia is the species most commonly reported as having been used as food by Canadian Indigenous Peoples, but S. cuneata was also apparently used (cf. Yanovsky, 1936), and it seems likely that both species were used in regions where their ranges overlap.

Any of the species of Sagittaria, especially the ones with arrow-shaped leaves, are worth testing out as food, providing, of course, they produce tubers of reasonable size. [Harringon]


Edible Uses

Roots

Sagittaria sp.; Stalk, below the blossom, peeled and eaten raw.[UMD-Eth1]

Medicinal Use

Sagittaria sagittifolia- "a cupful of tea made of nine leaves of Sagittaria sagittifolia to a pint of boiled water was reckoned a good strengthening medicine, if taken every day in spring and autumn.1" [MPFT]


References


Arum-leaved Arrowhead - Sagittaria cuneata

Family: Alismataceae (Water-plantain family)

Other Names; Wapato, arumleaf arrowhead.

Identification

"Sagittaria cuneata is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water." [PFAF]

Origin Status:

Native [E-flora]

General: Perennial aquatic or semi-aquatic herb from a tuber-producing rhizome; stems 20-50 cm tall." [IFBC E-flora]

Leaves: All basal, blades of the emergent leaves arrowhead-shaped, 1-12 cm long, long-stalked and sheathed at the base, blades of the submerged leaves lanceolate, or linear and essentially bladeless, up to 40 cm long." [IFBC E-flora]

Flowers: Inflorescence an open, bracteate panicle of stalked flowers, the bracts lanceolate, long-pointed at the tips, (5) 10-30 mm long; mature male flower stalks longer than the female flower stalks; petals white, 1-2 cm long; sepals 5-8 mm long." [IFBC E-flora]

Fruits: Achenes, numerous in a globular cluster, winged, 2-2.5 mm long, the beaks erect, 0.2-0.4 mm long." [IFBC E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Indeterminate [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat / Range

"Wet ditches, ponds and lakes in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common in BC south of 55degreeN and E of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, less frequent westward and northward; N to AK, YT and NT, E to Labr., NB and NS and S to ME, NY, OH, IL, TX, NM, AZ and CA." [IFBC E-flora]

"Calcareous or muddy shores and shallow waters of rivers, lakes, ponds, pastures, and ditches, occasional in tidal waters, or in deep flowing water with slow current; 100 - 2500 metres[43, 270]. N. America - Nova Scotia to British Columbia, south to Connecticut, Kansas, and California." [PFAF]


 

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Cultivation & Propagation

"A pond or bog garden plant, it requires a moist or wet loamy soil in a sunny position[1, 200]. Succeeds in shallow, still or slowly flowing water. Plants are usually monoecious but dioecious forms are sometimes found[43]. A very polymorphic species[43]. In mud or shallow water the leaves are broad, but in deep water the plant only produces long slender leafstalks[212]. This plant has potential for commercial cultivation as a root crop[212]." [PFAF]

"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a pot standing in about 5cm of water. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and gradually increase the depth of water as the plants grow until it is about 5cm above the top of the pot. Plant out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Division of the tubers in spring or autumn. Easy. Runners potted up at any time in the growing season." [PFAF]


Synonyms


References

  1. [E-flora] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Sagittaria%20cuneata&redblue=Both&lifeform=7, Accessed Jan 25, 2015
  2. [Jepson]Charles E. Turner, Robert R. Haynes & C. Barre Hellquist 2012, Sagittaria latifolia, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=42617, accessed on May 19, 2019.
  3. [PFAF] http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Sagittaria+cuneata, Accessed Feb 3, 2015
  4. [UMD-Eth]Accessed Feb 3, 2015
    1. Smith, Huron H. 1932 Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians. Bulletin of the Public Museum of Milwaukee 4:327-525 (p. 396)
    2. Hart, Jeffrey A. 1981 The Ethnobotany of the Northern Cheyenne Indians of Montana. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 4:1-55 (p. 6)

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