This is a native plant to Britain and whilst it was common at one time in East Anglia it is now rarely seen. It is only thanks to the water gardener that there is little danger of extinction, but we should still try to propagate this plant to ensure its safety.

Because the Water Soldier is a native British plant you do not need to lift it in the Autumn.

You may also hear this plant called the “Pineapple Plant” owing to its similarity to a Pineapple plant with its spiny leaves. Its structure and appearance is also very similar to some succulent plants and bromeliads.

The plant grows in a rosette with 1" wide tapering leaves which can reach a length of 9", which means the diameter of the plant can reach up to 18". Because of its size it is obviously not a plant for a small pond or water feature. The dark green leaves are edged with recurving prickles so you should take care when handling this plant.

Elderly plants can become quite brittle.

Young plants are produced from the centre of the rosette on runners similar to the houseplant commonly known as the Spider Plant and are comparably soft in texture. The centre of the rosette also produces long, white roots, which, if planted in shallow enough water will anchor themselves to the substrate. These roots and also the rosette of the plant itself form safe havens for fry and small fish to live in as well as insects.

During the summer the Water Soldier stands slightly above the surface of the water and will produce white flowers. In the Autumn, the leaves produce a slimy secretion and the plant sinks towards the bottom of the pond where it remains safe from the elements until the spring when it rises towards the water surface again.

There have been fossils found of this plant and it is unique in that it is the only surviving member of its genus. I believe seven originally existed.

I have kept this plant myself and would recommend it to others. Whilst it is a British native plant it looks as though it might be of tropical origin and will certainly contrast well with other plants you may have. Once established I have found the Water Soldier needs little care except to occasionally split the young plants away from the parent plant to propagate the species.



© Copyright - Sue Crew, February 1999.

 

The Water Soldier

WATER SOLDIER (Stratiotes aloides)

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