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Wolffia borealis (Engelm. ex Hegelm.) Landolt ex Landolt & Wildi
Family: Araceae
Northern Watermeal
[Wolffia brasiliensis var. borealis ]
Wolffia borealis image
Fronds boat-shaped, 0.7--1.5 mm, 1.3--2 times as long as wide, 0.7--1 times as deep as wide, with point at apex bent upward; papilla absent; upper surface intensely green, with 50--100 stomates; pigment cells present in vegetative tissue (visible in dead fronds as brown dots). 2n = 20, 22, 30, 40. Flowering (very rare) summer--early fall. Mesotrophic to eutrophic, quiet waters in temperate regions; 0--1400 m; Alta., B.C., Ont., Que.; Calif., Colo., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., Nebr., N.H., N.Y., Ohio, Okla., Oreg., Pa., S.Dak., Tenn., Utah, Vt., Wash., Wis. The name Wolffia punctata has been applied to this species in error. I know of no specimens of Wolffia borealis from Rhode Island.

Aquatic herb Flowers: occurring very rarely, borne one per plant body, lacking sepals and petals, with one stamen and one nearly smooth seed. Fruit: bladder-like (utricle) and thin-walled. Roots: absent. Plant body: not differentiated into stem and leaves, solitary or in pairs, green with scattered pigment cells visible under 10x magnification, 0.7 - 1.5 mm long, one and a third to two times as long as wide, three-quarters to one time as deep as wide, lacking projections and air spaces in tissue, always floating (even when crowded). A conical cavity at the tip produces daughter plants, while a cavity beside the midvein of the upper surface produces flowers.

Similar species: Wolffia columbiana is distinguished by having a spherical plant body that is deeper than wide and lacks pigment cells. The plant body of Wolffia brasiliensis differs by having a rounded tip and a tent-shaped projection in the center.

Flowering: summer to early fall

Habitat and ecology: Quiet waters of lakes, ponds, ditches, and slow-moving rivers. This species is likely more common than records show.

Occurence in the Chicago region: native

Notes: The genus Wolffia consists of the world's smallest flowering plants.

Etymology: Wolffia is named after J.F. Wolff, German botanist and physician (1778-1806). Borealis means northern.

Author: The Morton Arboretum

Thallus bright green and shiny above, pale beneath, ellipsoid to oblong-ovoid, symmetrical, mostly 0.1-1.2 נ0.2-0.5 mm, 1.3-2+ times as long as wide, ±pointed at both ends, the upper surface floating just above the water, punctate (post mortem) with brown pigment-cells, elevated distally into a terminal papilla; stomates 25-50; 2n=20, 30, 40. Quiet water; widespread in the U.S. and W.I., n. to Conn., s. N.H., s. Ont., and Minn., often with no. 3 [Wolffia columbiana H. Karst.], but more consistently forming a single layer with the upper surface exposed. (W. punctata, misapplied)

Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.

©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Locally abundant in the habitats of the genus.