Water Willow Plant Description
The American water-willow, scientifically known as Justicia Americana, is an aquatic, herbaceous flowering plant belonging to the Acanthaceae family. There are around 2,500 species in this family, ranging from small trees to herbs and shrubs. Water willows are native to North America and occur mainly in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Michigan. You can also find this plant in Quebec and Ontario.
Flowering occurs in June and might last until September, dependent on the location. Typically, just a few flowers bloom at a time. Following that, seed capsules replace the flowers. Each capsule holds two cells, with each cell holding two seeds. The seeds are warty and roughly 1/8 inches long. The root system is rhizomatous, generating plant colonies.
Water willows Physical Appearance
This perennial herbaceous wildflower is an emergent aquatic plant with a moderate density that grows one to three feet above the water's surface. However, it can also be a terrestrial plant of comparable height. Typically, the stems are unbranched and can grow to anything between one and a half and three feet high.
The leaves are deciduous, thin at the base, and sword shaped. These can grow up to an inch in width and six inches in length. Their edges are typically smooth, while the outer edges may be somewhat undulated. The leaves top and lower surfaces are both glabrous and medium green. The seeds have a bright polish with a width of 0.07 inches and are 0.11 inches long.
The flowers are either white or violet, with an average length of 0.4 inches. The lobes are primarily white, except for the deep purple-hued mottling at the lower lobe's base. Otherwise, the flowers are gently speckled with tiny purple dots or stained pale purple. They grow in tiny bunches on stalks from the leaf axils. The sepals are about 0.27 inches long, whereas the spikes grow to 1.18 inches. The fruit is dry and extends beyond the flower, growing to a height of about 0.47 inches.
The water willow grows in shallow, stagnant water up to three feet deep, where there's partial or complete sun or damp weather, with gravelly, sandy, or muddy soil. Throughout the summer, shallow riffles in rivers and major streams are typical habitats. Other suitable habitats include wet portions of swamps, river sandbars, muddy river or pond banks, rocky highland streams, and sandy marshes.
Butterflies and bees pollinate the water willow flowers. Other floral guests include skippers, Conopidae (thick-headed flies), Bombyliidae (bee flies), and wasps.
What's the Water Willows' Purpose in The Ecosystem?
The water willow benefits the ecosystem as it provides food for several creatures. As an aquatic plant, fungi and bacteria decompose it once it dies, providing food for several marine invertebrates. It is a host plant for Darapsa Versicolor caterpillars, which feed on the leaves. Additionally, numerous macro and micro invertebrates live in the submerged parts of all aquatic plant species. Fish and other creatures consume these invertebrates, such as ducks, reptiles, and amphibians. Other wildlife species that eat the water willow rhizomes are the nutria, white beaver, and muskrat. Deer also graze on the water willow's leaves.