Common name: duck potato
Scientific name: Sagittaria latifolia
Native American name: wapato
Plant family: Alismataceae
Description: Sagittaria latifolia is an herbaceous perennial. The leaves are all basal. Laves growing above water have arrowhead-shaped features. The flowers have separate male and female parts. There is green on the leaves and white on the petals. Fruits of Sagittaria latifolia have a flat sharp beak appearance. They are grouped in clusters. Wapato grows from 20-90cm tall and the leaves have a waxy feel to them. Water runs of them really well off them, like a rain jacket.
Habitat and Range:
Wapato grows in ponds, wetlands, and marches, with the bulbs submerged under soil and water and the leaves growing above the water surface. Sagittaria latifolia grows in lower elevations and is most prominent around coastal regions. Sagittaria latifolia has a large range. It stretches across the entire North American continent accept for the most northern part.
Historical and Contemporary Uses:
S.latifolia has a variety of uses, most commonly as a food. The tuber can be eaten raw or cooked but tastes the best when it is roasted. The texture is similar to a potato. The tubers can be ground up and used as flour for baking. Some North American Indians would thinly slice the roots and hang them to dry further. This gave them an end product that was similar to dried apples. S latifolia was also used medicinally. The leaves have been used by some North American Indians to stop milk production in females once breast-feeding is no longer required. There is a tea that is made from the roots that that helps clear digestive track issues and a poultice in the root can be used for the healing of cuts and infections.
1 Pojar, Jim & MacKinnon, Andy (2004) Plant of the Pacific Northwest Coast. 337
2 Spurgeon, Terry (2006) Sagittaria Latifolia-Wild http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Sagittaria+latifolia