Elatinaceae Plant Family

About the Elatinaceae or Waterwort Family

Elatinaceae is a family of flowering plants that comprises about 30 species in three genera. The family is named after the genus Elatine, which includes the majority of its species. Elatinaceae plants are mostly aquatic or semi- but some species can also be found growing on damp soils or rocks. These plants are distributed around the world, with some species occurring in tropical and subtropical regions, while others are found in temperate areas. The family is closely related to the plant families Clusiaceae and Hypericaceae.

Taxonomy and Classification

Elatinaceae is a family of flowering plants in the order Malpighiales. Within this order, Elatinaceae belongs to the suborder Violiflorae, which also includes the families Achariaceae, Bonnetiaceae, and Violaceae. The family comprises three genera: Bergia, Elatine, and Lysimachia. Some taxonomists have included some or all members of the family as part of the larger family Primulaceae.

Elatinaceae plants are characterized by their small size, simple leaves, and sessile flowers with four or five sepals and petals. The flowers can be bisexual or unisexual, and they are often inconspicuous. The fruit is usually a capsule or berry. While there are no subfamilies within Elatinaceae, there are three major groups: the Bergia clade, the Elatine clade, and the Lysimachia clade.

Morphology and Characteristics

Elatinaceae plants are small, herbaceous plants that can be annual or perennial. Most species are aquatic or semi- but some can also grow in moist soils or rock crevices. The leaves are simple, usually opposite, and without stipules. They are often small, linear to spatulate or ovate, with entire margins.

The flowers of Elatinaceae plants are typically small and inconspicuous, with four or five sepals and petals. They may be bisexual or unisexual, and they lack a corolla tube. The stamens are few in number and borne on the corolla or the receptacle. The fruit is usually a capsule or berry.

One distinctive characteristic of Elatinaceae plants is their ability to form vegetative propagules known as turions. These structures help the plant survive adverse environmental conditions such as drought or low temperatures.

Distribution and Habitat

Elatinaceae plants are distributed worldwide, with the greatest diversity found in tropical and subtropical regions. Species of Elatine and Bergia are mainly found in the Old World, while species of Lysimachia are more widespread, occurring in the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa.

Most species of Elatinaceae are aquatic or semi- growing in shallow ponds, streams, or lakeshores. Some species can also be found growing on damp soils or rock surfaces. The distribution of these plants is influenced by environmental factors such as water availability, soil moisture, and temperature.

Several species of Elatinaceae have become naturalized in non- areas, often as a result of human activity. Some of these species have become invasive, posing a threat to native plant communities and ecosystems.

Economic and Ecological Importance

Elatinaceae plants have both economic and ecological significance. Several species of Lysimachia are used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as liver disease, urinary disorders, and inflammation. Some species of Elatine and Bergia are also used in traditional medicine for their antiseptic properties.

In addition to their medicinal uses, some species of Elatinaceae have been cultivated for use in aquariums and water gardens due to their small size and attractive appearance. However, the cultivation of these plants can sometimes lead to their escape into natural waterways.

Ecologically, Elatinaceae plays an important role in aquatic ecosystems. These plants provide habitats and food sources for a variety of aquatic organisms such as fish, insects, and crustaceans. They also help stabilize sediments and reduce erosion along shorelines. Some species of Elatinaceae are adapted to harsh environments and can play a key role in colonizing disturbed areas or restoring damaged habitats.

Notable Species

Some notable species of Elatinaceae include:

  1. Lysimachia nummularia, commonly known as creeping jenny or moneywort, is a perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It has round, bright green leaves and yellow flowers that bloom in summer. It is often used as a ground cover in gardens and can become invasive in some areas.

  2. Bergia capensis, also known as Cape watermeal, is an aquatic plant that is native to Africa but has become invasive in many parts of the world. It forms small, floating mats of tiny, oval- leaves and produces small, inconspicuous flowers.

  3. Elatine triandra, commonly known as three- waterwort, is a small aquatic plant that is native to North America. It has thin, opposite leaves and small white flowers that bloom in summer. It is often used in aquariums and water gardens.

  4. Lysimachia thyrsiflora, commonly known as tufted loosestrife, is a wetland plant that is native to North America. It has clusters of yellow flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall. It is often used in wetland restoration projects and for erosion control.

  5. Bergia texana, also known as Texas watermeal, is an aquatic plant that is native to Texas and Mexico. It forms small, floating mats of tiny, round leaves and produces small, inconspicuous flowers. It is sometimes used in aquariums and water gardens.