Pickerel Weed – Pontederia cordata

Pickerelweed flower stalk
Pickerelweed flower stalk

…In thy cool coves of softened gloom,

O’shadowed by the whispering reed.

And purple blooms of pickerel-weed,

and meadow-sweet in tangled bloom…


By Anna Boynton Averill, born 1843


Pickerelweed was the secret fishing tool of early fishermen. They would look for this wetlands plant knowing that pickerel and other fish used it for protection and camouflage. This rhizomatic plant is native to North America from Florida to Texas, and north into Ontario and Minnesota.  Pickerelweed is most commonly found in constantly wet areas, like swamps, marshes, ditches, streams and lakes. It can often be found growing with Lizard Tail (Saururus cernuus), Arrow Alum (Peltandra virginica), and Arrowhead (Saggittaria latifolia).

There is virtually no use that this plant is put to for herbal medicine, except one. An infusion was at one time used as a contraceptive by the Malecite and Micmac Indians. The Montagnais Indians used a ‘brew’ made from the plant as a panacea, to treat ‘illness.’

But its greatest contribution to humans of old was as a food stuff. The fruit contains a single seed in the center which is highly nutritious, and starchy. It can be eaten fresh from the plant or dried. It can be added dried to granola or cereal, or boiled, roasted, or ground into flour. The leaves when young can be added to salads raw, or boiled much like spinach.

This plant is not poisonous of itself, but will absorb water contaminants. Some people also have what seems to be an allergic reaction to eating the seeds. The symptoms of this reaction are swelling, blistering, and numbness in the mouth that lasts for approximately one day.  


2 responses to this post.

  1. Very interesting that this plant has contraceptive use! Did you locate any sources that explain HOW this was used by chance, and/or how effective this is? Of course we need to keep in mind that what is effective for some people will not be effective for others (it is all about “relationships” hehe)! Thanks for this post, it is kind of a pretty little plant!


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