"Common Arrowhead, Broadleaf Arrowhead, Arrowhead, Duck Potato, Indian Onion, Katniss, Swamp Potato, Swan Potato, Tule Potato, Tule Root, Wapatoo, Water Nut, Wapato, White Potato"
|Sun Exposure||Prairie, Savanna|
|Soil Moisture||Mesic, Dry Mesic|
Summer, Fall July, August, September
|Max Height||3 feet|
|Seeds Per Ounce||61,000|
Sagittaria is from the Latin word meaning "arrow-shaped" or "of an arrow" referring to the shape of the leaves. Latifolia is the Latin word for "wide leaf".
Found throughout the Tallgrass region in wet bottomlands, marshes, along slow-moving streams and rivers and along the edges of ponds in shallow water. Showy white flowers bloom from July to September. Distinctive arrowhead-shaped leaves can be up to a foot long. Produces a milky sap like Asclepias.
Native Americans used these edible tubers in a tea to treat indigestion. They also poulticed the roots to treat sores and wounds. A leaf tea was used for rheumatism and to bathe babies with fevers. Leaves were poulticed to stop milk production. The roots were consumed just like potatoes. and were a major food source for both Native Americans and early settlers and explorers. They were important enough as a source of food, the Native Americans living where they grow in great numbers would dry them and trade them far and wide. For trading purposes and storage, the tubers were sliced into coins and threaded onto basswood cordage. Once dried, they would stay in dry storage for months at a time. The fresh tubers were boiled or roasted; once cooked they lose their bitterness and take on a flavor similar to water chestnuts. Of local interest to northeast Iowans - the name for the Wapsipinicon River is most likely from this plant. The Native American word for this plant locally was wapsi-piniuk meaning "white potato"; they grow prolifically along the "Wapsi".
As an example of how to live properly in and with the Natural World, the native Americans who harvested S. latifolia are the perfect teachers. The women of the tribes would wade into the river or pond waters and, holding onto a canoe, would force the tubers loose with their toes. Often they would discover a muskrat's cache of wapatoo (which could number dozens of tubers) and would relieve the muskrat of some of their tasty tubers. They did not just let the muskrat go out and collect more; whatever they took was replaced with a more plentiful (but not quite as tsasty) tuber in the Native Americans' posession. This way, the powers that looked after the welfare of the muskrats were not angered.
Edible Uses: Root - raw or cooked. Excellent when roasted, the texture is somewhat like potatoes with a taste like sweet chestnuts. The tubers can be eaten raw but they are rather bitter (especially the skin). It is best to remove this skin after the tubers have been cooked. The tubers can also be dried and ground into a powder, this powder can be used as a gruel or mixed with cereal flours and used to make bread. The N. American Indians would slice the boiled roots into thin sections and then string them on ropes to dry in much the same way as apples.The egg-shaped tubers are 4 - 5cm long and are borne on the ends of slender roots, often 30cm deep in the soil and some distance from the parent plant. The tubers are best harvested in the late summer as the leaves die down. They cannot be harvested by pulling out the plant since the tops break off easily, leaving the tubers in the ground.
Medicinal Uses: A poultice of the leaves has been used to stop milk production.
A tea made from the roots is used as a digestive. A poultice of the roots is used in the treatment of wounds and sores.
Herbal Uses: Unknown