Don’t Pick the Pickerelweed
Named after the pickerel fish, pickerelweed is a common and widely recognized native plant and flowers year-round. It is a prolific grower and can cover large areas. Pickerelweed typically grows to about 2 or 3 feet tall, and its leaves are large—up to 5 inches wide and usually twice as long. Leaf shapes vary, but they’re are usually lance-shaped. They may have either a distinctly heart-shaped face or a rounded face. The easiest way to recognize pickerelweed is by its violet-blue spike of small, individual flowers. The leaf and the flower spike arise from the same stem. Without flowers, pickerelweed can be confused with a similar plant known as the common arrowhead.
Pickerelweed is probably less well-known than its invasive cousin, the hyacinth. However, the blooms are just as lovely and the full display of vibrant purple (and sometimes white) starts in March and blooms through November in South Florida.
How amazing is this plant? Check out these facts, collected from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and eattheweeds.com.
Aquatic filter: Pickerelweed naturally absorbs excess pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from nearby farms or large urban landscaped areas.
Wildlife food source: Its small seeds are food for a variety of animals, including ducks; deer and geese will munch on other parts of the plant. Fish, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles and other creatures use pickerelweed as cover. Important for us in Coconut Creek, which promotes itself as the Butterfly Capital of the World, the bloom of the pickerelweed attracts butterflies and other pollinators.
Human food source: Its seeds are nutritious and can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be boiled and eaten like rice, or roasted. When dried, they make good grain for bread. Its young, unfurled leaves can be eaten raw or boiled (10 minutes is about right). The stalks are edible as well. Naturally, eating any plant requires the plant to have a healthy, wholesome soil and water source.
Want to see these lovelies every day but don’t live near a water source? Grow your own pickerelweed in a washtub filled with rich soil that’s kept moist. Chances are good you’ll soon see butterflies, bees or hummingbirds as a reward for your effort.