Pickerel-weed – Pontederia Cordata: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Purple Sea of Wild Plants

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In Ojibwe, kinozhaeguhnsh meaning “pike’s plant“, pickerelweed is another edible aquatic plant in Ontario. Many will notice its lush purple blooms covering the shorelines in our area in the summertime. The bees notice too!

Pickerel-weed (pontederia cordata) is a common sight around Haliburton in shallow water, usually in large dense colonies. When flowering it’s a sea of floating purple.

Pickerel-weed - Pontederia Cordata
Pickerel-weed – Pontederia Cordata

Edible Uses of Pickerel-weed

Early in the summer before they completely unfurl, the young leafstalks can be snapped off and eaten raw or as a potherb.

You can strip the fruits off the flower spikes as they ripen early autumn. Inside the fruit is an edible seed. These nutty starchy seeds can be eaten fresh, roasted, or dried and ground.

Make sure you’re only collecting from unpolluted waters – possibly a difficult task as so many local politicians are all talk on protecting our waters. To many of us, it seems that they only care that the rich can float their boats. Meanwhile we’ve literally had entire neighborhoods dying of cancer from polluted water. If its near a mine or gets lots of traffic or is surrounded by cottages with mostly destroyed shoreline (AKA toxic algae welcoming mat), save yourself! /endrant You’ll likely need waders or a canoe.

Medicinal Uses of Pickerel-weed

Pickerel-weed is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • X

Medicinal tags include X See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage isn’t so common – it has in the past been used to make a contraceptive. However, now we have contraceptives that are 99.9% effective and possibly natural family planning for those with predictable periods.

Alternative Uses of Pike’s Plant

It protects shorelines from soil erosion and bees like bumblebees love the nectar and pollen!

Growing Pontederia Cordata

This “weed” is one of our best native aquatics for ponds, marshes, bogs, and shallow shorelines with slow moving fresh water. It’s important food and cover for aquatic wildlife. When shopping for a native to suit our local wildlife best, keep in mind there are many ornamental varieties with lessened value to wildlife. Habitat destruction and development run amok without checks has harmed most of our aquatic plant life substantially. In polluted waters it may struggle to grow.

Like I mentioned before, bees love pickerelweed flowers. You may spot butterflies like sulfurs sucking down the nectar. Dragonflies and damselflies will visit it too. Pickerelweed has a namesake borer moth (bellura densa), and is frequented by a few different kinds of moths. The seeds are eaten by various ducks.

In New York and New Jersey this plant has it’s own specialist bee, the pickerelweed shortface (dufourea novaeangliae). There’s also the pickerelweed long-horned bee (melissodes apicatus) around the same area. As far as I know neither are present here in Ontario, but I am not certain. Not many people roam around looking for rare specialist bees. I recorded the first spring beauty miner in Haliburton on iNat, even though they are surely active throughout our patches of spring beauties every year. The shortface has only been noted 18 times on iNat and less for the long-horned. Maybe someday I’ll sit out in a canoe and see if I can spot one here!


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries (Regional Foraging Series)

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

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