What Are Hydrophytes: Information About Hydrophyte Habitats

lotus, purple water lilies in a pond
Image by warat42

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

What are hydrophytes? In general terms, hydrophytes (hydrophytic plants) are plants that are adapted to survive in oxygen-challenged aquatic environments.

Hydrophyte Facts: Wetland Plant Info

Hydrophytic plants have several adaptations that allow them to survive in water. For example, water lilies and lotus are anchored in the soil by shallow roots. The plants are equipped with long, hollow stems that reach the surface of the water, and large, flat, waxy leaves that allow the top of the plant to float. The plants grow in water as deep as 6 feet.


Other types of hydrophytic plants, such as duckweed or coontail, are not rooted in the soil; they float freely on the surface of the water. The plants have air sacs or large spaces between the cells, which provide buoyancy that allows the plant to float on top of the water.

Some types, including eelgrass or hydrilla, are completely submerged in water. These plants are rooted in the mud.

Hydrophyte Habitats

Hydrophytic plants grow in water or in soil that is consistently wet. Examples of hydrophyte habitats include fresh or salt water marshes, savannahs, bays, swamps, ponds, lakes, bogs, fens, quiet streams, tidal flats and estuaries.

Hydrophytic Plants

Hydrophytic plant growth and location depends on a number of factors, including climate, water depth, salt content, and soil chemistry.

Plants that grow in salt marshes or along sandy beaches include:

  • Seaside plantain
  • Sea rocket
  • Salt marsh sand spurrey
  • Seaside arrowgrass
  • High tide bush
  • Salt marsh aster
  • Sea milwort

Plants that commonly grow in ponds or lakes, or in marshes, swamps or other areas that are flooded by at least 12 inches of water for most of the year include:

Several interesting carnivorous plants are hydrophytic, including sundew and northern pitcher plantOrchids that grow in hydrophytic environments include white-fringed orchid, purple-fringed orchid, green wood orchid and rose pogonia.

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