Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Sagittaria latifolia (Wapato, Arrowhead)


 Plantae Plants


 Tracheobionta Vascular plants


 Spermatophyta Seed plants


 Magnoliophyta Flowering plants


 Liliopsida Monocotyledons






 Alismataceae Water-plantain family


 Sagittaria L. arrowhead


 Sagittaria latifolia Willd. broadleaf arrowhead

Note: Throughout the years I've written short articles for our website's home pages (home pages are the front page of a website) about these plants. They are now included at the bottom of this page, and are illustrated by botanical drawings and paintings, some of which are from books published from 1500 - 1900.

The starchy edible tubers of the Wapato were a noted food source for Native Americans and Lewis and Clark and are currently enjoyed by ducks and other waterfowl.

This plant is commonly found in wet swampy areas across the continental United States but is less abundant today in the Pacific northwest due to habitat destruction.

The leaves grow above ground and are strongly arrow shaped.

In mid summer, flower stems appear bearing white flowers with yellow centers.

Grow them in USDA zones 3-10 along stream banks and lake or pond edges.

This is an important plant in the restoration of riparian zones in sun or part shade areas.


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.

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.

From Homepage January 15, 2005

Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia) or Arrowhead, is sometimes called Indian Potato because it is a favored food of many tribes of Original People. A story of the Chinook of the lower Columbia tells us Wapato is the food 'before the salmon came to the Columbia.' Wapato (or Wapatoo) is the Chinook word for 'tuberous plant.'

This northwest native perennial is sometimes available in bare root form this time of year. Perfect for ponds or bog gardens, Wapato has arrow-head shaped leaves and stems of white blooms that are sparkling in the late spring.

Wapato is not only delicious for humans, it is a favorite of ducks! It's an earth-friendly water plant you'll find easy to grow.

No pond in your garden yet? No problem!

You can enjoy this northwest native plant in a pot on your patio, deck or porch. Since drainage is not an issue, pick any container over about 10" in diameter that will hold water. Put in some heavy loam or sand. Bury your Wapato bulbs. Add a layer of rocks or shells or other non-floating medium and carefully pour in water just up to the rocks. This will prevent your bog pot from becoming a mosquito breeding ground. Soon you'll have green shoots poking their heads through the rocks. It won't be long until your Wapato leaves unfurl and the white flowers bloom!

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