Phyllanthus fluitans

Red root floater

Nonnative to Florida

Species Overview

Native to: South America

In 2010, red root floater was found growing in a canal and tributaries in, and near, the Peace River, Desoto County. In 2016 voucher specimens were recorded in Charlotte County. Because it is a popular aquarium plant, it may have been introduced via the aquarium-plant trade. These are the only currently known accounts in the United States.

Species Characteristics

Family: Phyllanthaceae

Habit: Free floating perennial aquatic plant.

Shoots and Stems: Either float on the water surface or, where plants bunch together, they may also extend a short distance into the air. The stems are brittle, are approximately 1 to 1.5 mm in diameter, and range up to 130 mm long.

Leaves: Distichously arranged, range from 9 to 17 mm long and are separated by internodes 5 to 20 mm long. Each leaf exhibits a lamina, a petiole less than 1 mm long, and two browntransparent stipules. The lamina (the distal expanded portion of the leaf) is more or less orbicular (circular), entire and unlobed marginally, cordate basally, and with a shallow notch distally. It exhibits two deep pockets – one on each side of the midrib. The leaves exhibit a light bluegreen color.

Cymules and Flowers: Most cymules are three-flowered, but two or four flowers may occur. Each cymule exhibits at least one staminate flower and one pistillate flower. Flowers are short-pedicellate, radially symmetrical, and normally exhibit three sepals and three petals. Because sepals and petals are comparable in color, size and shape, they are called tepals. The tepals are white or greenish-white and are not fused together. The flowers vary from 2 to 3.5 mm in diameter.

Fruit/Seeds: The fruit, a capsule, is subtended by persistent tepals. It is depressed-globose and 3 mm wide. The capsule is trilocular and sixseeded, with two seeds filling each locule. The seeds, which outwardly resemble orange segments, exhibit numerous minute, dark-brown, superficial processes over a light brown background.

Distribution in Florida: DeSoto and Charlotte counties

Source for description: FWC Weed Alert


It can produce a closed canopy over water altering the habitat and reducing biodiversity. Scientists fear if this species expands its range, it may become as problematic in Florida as water hyacinth, another canopy producer. There is little information available on control methods and prevention is the most effective option – never release aquarium water or vegetation into waterways. Consult your local UF IFAS Extension Office for management recommendations.

Learn more about this species

UF IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas

Atlas of Florida Plants


USDA Plant Database

Invasive Species Compendium