What Plants Live in Rivers & Streams?

Updated March 23, 2017

Streams and rivers are home to a variety of plants. While some freshwater plants are aggressive weeds, others help regulate the delicate ecosystems of streams and rivers by providing food and nourishment to fish and wildlife. Freshwater plants also provide shelter to fish and animals alike.


Hydrilla verticillata, or simply hydrilla, is an intrusive plant that grows in both streams and rivers. Hydrilla grows horizontally on the bottom of a river or stream and spreads outward, forming a dense mat. Hydrilla is a noxious plant that prevents other plants from forming in close proximity. It is characterised most prominently by its sharp, pointy leaves, which grow in sets of four to eight.


Typa latifolia, the common cattail, grows in the backwaters of rivers and streams. Cattails grow primarily in shallow waters, where their roots have access to plenty of moisture and mud. The top of a cattail emerges from the water and is characterised by a sharp, pointy spike and sword-shaped leaves. Cattails provide both shelter and nourishment to wildlife.


Utricularia, or bladderwort, is a rootless water plant. Instead of roots, each bladderwort plant has several small bladders that catch and digest small water animals. Each bladderwort features a large stem from which large yellow or lavender flowers emerge.

Dwarf Spikerush

Eleocharis parvula gets its common name, dwarf spikerush, from its multiple long, spiked stems. Spikerush grows primarily along the shallow marshes of rivers and streams and it is frequently transplanted for use in home aquariums. The plant produces no berries or flowers, but provides a dense habitat for fish.

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