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The smallest Flowering Plants of the world

Last modified on 8/7/2009 at 5:38:00 PM. Total 6605 views.

Though in dramatic contrast to Victoria, the plant with the largest leaves, the smallest flowering plant in the Plant Kingdom is also aquatic. It is Wolffia, commonly known as Watermeal, one of the Duckweeds, in the family Lemnaceae. It generally floats on the surface of the water and the image above illustrates its size in relation to several plants of Lemna minor and the image at the left includes a pin.

Each tiny Wolffia plant is a rootless oval body, producing a pistil (stigma) and a single stamen from a floral cavity in the side of the body. It doesn't flower often as it reproduces primarily vegetatively. This is accomplished as the main plant or "mother frond" produces a "daughter frond" from one end.


Under the microscope at 40X but lit from the top, Wolffia looks like little jewels


Under the microscope at 40X and lit from the bottom, photo by Kit Knotts


The left mother/daughter frond near separation, the right just separated

Because the examples in these images were found in Florida, we presume them to be W. columbiana, native here. They also match the description and other images of W. columbiana. We are not certain as several references note that direct comparison with other Wolffia species is necessary to be sure of correct identification.


In the center, the floral cavity,photo by Kit Knotts


In vegetative reproduction, a mother frond such as the one lower right generates a daughter frond such as can be seen in the upper left plant


Another floral cavity, the flower capable of producing a single seed


The two upper mothers' daughter fronds near separation, the lower recently separated

Wolffia seems not to be considered invasive and might actually have economic value. It has approximately the same percentage of protein as soy beans. Taking the suggestion of one of the web sites below and exploring the gourmet potential of Wolffia, we made this muffin using it. It was good!

Source: victoria-adventure.org

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