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Species at Risk

Water-pennywort

Hydrocotyle umbellata

Quick Facts

Water-pennywort is a plant that grows along two lakeshores in Nova Scotia. It does not occur anywhere else in Canada and is listed as threatened by COSEWIC.












What is water-pennywort?

Water-pennywort growing in the water.
© Parks Canada / Rick Swain / 1980

Water-pennywort is a small perennial plant with round, scalloped-edged leaves. Growing primarily on sandy or gravely lakeshores, it has slender stems that creep along the ground and leaves that either float in the water or stand upright. The leaves are a rich green, except for their pale green centre, where the stems attach. It occasionally produces small clusters of white flowers on a single stalk, called an umbel, in mid to late summer.

Water-pennywort thrives in lakeshore habitats where few other plants can tolerate the force of the wind and the waves, the fluctuating water levels, and the gouging winter ice. In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada, the plant grows in thick colonies in the shallow water of sandy or gravely beaches. Although easily overlooked, this special plant is a significant feature along the edge of Kejimkujik Lake.

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Where is water-pennywort found?

Water-pennywort only occurs in two locations in all of Canada, and both of these are in southwestern Nova Scotia . One of the province's rarest plants , it grows on part of the shoreline of Wilson's Lake in Yarmouth County and is scattered along Kejimkujik Lake and George Lake within Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada. These two locations represent the northern limit of this plant's distribution.

Water-pennywort is common in the southern part of its range, occurring as far south as Mexico and Florida, and stretching up along the eastern seaboard of North America as far north as Massachusetts. The Canadian populations are extremely isolated and rare.

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What is the status of water-pennywort?

Water-pennywort growing on the lakeshore.
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 1980

Water-pennywort is listed as threatened by COSEWIC, and is protected under federal Law by the Species at Risk Act. Water-pennywort is also protected under provincial legislation, with the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act , under which it is listed as endangered. These listings differ since the levels of government list species under their own set of criteria based on priorities within their jurisdictions.