Small salvinia

Small salvinia

Salvinia minima

Common Name:

Small salvinia

Scientific Name:

Salvinia minima

Alternative common names:

Water spangles, water fern, common salvinia, floating fern.


Small salvinia is a rapidly growing, aquatic floating fern that is used in planted aquaria and ponds. Originating in South America, this beautiful yet invasive plant has extended its influential range into South Africa. It is well established at Hartbeespoort Dam and forms dense mats within marginal vegetation. Light drives the reproduction and growth of this plant.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

South America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Hartbeespoort Dam, North West.

How does it spread?

It spreads to new habitats on the bottom of boats, in ship ballast tanks and through flooding waterways. It can also be carried by birds or other animals.

Why is it a problem?

It is an aggressive invader that forms dense mats, which prevent light from reaching indigenous plant and fish species. The lack of light reduces dissolved oxygen levels in the water, causing death and decay of indigenous species. Recreational fishing and boating is also prevented by dense salvinia growth.

What does it look like?

Leaves: The floating leaves are round and measure 5-10cm in diameter, with a distinctive rib creating a bowl-shaped appearance. The top of the leaf (on the water surface) often contains hairs with a single stalk that divides into four branches. Below the water surface leaves are modified to act as a root system for the plant.

Flowers: No flowers.

Fruit/seeds: No seeds.

Does the plant have any uses?

Commonly cultivated for aquaria and decorative pools.

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