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The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.




Trapa natans
Trapa natans
(water chestnut)
Plants
Exotic
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Trapa natans L.

Common name: water chestnut

Synonyms and Other Names: Trapa bispinosa Roxb., Trapa natans var. natans L., Trapa natans var. bispinosa (Roxb.) Makino, European water chestnut, water nut, horned water chestnut, water caltrop, bull nut

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: According to Crow and Hellquist (2000):

Habit: floating, rooted, aquatic annual

Stems/Roots: submerged, flexuous stem and roots that anchor into the mud and extend upwards to the surface of the water

Leaves: rosette of floating, fan-shaped leaves, each leaf having a slightly inflated petiole (leaf stem) and dentate (tooth-like) leaf margins

Flowers: solitary, small, white flowers with four petals sprout in the center of the rosette

Fruits/Seeds: large nut with four, orthogonal, sharp spines that develop from hardened sepals

Look-a-likes: Ludwigia sedioides (Humb. & Bonpl.) H.Hara

Size: up to 16 feet in stem length (Muenscher 1944)

Native Range: Europe, Asia, and Africa (Muenscher 1944; Gleason and Cronquist 1991; Crow and Hellquist 2000).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Alaska
Hawaii auto-generated map
Hawaii
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Trapa natans are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Connecticut199820176Housatonic; Lower Connecticut; Lower Hudson; Quinebaug; Quinnipiac; Shetucket
Delaware187418741Brandywine-Christina
District of Columbia189519501Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
Maryland192320184Chester-Sassafras; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Lower Potomac; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
Massachusetts1874201815Blackstone; Charles; Chicopee; Concord; Deerfield; Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy; Housatonic; Lower Connecticut; Merrimack River; Middle Connecticut; Middle Hudson; Narragansett; Nashua; New England Region; Westfield
New Hampshire199820163Black-Ottauquechee; Nashua; West
New Jersey200220186Hackensack-Passaic; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Mullica-Toms; Raritan; Rondout; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
New York1884201827Chaumont-Perch; Chenango; Conewango; Hackensack-Passaic; Hudson-Hoosic; Hudson-Wappinger; Irondequoit-Ninemile; Lake Champlain; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Lower Hudson; Mettawee River; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Middle Hudson; Mohawk; Niagara; Northern Long Island; Oneida; Oswego; Rondout; Salmon-Sandy; Sandy Hook-Staten Island; Schoharie; Seneca; Southern Long Island; Upper Delaware; Upper Susquehanna
Pennsylvania197720188Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Lehigh; Lower Susquehanna-Swatara; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Schuylkill; Shenango; Upper Allegheny
Rhode Island200720104Blackstone; Narragansett; Pawcatuck-Wood; Quinebaug
Vermont194220175Black-Ottauquechee; Hudson-Hoosic; Lake Champlain; Mettawee River; Otter Creek
Virginia193619451Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan

Table last updated 11/17/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.


Ecology:

Life history: each T. natans plant has 15 - 20 rosettes; each rosette can generate up to 20 seeds (Maryland Sea Grant 2012); seeds overwinter in the benthic sediments and germinate the following spring; seeds remain viable for up to 12 years (Swearingen et al. 2002).

Habitat: shallow (less than 5 meters), nutrient-rich lakes and slow-moving rivers and streams

Tolerances: pH range of 6.7 to 8.2 and alkalinity of 12 to 128 mg/L of calcium carbonate

Community interactions: fertilized by generalist insects

Means of Introduction: Typically introduced by aquarium release, escape from ornamental ponds, hitchhiking on waterfowl, or intentional plantings. Spreads either by the rosettes detaching from their stems and floating to another area, or more often by the nuts being swept by currents or waves to other parts of the lake or river (Bickley and Cory 1955; Mirick 1996; Hummel and Kiviat 2004).

Status:

Established in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

Extirpated from Delaware and eradicated from the District of Columbia (Carter and Rybicki 1994).

Reports from Kentucky and West Virginia USACE reservoirs were likely mistaken identities (L. Dodd, USACE-ERDC, pers. comm. 2017).

Impact of Introduction: Trapa natans is a fierce competitor in shallow (<5m) waters with soft, muddy bottoms. Uncontrolled, it creates nearly impenetrable mats across wide areas of water (Winne 1950; Kiviat 1993). As immature water chestnut plants mature to the diameter of dinner plates over the growing season, dense packing and stacking of rosettes can occur, causing mats to be as much as a foot thick on top of the water column, as seen on the Nashua River in Nashua, New Hampshire, USA (Countryman 1978).

In Vermont, USA, many previously fished bays of southern Lake Champlain are now inaccessible, and floating mats of T. natans can create a hazard for boaters (Bove and Hunt 1997). VDEC (2002) states that this noxious plant also severely limits the passage of light into the water, a critical element of a well-functioning aquatic ecosystem. It reduces oxygen levels, which may increase the potential for fish kills, and is of little value to wildfowl.

When the plant occupies a site, most recreational activities such as swimming, fishing from the shoreline, and the use of small boats are eliminated or severely impeded (Bickley and Cory 1955). The primary economic costs related to T. natans are associated with the costs of chemical and mechanical control efforts (Kiviat 1993). It is also a human nuisance because mature T. natans nuts drift to shore where their sharp spines may hurt bare feet (Gwathmey 1945).

Trapa natans does decrease dissolved inorganic nitrogen, potentially reducing eutrophication from runoff waters (Tsuchiya and Iwakuma 1993). It also accumulates heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel, and cobalt (USEPA 1989).

Invertebrate, fish, bird, and mammal foraging habitat may be provided by T. natans. Inverts and fishes in Tivoli South Bay (Findlay et al. 1989; Yozzo and Odum 1993), blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis [Mitchill]) in Inbocht Bay (Coote et al. 2001), cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum Vieillot) in the Hudson River (Kiviat, pers. obs.), and muskrats in the Sudbury, Potomac, and Hudson Rivers (Muenscher 1937; Winne 1950; Kiviat 1993) were a few of the taxa documented foraging on or within T. natans beds.

Trapa natans has been valued for its nutrional and medicinal qualities in India, China, Hong Kong, Malaya, Thailand, and Russia (Hummel and Kiviat 2004). It was also tested and approved as a cattle feed supplement (Besha and Countryman 1980).

Remarks: Unfortunately, an unrelated edible aquatic plant, Eleocharis dulcis (Burm.f.) Trin. ex Henschel, a sedge in the Cyperaceae, is also called water chestnut. The corm of E. dulcis is the familiar water chestnut, or Chinese water chestnut, sold in cans and commonly served in Chinese restaurants.

Originally placed in Trapaceae, T. natans is now considered in the Lythraceae family based on molecular evidence (Graham 2005).

References: (click for full references)

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Batuik, R., R. Orth, K. Moore, W. Dennison, J. Stevenson, L. Staver, V. Carger, N. Rybicki, R. Hickman, S. Kollar, S. Bieber, and P. Heasly. 1992. Chesapeake Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Habitat Requirements and Restoration Targets: A Techinical Synthesis. US Environmental Protection Agency, Annapolis, MD.

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Author: Pfingsten, I.A., L. Cao, and L. Berent.

Revision Date: 4/4/2018

Peer Review Date: 11/4/2015

Citation Information:
Pfingsten, I.A., L. Cao, and L. Berent., 2018, Trapa natans L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=263, Revision Date: 4/4/2018, Peer Review Date: 11/4/2015, Access Date: 12/17/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [12/17/2018].

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