Water shield is a strange name. Is it a shield made of water? Perhaps its purpose is to shield the water.
When I see green plant pads on the surface of a lake, I think of water lilies. A local Conservation Area lake has many such pads. They are small ellipses two to three inches long and half that wide.
Missouri does have water lilies. The smaller one is called spatterdock. I had seen this plant with its yellow flowers many years ago and looked forward to seeing it bloom again down on the lake.
Buds joined the leaves on the lake. I began making side trips hoping to catch the buds opening up.
Finally it dawned on me. I was seeing the flowers. They weren’t the yellow flowers I expected. They definitely weren’t the fancy water lilies.
The most noticeable thing about these flowers were the many pink stamens with their black tips. The petals and sepals were small curved almost translucent things.
I put out a call for help as these weren’t in my guidebooks. The answer came back from the Missouri Native Plant Society: water shield. This plant doesn’t occur in my county. The colony in the lake hasn’t read the books.
With a name I checked my Flora of Missouri, volume 2, to find these flowers open twice. One day they wait for pollen to blow over. The second day they release pollen for the wind to blow to other flowers. The flowers sink into the water to make their seeds.
Fish love water shield. The red undersides of the leaves and stems are coated with gooey mucus type stuff attracting bacteria and slightly larger creatures eaten with relish by small minnows.
Fishing spiders love this plant. They brace themselves over breaks in between leaves waiting for small minnows to swim by.
Other water plants hate this plant. The numerous leaves prevent light from getting to them.
My search for spatterdock continues.