Salvinia Natans is the scientific name for floating moss, which is also sometimes referred to as a floating fern or floating watermoss. Commercially, this unique plant is also commonly marketed as Water Butterfly Wings - because the name makes it seem much more exotic! Either way, it can be quite thrilling to see floating moss while out at a pond or lake, and chances are good that you have, at some point in your life. Salvinia Natans is very common in areas where there is a lot of humid air and fresh water. The plant does need sunlight to grow however, so you are more likely to see it in a pond than in a shady area.
It can be found almost anywhere there is sunshine and fresh water, but you are most likely to see it in South America, Asia, Africa, or Central Europe. It is now also found in Massachusetts and New York State in America, as an introduced species. Due to the beauty of the plant many people have chosen to use it to help make their outdoor landscaping look much more attractive. Thus far the plant species seems to be thriving quite well in the environment although the harsh winters do thin it out quite a bit.
Appearance & Structure
Salvinia Natans gets its nickname floating fern because of the way it looks when it grows in the water. The plant has two leaves that are about the size of a 10p piece, that lay flat against the water and appear to be floating. Under the two leaves is a third, that is completely submerged and rooted down to help anchor the plant. The two leaves that are floating are able to do so because they have pouches of oxygenated air that is held inside the leaves. The leaves have a unique surface that stops the water from affecting their normal function. This same surface also helps to ensure that the leaves do not decay from sitting in the water.
Growth & Effects
The plant continues to reproduce and spread across the water, as spore cases are formed at the base of the plant. It can spread very quickly and if left untouched will eventually cover lakes and ponds in their entirety. This is an issue, because the plant can cause some problems with the ecosystem. While it offers cover to freshwater fish because the leaves of the plant blocks out sunlight, it also can block the sunlight from reaching underwater plants. Therefore, the other plants are not able to complete their photosynthesis. Eventually Salvinia Natans can starve other plant species on which freshwater fish and other species are dependent for food.
Open aquariums usually take advantage of Salvinia Natans, because the leaves shade the light from entering the tank so that algae cannot grow. It can also be decorative due to the unique shape of the 1 to 3 centimetre leaves. Once again however, it can grow rampantly if there is enough light and nutrition, so from time to time it may need to be pruned in order to keep it under control, and stop it from overtaking the entire tank.