This is – yes – the tiniest flowering plant found so far on the Domain, and among the smallest in the world. Landoltia punctata (G. Mey.) D.H. Les & D.J. Crawford is one of the duckweeds, the mini-plants that float on ponds and other quiet bodies of water. The individual leaves (fronds) of the plants shown here are only 1 – 3 mm wide. This species, unfortunately, is not native to our area. Imported from Asia for use in aquaria, it occasionally escapes into the wild. I found these diminutive plants floating among thousands of their identical siblings near the dam of Cedar Hollow Lake, not far from the Forestry Cabin.
The Landoltia genus can be distinguished from the more common duckweed (Lemna) in that each floating frond of Landoltia sports two to five roots, whereas Lemna fronds have just one. Lilliputian Wolfia and Wolffiella are entirely without roots.
So far only documented from three counties in Tennessee, including our neighboring Marion County, Landoltia is bound to spread, traveling from pond to pond on the feet of aquatic birds. It has rarely been observed in bloom, opting instead for vegetative reproduction to form large clones on the surface of ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams.
And what is the largest flowering plant in the world? That would be Eucalyptus regnans F. Muell., a native of southeastern Australia and Tanzania that can reach more than 300 feet in height. If we run across one of those giants on the Domain, we’ll be sure to report it here!