Water Milfoils

Photo of water milfoil plants along the shore of a pond
Scientific Name
Myriophyllum spp.
Haloragaceae (water milfoils)

Below the waterline, the leaves of the water milfoils are divided into threadlike segments and look almost like feathers. Above the water, they are bladelike with toothed edges. The rooted stems may be several feet long. Flowers are small, purplish, and arise near the tips of stems that emerge above the waterline.

Missouri has three native species of water milfoil and two that are introduced.


Stem length: to 6 feet.

Where To Find
image of Water Milfoils distribution map


Milfoils occur in calm, shallow waters of streams, ponds, and lakes. The introduced species, especially Eurasian milfoil (M. spicatum), can grow rampantly, crowding out other plants and causing serious problems in Missouri ponds and lakes.

People have spread milfoils globally, and in many places they have become invasive plants demanding efforts—and money—to keep waterways clear of them. Milfoils, sometimes under the name of parrot’s feather, are sometimes sold in pet stores as an aquatic plant for aquariums.

Like other aquatic plants, milfoils provide shelter for innumerable aquatic animals, from tiny daphnia to larger fish, and all the food-chain links in between. When milfoils grow too abundantly, it is often a result of excessive nutrients (fertilizer, farm runoff, etc.) entering the water.

Media Gallery
Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!