Arrowhead (Sagittaria calycina var. calycina)

Arrowhead is a fast growing water weed with distinct, arrow-shaped leaves. It chokes waterways and irrigation channels.

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How does this weed affect you?

Arrowhead grows quickly and forms dense infestations in wetlands and natural watercourses where it can:

  • reduce water flows
  • outcompete native water plants
  • restrict movement of fish and other aquatic animals
  • reduce food and habitat for fish and other aquatic animals
  • make recreation activities such as swimming, boating and fishing difficult
  • reduce the visual appeal of waterways.

 It is also a weed in irrigation channels where it:

  • traps silt which gradually fills the channel bed
  • limits water flow
  • reduces water capacity and efficiency of irrigation channels
  • is expensive to remove.

What does it look like?

Arrowhead is most visible in summer and dies back in winter. It grows in two forms. One form is beneath the water as a submerged rosette. The other form is an emergent plant up to 1 m tall above the waterline. Most seedlings appear in spring.

Leaves 

There are two forms of leaves.

Leaves above water are:

  • up to 25 cm long and 20 cm wide
  • strongly arrow-shaped with lobes to 15 cm long and 10 cm wide
  • green and prominently veined
  • on stalks 8–55 cm long and round in cross section. 

Leaves under the water are:

  • narrow, strap like
  • 2.5–45 cm long and 0.5–2 cm wide
  • green.

Flowers:

  • have 3 petals that are white or occasionally white with purple base
  • are about 2.5 cm in diameter
  • grow in 1-8 whorls of 3 flowers along a leafless stem
  • male flowers are above the female flowers
  • are present from summer to early autumn.

Seeds are:

  • flattened, beaked at the tip and with wings on the sides
  • 1.5–3 mm long 
  • produced in autumn.

Roots

Annual plants have fibrous roots. Perennial plants have a short thick rhizome.

Similar looking plants

Arrowhead looks similar to these two weeds:

  •  Sagittaria (Sagittaria platyphylla), which has oval leaves and triangular, rather than round, leaf stalks.
  •  Alisma (Alisma lanceolatum), which has spear-shaped leaves with up to 7 prominent veins and smaller flowers (10 mm wide).

It also looks similar to two Australian native plants:

  • Water plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica), which has oval leaves and smaller flowers (10 mm wide) that are in clusters higher than the leaves.
  • Star fruit (Damasonium minus), which has smaller oval leaves and smaller flowers (6 mm wide) that are also in clusters higher than the leaves.

Where is it found?

Most arrowhead in NSW grows in the Riverina region. It grows in rice crops and irrigation channels. 

It was first recorded in Australia as a garden escape near Sydney in 1926. During the 1960s arrowhead spread to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

Arrowhead is native to North and South America. 

What type of environment does it grow in?

Arrowhead is usually found in shallow, warm, slow-moving and stationery waters including:

  • wetlands, swamps and marshes
  • drainage gullies
  • irrigation channels (especially along edges and in smaller channels)
  • flooded paddocks.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Arrowhead during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2022)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

By seed

Each plant can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds. Seed can float for up to 3 weeks before sinking. Water, birds and other animals spread the floating seeds. Seeds can either sprout immediately or remain dormant until conditions are right for germination.

By plant parts

New arrowhead plants can grow from stem or root fragments.

References

Adair, R. J., Keener, B. R., Kwong, R. M., Sagliocco, J. L., & Flower, G. E. (2012). The Biology of Australian weeds 60.'Sagittaria platyphylla' (Engelmann) J.G. Smith and 'Sagittaria calycina' Engelmann. Plant Protection Quarterly27(2), 47.

Aquatic Plant Services. (2004). The Biology and Control of Arrowhead, Goulburn-Murray Water.

Chapman, M. & Dore, D. (2006). Arrowhead Strategic Plan Final Draft, Gommalibee, Victoria: Rural Plan Pty Ltd.

Crocker, W. (1907). Germination of seeds of water plants, Botanical Gazette, Vol. 44, No. 5, pp. 375-380.

Department of Primary Industries Victoria. (2009). Invasiveness assessment - Giant Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis) in Victoria, August 2010.

Eastern & Western Riverina Noxious Weeds Advisory Group. (2004). Regional Weed Management Plan: Riverina Sagittaria Management Plan

Flower, G. (2003). The Biology and Control of Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea). River & Catchment Health: Presenting current research in the Goulburn Broken Catchment.

Goulburn-Murray Water. (2001). Arrowhead Sagittaria graminea factsheet, Aquatic Plant Services.

Gunasekera, L. & Krake, K. (2001). Arrowhead – a serious aquatic weed in northern Victoria. In Victorian Landcare and Catchment Management, 19, 7.

Rataj, K. (1972). Revision of the genus Sagittaria. Part I. (Old World Species), Annotationes Zoologicae et Botanicae, 76, pp. 1-36.

Turner, C.E. (2001). Reproductive Biology of Sagittaria monetividensis Cham. & Schlecht. spp. Calycina (Engelm.) Bogin (Alismataceae), Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

More information

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Control

Successful weed control requires follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.

To tackle arrowhead:

  • control plants in spring and summer before seeds are produced
  • keep checking and controlling treated areas for regrowth and new seedlings.

Physical removal

Arrowhead can be excavated with machinery or dug out by hand. 

Physical removal is useful for:

  • new or isolated infestations
  • restoring water movement quickly in waterways blocked by infestations
  • areas where herbicide use is inappropriate, such as near sensitive waterways or irrigation channels under continual use.

Remove all plant fragments including roots and rhizomes. Ensure plant fragments can’t float downstream. 

Use appropriate hygiene and containment practices. Hygiene includes removing all plant material and soil from machinery and equipment before leaving the site. Bunding, fences or screens will contain arrowhead and prevent it from moving downstream.

Excavation can be labour intensive and costly. It is generally avoided in irrigation channels where it interferes with the engineering structure of the drain. However, for new isolated infestations, eradication is possible using mechanical or manual removal if followed by checking and removal of regrowth.

Chemical control

Only use products with label approvals for aquatic use.

Herbicides supress arrowhead infestations. They cause the base of the stem to detach from the plant, which kills the leaves and stems above the water. Foliar applied herbicides do not generally kill the underwater parts of the plant, especially for plants in deep water.

For the best results apply herbicides when water levels are low and plant growth is high. This will enable maximum uptake of the herbicide. 

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Only products registered for aquatic use)
Rate: One part product to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Only products registered for aquatic use)
Rate: One part product to 9 parts water
Comments: Splatter gun.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Central West Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
This Regional Recommended Measure applies to all species of Sagittaria
Hunter Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
North West Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
Western Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2020