Fine Art

Trapa natans

Trapa natans

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Myrtales

Familia: Lythraceae
Genus: Trapa
Species: T. natans
Varietates: T. n. var. bispinosa – T. n. var. natans

Trapa natans L.

Trapa bispinosa Roxb.


Trapa natans – Taxon details on Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
FA Bisby, YR Roskov, MA Ruggiero, TM Orrell, LE Paglinawan, PW Brewer, N Bailly, J van Hertum, eds (2007). Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2007 Annual Checklist. Digital resource at Species 2000: Reading, U.K.[1]
Trapa natans L., NRCS, 08/29/2008

Vernacular names
অসমীয়া: পানী শিঙৰি
беларуская: Вадзяны арэх плывучы
বাংলা: পানিফল
català: Castanya d'aigua
čeština: Kotvice plovoucí
Deutsch: Wassernuss
English: Water caltrop, water chestnut, Jesuit's nut
suomi: Vesipähkinä
français: Mâcre nageante
हिन्दी: सिंघाड़ा
hornjoserbsce: Wšědna kótwica
magyar: Sulyom
italiano: Castagna d'acqua, Trapa, Tribolo acquatico
日本語: ヒシ
lietuvių: Plūduriuojantysis agaras
Nederlands: waterkastanje, waternoot
polski: Kotewka orzech wodny
română: Cornaci
русский: Чилим, орех водяной
svenska: Sjönöt
தமிழ்: குரலி
Tiếng Việt: Củ ấu
Bân-lâm-gú: Lêng-kak
中文: 菱角

The water caltrop is any of three extant species of the genus Trapa: Trapa natans, Trapa bicornis and the endangered Trapa rossica. It is also known as buffalo nut, bat nut, devil pod, ling nut, lin kok, ling jow, ling kio nut, mustache nut or singhara.

The species are floating annual aquatic plants, growing in slow-moving water up to 5 m (16 ft) deep, native to warm temperate parts of Eurasia and Africa. They bear ornately shaped fruits, which in the case of T. bicornis resemble the head of a bull or the silhouette of a flying bat. Each fruit contains a single very large, starchy seed. T. natans and T. bicornis have been cultivated in China and the Indian subcontinent for the edible seeds for at least 3,000 years.


The generic name Trapa is derived from the Latin word for "thistle", calcitrappa, as also is another common name for the water caltrop.

The plant's name in Japanese is hishi, a word that is also used to mean "a diamond or lozenge shape, a rhombus". The manufacturing group Mitsubishi takes its name and logo from the water caltrop.[1]

It is called Shringataka in Sanskrit,[2] which is shortened to Shingara in Hindi language. In Eastern India, the samosa a fried or baked pastry is also called Shingara because its shape resembles that of the Shingara fruit.

The water caltrop's submerged stem reaches 3.7 to 4.6 m (12 to 15 ft) in length, anchored into the mud by very fine roots. It has two types of leaves: finely divided, feather-like submerged leaves borne along the length of the stem, and undivided floating leaves borne in a rosette at the water's surface. The floating leaves have saw-tooth edges and are ovoid or triangular in shape, 2–3 cm (3⁄4–1+1⁄4 in) long, on inflated petioles 5–9 cm (2–3+1⁄2 in) long, which provide added buoyancy for the leafy portion. Four-petalled white flowers form in early summer and are insect-pollinated. The fruit is a nut with four 1 cm (1⁄2 in) barbed spines. Seeds can remain viable up to 12 years, although most germinate within the first two years.
A rosette of water caltrop leaves

The plant spreads by the rosettes and fruits detaching from the stem and floating to another area on currents or by fruits clinging to objects, and animals.

This plant should not be confused with the unrelated Eleocharis dulcis, also called a water chestnut. Eleocharis is also an aquatic plant raised for food since ancient times in China. E. dulcis is a sedge, whose round, crisp-fleshed corms are common in Chinese food.
Fossil record

The genus has an extensive fossil record, with numerous, distinctive species. Undisputed fossilized seeds have been found in Cenozoic strata starting from the Eocene throughout Europe, China and North America (though, the genus became extinct in North America prior to the Pleistocene).[3] The oldest known fossils attributed to the genus, however, are of leaves from Cretaceous Alaska, referred to the species, T. borealis.[4]
Water caltrop (T. natans) fruits
Boiled water caltrop (Trapa bicornis) seeds
Water caltrop field in Tainan City
Water Caltrop from the Japanese agricultural encyclopedia Seikei Zusetsu (1804)

Investigations of archaeological material from southern Germany indicate that the prehistoric population of that region may well have relied significantly upon wild water caltrops to supplement their normal diet and, in times of cultivated cereal crop failure, water caltrops may even have been the main dietary component.[5] Today, water caltrop is so rare in Germany that it is listed as an endangered species.[6]

Water caltrop has been an important food for worship as prayer offerings since the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The Rites of Zhou (second century BC) mentioned that a worshipper "should use a bamboo basket containing dried water caltrops, the seeds of Euryale ferox and caltrops" (加籩之實,菱芡栗脯). The Chinese Herbal Medicine Summary (本草備要 published in 1694, written by Wang Ang 汪昂) indicates that water caltrop can help fever and drunkenness.

In India and Pakistan, it is known as singhara or paniphal (eastern India) and is widely cultivated in freshwater lakes. The fruits are eaten raw or boiled. When the fruit has been dried, it is ground to a flour called singhare ka atta, used in many religious rituals, and can be consumed as a phalahar (fruit diet) on the Hindu fasting days, the navratas.[7]

It was possible to buy water caltrops in markets all over Europe until 1880. In northern Italy, the nuts were offered roasted, much as sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) are still sold today. In many parts of Europe, water caltrops were known and used for human food until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, however, it is a rare plant. Several reasons for its near extinction exist, such as climate fluctuations, changes in the nutrient content of water bodies, and the drainage of many wetlands, ponds, and oxbow lakes.[5]

T. natans was introduced to Massachusetts around 1874 as a planting in the Harvard University Botanic Garden. Staff gardener Louis Guerineau took it upon himself to throw seeds into Fresh Pond and other Cambridge waterways. This came to the attention of Medford-based botanist George E. Davenport, who decided to bring seeds and live plants to his friend Minor Pratt, in Concord. He and Pratt seeded a pond near the Sudbury River, and he suspected Pratt conducted additional distributions. As early as 1879, concern was voiced by botanist Charles Sprague Sargent, director of Boston's Arnold Arboretum, that this non-native species threatened to become a nuisance, based on dense growths reported in Cambridge. Davenport confessed in an entry in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 6, page 352: "I have several times had plants of Trapa natans that were collected in the vicinity of Boston, during the present year, brought to me for identification, and I have entertained no doubt as to the manner of its introduction into waters outside Cambridge Botanic Garden. But that so fine a plant as this, with its handsome leafy rosettes and edible nuts, which would, if common, be as attractive to boys as hickory nuts now are, can ever become a 'nuisance' I can scarcely believe."[8]

Water caltrop has been declared an invasive species from Vermont to Virginia,[9] and is classified as a noxious weed in Florida, North Carolina, and Washington.[10] As of 2020, both T. natans and T. bicornis have been reported growing wild in the waterways of the United States.[11]

In Australia and its state of New South Wales water caltrop has been declared a noxious weed.
Legality of sale and shipment in the United States

In 1956 T. natans was banned for sale or shipment in the United States, subject to a fine and/or imprisonment.[12] This law was repealed by HR133 [13][116th Congress (2019-2020)] on December 27, 2020. [failed verification]
Role in fasciolopsiasis transmission

Fasciolopsiasis is an ailment resulting from infection by the trematode Fasciolopsis buski, an intestinal fluke of humans, endemic in China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia,, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India; this fluke can be transmitted via the surfaces of these and other water plants.

During the metacercarial stage in their lifecycle, the larval flukes leave their water snail hosts, and swim away to form cysts on the surfaces of water plants, including the leaves and fruit of water caltrops. If infected water plants are consumed raw or undercooked, the flukes can infect pigs, humans, and other animals.

Bicornin is an ellagitannin found in T. bicornis.[14]

"Mitsubishi Mark". Retrieved 14 May 2021.
"Shringataka". 9 August 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
Hollick, Charles Arthur (1936). The Tertiary floras of Alaska, Issues 181–184. United States Government Print Office. p. 156.
Karg, S. 2006. The water caltrop (Trapa natans L.) as a food resource during the 4th to 1st millennia BC at Lake Federsee, Bad Buchau (southern Germany). Environmental Archaeology 11 (1): 125–130.
"Tips To A Healthy 'Navratra'". The Times Of India.
Davenport, Geo. E. (1879). "Trapa natans". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 6 (58): 352. ISSN 0040-9618. JSTOR 2476842.
R. W. Pemberton (2002). "Water Chestnut". In Van Driesche, R.; et al. (eds.). Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the Eastern United States. USDA Forest Service.
"USDA Plants Database".
Cox, Jeremy (July 27, 2020). "Invasive water plant poised to overwhelm Potomac watershed". Bay Journal. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
"Transportation of water hyacinths". Bill No. 18 U.S. Code § 46 of 1 August 1956. United States Congress.
Cuellar, Henry (2020-12-27). "H.R.133 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021". Retrieved 2020-12-29.
Bicornin, a new hydrolyzable tannin from T. bicornis, and revised structure of alnusiin. Yoshida T, Yazaki K, Memon M.U, Maruyama I, Kurokawa K and Okuda T, Heterocycles, 1989, volume 29, number 5, pages 861–864 INIST:6780591

Plants, Fine Art Prints

Plants Images

Biology Encyclopedia

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World