Northland Nature: Arrowheads point the way along shores

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at

Arrowheads growing up from the water at the edge of a lake on an August day. (Photo by Larry Weber)

Calls of mink and green frogs greet me as I arrive at the lake on this clear and calm summer morning. I scare up a mink frog and get a good look at it. These aquatic frogs are not often seen out of water. Out in the lake, a pair of loons swim in unison as they escort their young one.

Plants along the shore hold many circular spiderwebs. These orbs, constructed last night, show good catching of night-flying insects. Here too are a couple of dozing meadowhawk dragonflies; they are waiting for warmth of sunlight. Over the water’s surface, I watch a group of whirligig beetles scatter and do their gyrating movements.

Paddling away from shore, I see that I’m not alone. A beaver comes by, going under when I get too close. A kingfisher rattles its call and flies ahead of me. Bobbing motion on a log followed by a low flight above the water tell me of a spotted sandpiper. At one site, I come up to a group of phoebes (probably this year’s family) breakfasting on insects.

As I paddle near the shore, I see plenty of summer wildflowers that take advantage of this sunlit location near water. White flattop asters thrive as well as a patch of yellow goldenrods and sunflowers. All will continue through the coming weeks of late summer.

Nearby, I see more whites, boneset and pearly everlasting. Three kinds of flowers, more associated with earlier in summer are still lingering here: yellow loosestrife (swamp candles), purple joe pye weed and orange jewelweed. A bit farther up on shore are pink and white spirea, some flowering, but mostly forming seeds.


As I move through the floating round leaves of white water lilies, many with flowers now emerging from under water in the morning sunlight, I see that they are not the only emergents. Most of the flowers on shore are out of the water, but there are those that begin under water and grow above to flower.

Not only the white water lilies, but near them are small yellow flowers of bladderworts creeping from below. And there are the hard-to-overlook arrowheads.

Arrowheads have large, three-petaled white flowers and arrowhead-shaped leaves. (Photo by Larry Weber)

When many plants are named after their flowers, arrowheads owe their label to the large leaves. The stalks of both the flowers and leaves stickup from the water. Floral spikes that hold many blossoms rise above the water with no leaves attached. The large flowers of 2 inches are white and of only three petals. (Among the aquatic plants, three-petaled blossoms are not very common.)

Also rising up from the subsurface are the rather robust leaves. Highly variable, these leaves may be only 6 inches long or maybe a couple feet; and they can be narrow or wide. All are roughly shaped like arrowheads — a point on the apex of the highest leaf part while two other parts are turned down, making the shape of an arrowhead.

I consider arrowhead flowering time in the wetlands to be in early August. Leaves have been present for some time, but only recently have the flowers joined. Most of us refer to this plant as the arrowhead, but it may also be called “duck potato." The tubers beneath the water are edible and may be gathered by those who go through the bother to dig them.

As I paddle by the shores, I’m satisfied with just looking at these white flowers with the tell-tale leaves along with all the other aquatic plants on this midsummer morning.


Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books.
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