Notes on Echinodorus macrophyllus (Kunth) Micheli,
an ornamental and medicinal aquatic plant
English | Português
Felipe de Araújo Pinto Sobrinho*
& Bruno Rezende Silva**
Images below © Bruno Rezende Silva & Jardim Botânico
do Rio de Janeiro
Click to enlarge
Known as Chapéu-de-Couro (leather hat), Echinodorus
macrophyllus is an aquatic plant native to Brazil of great
popularity. It belongs to the family Alismataceae, Echinodorus
and Sagittaria being the most common genera. The first
presents hermaphroditic flowers and is restricted to the new
world, occurring from the United States to Argentina. The second,
on the other hand, has flowers with separate sexes on the same
inflorescence and possesses a worldwide distribution.
The popular name of this species comes from the fact that its
ovate and lightly sagittate leaves resemble leather hats worn
in the northeast of Brazil. It is also known as tea from minas,
tea of campaign, congonha of the swamp, indian herb, herb of
the swamp, and poor man`s tea. Its occurrence in Brazil encompasses
the states of Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, Rio
Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and São Paulo.
Growing as herbaceous perennials, these emergent aquatics occur
mainly on the margins of rivers, lakes, drainage canals and wetlands,
being able to live submerged for some time, although not flowering.
They can also tolerate short drought periods. They root in the
soil keeping the lower portions immersed and send out petioles,
leaves and inflorescences composed of beautiful white flowers
of about 5 cm (2") diameter with the petals white and yellow
at the base. Infructescences are round and chestnut colored at
The most common form of propagation of the Chapéu-de-couro
is vegetative, basically by division of the rhizome (Castro &
Chemale, 1995). Also the seeds germinate easily. It has been
increasingly used in landscape projects for the beautiful effect
of its foliage when in groups and by the inflorescences that
reach well above the foliage. Resistance to disease and fast
growth rate also contribute to this increased popularity.
This plant also presents great medicinal potential with proven
depurative, diuretic, antiinflammatory, antiophidic and antirheumatic
effects. The leaves are the main part used in the form of tea
or infusion. Phytochemical studies about the family Alismataceae
(Martins et al., 1995; Lainetti & Brito, 1980), found among
its main chemical constituents: tannins, flavonoids, triterpenes,
glycosides, echinodorosides, essences and mineral salts.
One of the traditional soft drinks
of Brazil, the Mineirinho, with its unique flavor, uses in its
formula the Chapéu-de-couro`s concentrate. According to
the manufacturers the Chapéu-de-Couro is a special plant
that adds to the formula a pleasing taste that is completely
different from other soft drinks.
Specimens of Echinodorus macrophyllus
from Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Herbarium
CASTRO, L.O.; CHEMALE, V.M. Plantas medicinais,
condimentares e aromáticas: descrição e
cultivo. Guaiba: Agropecuária, 1995. 196 p.
MARTINS, E.R.; CASTRO, D.M..; CASTELLANI,
D.C.; DIAS, J.E. Plantas medicinais. Viçosa: UFV, 1995.
LAINETTI, R.; BRITO, N.R.S.. A saúde
pelas plantas e ervas do mundo inteiro. Rio de Janeiro: Ediouro,
* Master student of Escola Nacional de Botânica Tropical.
** Living Collections Office of Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens