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Water caltrop: Wikis


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Water caltrop
Boiled water caltrop (T. bicornis) seeds
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Myrtales
Family: Lythraceae
Subfamily: Trapoideae
Genus: Trapa
Type species
Trapa natans
  • T. natans
  • T. bicornis

The water caltrop , water chestnut or Singhara (सिंघाडा) is either of two species of the genus Trapa: Trapa natans and Trapa bicornis. Both species are floating annual aquatic plants, growing in slow-moving water up to 5 meters deep, native to warm temperate parts of Eurasia and Africa. They bear ornately shaped fruits that resemble the head of a bull, each containing a single very large starchy seed. It has been cultivated in China and India for at least 3,000 years for these seeds, which are boiled and sold as an occasional streetside snack in the south of that country.



The generic name Trapa is derived from the Latin word for "thistle," calcitrappa, as is the name caltrop. The Chinese name is língjiǎo (菱角), líng meaning "water caltrop" and jiǎo meaning "horn."

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


The water caltrop's submerged stem reaches 12 to 15 ft (3.6 to 4.5 m) 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 long, on inflated petioles 5–9 cm 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 0.5 in (1 cm), barbed spines. Seeds can remain viable for up to 12 years, although most will germinate within the first two years.

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, birds and animals.


Water caltrop field in Tainan City

Investigations of archaeological material from southern Germany indicate that the prehistoric population of that region may well have relied significantly upon wild water chestnuts to supplement their normal diet and, in times of cultivated cereal crop failure, water chestnuts may even have been the main dietary component. [1]

In the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, water caltrop was an important food for worship as prayer offerings. The Rites of Zhou (2nd century BC) mentioned that a worshipper "should use a bamboo basket containing dried water caltrops, the seeds of Euryale ferox and chestnuts" (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 it is known as Singhara, and is widely cultivated in fresh water lakes. The fruits are eaten raw or boiled. When the fruit has been dried, it is ground to a flour called singhare ka atta. Singhare ka atta is used in many religious rituals and can be consumed as a phalahar diet on the hindu fasting days, the navratas. [2]

It was possible to buy water chestnuts in markets all over Europe until 1880. In northern Italy the nuts were offered roasted, much as sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa Mill.) are still sold today. In many parts of Europe water chestnuts were known and used for human food until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, however, it is a rare plant. There may be several reasons for its near extinction, such as climate fluctuations, changes in the nutrient content of water bodies, and the drainage of many wetlands, ponds and oxbow lakes.[1]

It was introduced to North America around 1874, and escaped cultivation in the eastern United States, where it has become an invasive species from Vermont to Virginia.[3]

In Australia, and its state of New South Wales water caltrop is declared as a noxious weed.

In the USA, water caltrap is also considered noxious weed in Florida, North Carolina, and Washington. [4]

Role in Transmission of Fasciolopsiasis

Fasciolopsiasis can be transmitted via the surfaces of these and other water plants. During the metacercarial stage in their life cycle, 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.

Fasciolopsiasis results from infection by the trematode Fasciolopsis buski (Lankester, 1857) Odhner, 1902, the largest intestinal fluke of humans (up to 7.5 cm in length)


  1. ^ a b Karg, S. 2006. The water chestnut (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.
  2. ^,prtpage-1.cms
  3. ^ R. W. Pemberton (2002). "Water Chestnut". in Van Driesche, R., et al.. Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the Eastern United States. USDA Forest Service. 
  4. ^

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