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Oenanthe javanica


Oenanthe javanica (Blume) DC.

Family Name: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
Synonyms: Oenanthe javanicum, Oenanthe stolonifera
Common Name: Water Celery, Water Dropwort, Water Parsley, Selom


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Aquatic & Hydrophyte (Floating, Waterside / Marginal), Herbaceous Plant


Native Distribution South, Southeast and East Asia, from Pakistan to Japan and Taiwan and from northern China to tropical Australia (Queensland)

Description and Ethnobotany

Others - Plant Morphology A minor vegetable in most Southeast Asian countries, Oenanthe javanica is either collected from the wild or cultivated on a small scale. In Singapore, it is less common, only occasionally available in the wet markets of Geylang Serai and the Thai supermarkets. Growth Form: A perennial aquatic herbaceous plant that spreads with a creeping habit, spreading by stolons (= lateral stems growing horizontally at ground level, rooting at the nodes and producing new plants from its buds). The dimensions of the plant are very variable, with various forms having been described, all connected by intermediate forms. Red-leaved forms exist in the wild, which are easily confused with poisonous related species.Habitat: O. javanica occurs wild in swampy areas, along streams and in wet grasslands and clearings. It can be found across a wide altitudinal range from sea-level to an elevation of 2800 m.Stem:Stems terete (= like a slender, tapering cylinder, more or less circular in any cross-section), erect or ascending from a creeping base. The centres of the stems are hollow, which aid the plant in floating in water. Sometimes tinged red, the stems are 10-100 cm long and much branched.Foliage: Leaves are alternate on the stem with petioles up to 12 cm long, each sheathed over most of its length. Leaf blades are oblong to ovate in shape, margins serrate or entire. Dark green and dull above, the surface beneath is lighter-coloured beneath with transparent nerves. Pinnate to tripinnate, the compoundness of the leaves can be very variable.Flowers: Inflorescence a compound many-flowered umbel (= an inflorescence in which flower stalks arise from the same point on the inflorescence stalk), terminal and positioned opposite the leaves. Flowers small and white, said to give off a wine-like fragrance, which is sometimes undetectable. Fruits: Fruit a schizocarp (= a dry indehiscent fruit, which splits into separate one-seeded segments at maturity).Cultivation: Easy to grow and maintained throughout the year without replanting, O. javanica thrives in warm wet areas although it is a cool-season plant. Semi-shade conditions are also preferred. Some forms have frost-hardy roots and stolons.O. javanica are most commonly propagated from stem cuttings, which when rooted, go on to establish quickly when transplanted into moist soil. It may also be propagated from seed, although germination has been observed to be erratic.Etymology: The genus name Oenanthe, is derived from the Greek oinos and anthos, which mean “wine” and “flower”, referring to the plant’s white flowers that have been described to have a wine-like fragrance. The specific epithet “javanica means “of Java” or “Javanese”, in reference to one of the places of origin of the species.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts (Edible Leaves, Edible Stems)
Food (Fruit & Vegetable;Herb and Spice)
[Others]: Food: One of the most popular traditional vegetables in Southeast Asia, O. javanica has a long history of use as a leafy vegetable in East and Southeast Asia. Its use as food in China dates back to as early as 700 BC, while its cultivation in Japan dates back to at least 750 AD. When bruised, the plant is described as smelling like carrot leaves. Its leaves and young stems may be used raw or cooked briefly. It is also one of the most common greens in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, where it is eaten raw or steamed, usually with fish or meat. In Japan, the vegetable is finely-chopped and added to one-pot dishes, such as sukiyaki. It is also a substitute for the celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce). Medicine: The seed and other plant parts of O. javanica are known to be used medicinally. Other uses: O. javanica can be used as feed for fish, which are known to find the plant an attractive food, and small ruminants. Its seeds contain an essential oil, which is a good source of limonene, which is used in cosmetics and solvents.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Fragrant (Flowers) (Day)
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site)
Landscape Uses Riverine, Aquarium / Aquascape, Container Planting
Thematic Landscaping Water Garden

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade
Water Preference Lots of Water
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Foliar Type Compound (Even-Pinnate, Bipinnate, Tripinnate)
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate, Oblong)
Foliar Margin Entire, Serrate / Toothed

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) White
Inflorescence Type Umbel

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown
Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit

Image Repository



Master ID 30673
Species ID 4982
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 19 April 2022.