Erba coltella - Ottelia

Erba coltella - Ottelia

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The cutlery or Stratiotes aloides is a perennial aquatic plant native to Central and South America. This growing plant constitutes large clumps of leaves, with petioles up to 70-90 cm long, which remain floating on the water and are narrow and long, waxy, 15-20 cm long; in summer it produces flowers emerged, with large roundish buds, 4-5 cream-colored petals, with a wrinkled appearance, and a golden yellow center; the fruits contain numerous seeds covered with a thin hair.
There are many varieties of Otellia found in nature and many are cultivated for ornamental purposes. To name a few, we mention the Ottelia ovalifolia which has oval, roundish, emerged leaves and Ottelia alismoides with narrower and darker leaves. These plants tend to form large colonies, it is better to plant them in fairly large ponds.


Ottelia prefers very sunny locations with wide breath, light and sun; in spring you can plant in the ground in streams and ponds with very calm water, it tends to grow abundantly. Fears the cold, so it is grown as an annual, or in winter it is sheltered in the house or in a temperate greenhouse in large tubs.
For most of the year this plant remains submerged because the heavy leaves remain at the level or below the water level.


Speaking of soil, even if it is an aquatic plant, this herb prefers moist, deep, muddy, slightly acid soils.


The multiplication of the cut grass occurs by seed, using the seeds of the previous year directly in the spring; or it can be sown in winter, keeping the seedbed completely immersed in water, in a bright and warm place, but away from direct sunlight.
The seed is produced after the flowering in Italy around the month of July.

Pests and diseases

Speaking of diseases and pests of the cut grass, this plant does not fear the attack of pests and diseases. In some regions of North America it has become a weed of water courses, therefore we advise you to be careful not to let the seeds spread too much because when it finds the right conditions it is an aquatic plant that spreads like wildfire and it prevails over many other species. Currently in Italy it is however a not very common species that struggles to settle in the zones with suitable climate.

Erba coltella - Ottelia: Origins of the name

The name erba coltella, very curious, probably derives from the use that was once made of this herb. The leaves of this aquatic plant were used to treat wounds from cutting weapons and hence the name "coltella".
Currently the ornamental value of this plant is the main reason why it is grown.