10 Plants for Newts & Salamanders 2022 [Plants Newts Love]

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10 Best Pond Plants for Newts & Salamanders

Eastern newt on plant
Many pond plants are essential for newt & salamander reproduction and egg development, due to the protection they provide. Peter Paplanus / CC BY 2.0

Members of the Salamandridae family, newts and salamanders are fascinating amphibians. All newts are basically types of salamanders, but newts differ in that they live most of their lives in water. Both types require clean freshwater for egg laying and for their juvenile life phases. Natural ponds, which are generously dotted with vegetation, are the most ideal bodies of water for their survival. 

Various pond plants are essential for salamander reproduction and egg development as they provide protection. For ponds to attract and sustain populations of these amphibians, they need to have a diverse selection of both aquatic and terrestrial plants. These include floating plants, which provide shade and shelter from overhead predators, submerged plants along the shallows, and marginal plants to provide cover for safe entry and exit.

The egg masses of newts and salamanders are usually found along the shallow edges of ponds. These zones contain various microhabitats, each with its own unique set of ecological conditions. Plants increase the complexity in these zones and create pockets with relatively calm and cool water. Listed below are plants that should help sustain newt and salamander populations in your pond. Distribute these throughout several depth levels to attract more species.

1) Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)

Water forget-me-not plant
Newts like to lay their eggs on water forget-me-not foliage. Benjamin Zwittnig, CC BY 2.5 SI, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Asia and Europe

A member of the Boraginaceae or borage family, the water forget-me-not is a lovely addition to both ornamental and wildlife ponds. This semi-aquatic plant naturally grows in wet habitats, such as along the edges of streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers. It is an herbaceous perennial throughout its native range, able to quickly expand and persist through the seasons. It naturally spreads via underground rhizomes in very shallow (up to around 4 inches or 10 cm) zones of ponds.

Many types of newts favor the foliage of this plant as a site for egg-laying. As water forget-me-not tends to form floating rafts in the shallows, newts may lay their eggs on individual, submerged leaves. The smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), for example, hides its eggs by folding the leaves over them. It uses its hind legs to create the leaf fold, secreting fluid to keep it in place, before swimming away in search of other ideal sites for egg-laying.

In ponds with a thriving newt population, the foliage of water forget-me-not may be rife with eggs from March to June. The eggs take as little as 10 days to hatch, after which the larvae are likely to hide in the submerged parts of the plant. They may eventually use the overhead features as a means to safely explore the pond edge. They require the cover of leaves to remain hidden.

2) Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

Watercress plants in pond
Some salamander species, such as the brown salamander, favor areas that are choked with watercress stems and leaves! Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe and Asia

As a vegetable, watercress is one of the oldest known aquatic crops. Known for being a rapid grower, it is a flowering plant in the Brassicaceae or cabbage family. It is characterized by hollow stems, compound leaves, and white to green clusters of flowers. The leaves and stems are able to survive in submerged conditions, whereas the inflorescences are usually emergent. These are frequently visited by pollinators, which can serve as food for pond fish.

Watercress stems float in water, allowing them to maintain an upright orientation. Some types of salamanders (e.g. brownback salamander or Eurycea aquatica) favor springs that are practically choked with stems and leaves, providing them with a generous amount of coverage and surface area for egg laying. Their larvae may feed on natural food sources found on the surfaces of and amongst the leaves, whereas adults have the tendency to hide under nearby rocks.

Evidently, watercress is a highly valuable plant for a wide range of animals. It is nutritiously abundant and thus grows best in freshwater sites with a rich nutrient profile. A single plant’s shoots can grow as long as 120 cm (almost 4 feet long). If you intend to grow this plant in your pond, make sure to harvest it occasionally and remove any decaying plant material.

3) Creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

Creeping jenny plant in bloom
Creeping jenny is a hardy species that is great for ponds in temperate zones. Roman Titov / CC BY 4.0

Native to Europe

The perfect pond edge plant, creeping jenny has both visual and ecological uses around water features. This trailing plant is an evergreen perennial that can spread quite aggressively in areas with consistently moist substrates. It spreads by sending out roots from shoot nodes that come in contact with the ground. As the shoots elongate, they can be arranged in such a manner that they gracefully cascade into the pond.

Creeping jenny is great for attracting salamanders and newts to wildlife ponds because the trailing shoots allow them to easily enter and exit the water. An eft, which is the juvenile form of some types of newts, may attempt to feed along the undergrowth near ponds. The shoots of this plant should provide them with enough cover to feed without disturbance from potential predators.

This hardy species is ideal for ponds in temperate zones because it can tolerate temperature lows of up to -15˚C (5˚F). If you intend to grow this species for ornamental purposes, make sure to look for the ‘Aurea’ cultivar. This groundcover option has green to golden leaves and is less likely to be invasive compared to the type variety.

4) European speedwell (Veronica beccabunga)

European speedwell in water
European speedwell grows best in direct sunlight and permanently wet soil. Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa

A lovely flowering herb of the Plantaginaceae or plantain family, the European speedwell is also referred to as brooklime. This is due to its tendency to grow along the margins of brooks, streams, and ditches. Like creeping jenny, it is an evergreen species with a trailing habit. The stems are succulent and hollow, rooting into the ground wherever their nodes come into contact with moist substrate.

This is a perfect plant for wildlife ponds, especially those that are designed to attract amphibians and small reptiles. Its fleshy leaves can provide ample cover for newts and salamanders without harming their delicate skin. As a plus, this species can be cultivated as an emergent plant along the shallow margins of the pond. There, the shoots and leaves can help keep the water cool, while serving as surfaces for egg-laying.

Another primary reason for decorating a pond with European speedwell is its delicate spring to summer flowers. Though small, these arise in mats of eye-catching inflorescences. Bright and blue, the blooms attract small pollinators. For best growth results, situate this species in zones that are exposed to full sun and have permanently wet soil.

5) Floating fern (Azolla mexicana)

Floating fern in water
Floating fern helps to keep the water cool and provides cover to small amphibians. Robert Taylor / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Some types of newts and salamanders may prefer to lay their eggs in calm or slow-moving areas of the pond. Fortunately, there are many floating plants that favor these conditions. The floating fern, for example, thrives best in still water or in ponds with a poor current. In these zones, they can support the survival of many small animals that stay close to the subsurface.

Newts and salamanders won’t necessarily lay their eggs on the floating foliage of A. mexicana, but they may do so in its shade if submerged vegetation is found there. The leaves aid in keeping the water cool, removing excess nutrients, and providing cover for small amphibians. Newly hatched larva, which may favor aquatic insects, are likely to seek cover from this fern’s leaves as they search for food in shallow areas or on the water’s surface.

As an aquatic fern, A. mexicana is able to spread by two means – by fragmentation and via spores. It can be cultivated as an annual or as a short-lived perennial. Its spread can be diminished by incorporating a water current in key areas of the pond. The leaves, which are incredibly tiny, are delicately arranged in rows. They may turn brownish red in mid-summer, adding a dramatic flair to the pond’s surface.

6) Water mint (Mentha aquatica)

Water mint plants
Water mint prefers marginal areas in natural freshwater bodies and canals. Patrick Meurin / CC BY 4.0

Native to Southwest Asia, Northwest Africa, and Europe

A true member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), M. aquatica favors the marginal areas of natural freshwater bodies and canals. It is a perennial plant that spreads via underground rhizomes in regularly moistened substrates. It can be cultivated as an emergent plant in the shallow borders of ponds, where its fibrous roots can aid in erosion control.

Small freshwater creatures, including newts and salamanders, are likely to find optimal water conditions around the partially submerged stems of water mint. Great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) are notable fans of this species. They can hide their eggs in the leaves while seeking cover from overhead predators. Some of their favorite types of food, such as insects, are frequently attracted by the purple to pink flowers of this plant. Reminiscent of wildflowers, the blooms are long-lived and visually attractive.

As a bonus, the minty smell of water mint’s leaves and shoots can keep some pests, including potential predators of amphibians, away from the pond’s edge. The fragrant leaves can be used to prepare mint extracts and herbal infusions.

7) Lesser duckweed (Lemna minor)

Lesser duckweed
Lesser duckweed’s rapid reproduction rate can be controlled in ponds with a steady current. M.B. / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe

If your pond is in need of floating plants for shade and color, lesser duckweed may be a viable option. Remarkably easy to cultivate, this species has both ecological and industrial applications. In controlled densities, it functions as a “bioremediator”, stripping the water of potentially toxic chemicals and nutrients. It can provide the same service to both ornamental and wildlife ponds, but note that it will have to be maintained to prevent it from overgrowing the pond’s surface.

Lesser duckweed is ideal for wildlife ponds that are designed to attract newts and salamanders. Thin mats of its tiny leaves can protect them from overhead predators and keep the water cool. Assemblages of salamander or newt tadpoles may frequently be found feeding below the pond’s subsurface, under the shade of duckweed leaves.

This species’ tendency to reproduce rapidly can be countered in ponds with a steady current. Duckweed leaves are likely to be restricted to corners where the current is weakest. These same areas are often favored by both young and adult amphibians as they can relax and search for food there. Try to place trailing shoots close to these areas so that young newts and salamanders can leave the pond under vegetative cover after swimming underneath the duckweed mats.

8) Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

Hornwort in pond
Hornwort can help amphibians to hide from predators in the pond. Dutza K. / CC BY 4.0

Native to all continents except for Antarctica

The humble hornwort or coontail is a submerged aquatic plant with shoots that grow toward the water’s surface. It is incredibly popular as an aquarium and ornamental pond plant as its features add complexity to any setup. The whorled leaves significantly increase the surface area of the plant, allowing it to take up considerable amounts of nutrients. It is also one of the best oxygenating plants and algae competitors for enclosed bodies of water.

This species is an ideal addition to wildlife ponds that are made for amphibians. Some types of salamanders prefer to lay their eggs in areas that are densely covered in submerged foliage. In the same way that floating plants can protect these amphibians from overhead predators, hornwort shoots can help them hide from predators within the pond itself.

Apart from serving as sites for newts and salamanders to lay eggs, hornwort stands are usually rife with potential prey items. Insect larvae, fish eggs, and fish fry, all of which can serve as salamander prey, seek shelter in the whorls of leaves. Hungry amphibians are likely to find food by patiently exploring through areas of the pond that are densely planted with hornwort.

9) Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana)

Java moss
Java moss can spread quickly and compete with native species for space, but will quickly die back if there are not enough nutrients and light. Xedoo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Asia

V. dubyana is a member of the Hypnaceae family, which is a large group of moss species with global distribution. It is one of the most common mosses that are propagated by the aquarium trade. Usually grown in planted tanks, this moss is set apart by its irregularly branched shoots, which naturally grow from the crevices and hollows of tree trunks and rocks. Given enough light, it is an oxygenating plant with the potential to act as a natural filter.

Java moss can help decrease current, creating pockets with relatively calm water flow. This is ideal for newts and salamanders that may seek to rest or lay their eggs. The shoots also help soften bottom surfaces, making them less likely to harm delicate animals and their eggs. Small insects and fish eggs can easily get trapped on mossy surfaces, making them ideal spots on which juvenile and adult salamanders may feed.

Do note that a major downside to introducing this moss into wildlife ponds is its capacity to spread quickly. If it is able to enter natural freshwater systems, it can become an invasive plant and compete with many native species for space. It has the tendency to grow as widespread carpets. Fortunately, it isn’t the hardiest of plants and will die back if light and nutrient levels are insufficient.

10) Water celery (Oenanthe javanica)

Water celery plants
Water celery is a great ground cover plant for pond edges. Kim, Hyun-tae / CC BY 4.0

Native to Asia and Australia

Also known as water dropwort, Japanese parsley, and Chinese celery, O. javanica is an edible herb that favors moist conditions. It can technically be considered a minor vegetable as its spring foliage is regularly used in the culinary dishes of many Asian countries. This marginal plant has fibrous roots that can aid in stabilizing a pond’s edges. It is capable of spreading vegetatively via laterally oriented stems.

The herbaceous stems of water celery are hollow, so they allow the plant to float on the surface or remain upright in water. The submerged and floating structures can be used by newts and salamanders as a form of protection and as surfaces on which they can spawn. The compound leaves can grow quite large, with those of mature species growing up to 12 inches (30 cm) long.  They provide enough shade to keep a pond’s edges cool and relatively free of algae.

Due to its rooting stolons, water celery may be considered an invasive plant in areas outside of its native range. Its rapid spreading rate makes it an ideal ground cover plant for the expansive edges of water features. Amphibians will likely appreciate dense stands of this species as they enter and exit wildlife ponds. For ornamental purposes, make sure to look for the ‘Flamingo’ cultivar with pink leaf edges.

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