Fossil records from as recent as the last interglacials are known from several locations in Europe (Hyde et al. 1978).It is a floating aquatic fern, with very fast growth, capable of spreading over lake surfaces to give complete coverage of the water in only a few months. Each individual plant is 1-2 cm across, green tinged pink, orange or red at the edges, branching freely, and breaking into smaller sections as it grows. It is not tolerant of cold temperatures, and in temperate regions it largely dies back in winter, surviving by means of submerged buds. Like other species of Azolla, it can fix nitrogen from the air.Azolla filiculoides (Water Fern) is a species of Azolla, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Americas as well as most of the old world including Asia and Australia.
The species has been introduced to many regions of the Old World, grown for its nitrogen-fixing ability which can be utilized to enhance the growth rate of crops grown in water like rice, or by removal from lakes for use as green manure. It has become naturalized, sometimes also an invasive species, in several regions, including western Europe, southern Africa, tropical Asia, Australia (where it is considered native), and New Zealand.
Ireland: Introduced into Clandeboye Lake, Co. Down.