Spiloxene aquatica, in Afrikaans the watersterretjie (water starlet), is an aquatic plant, a perennial herb. It grows from a corm varying in size between 10 cm and 30 cm. The corm is replaced every growing season by a new one developing on top of the old corm from last season. This species has a generally smooth corm, sometimes with only vestiges of a tunic at its top.
The protective tunic of a cormous plant originates from the skin of the old stem, acting as a shield against hard objects in the ground. Because it grows on top of the old corm, the old stem is conveniently positioned around the developing corm as it grows. Spiloxene aquatica corms grow in soft mud at the bottom of open water. They do not need as much protection against damage from the surrounding earth.
The plant has quill-like, somewhat hollow leaves, taller than the flowers. The leaves are linear in shape and 3 mm wide. Spilos is spot and xenos means host or stranger, both in Greek. The name was derived in recognition of the markings found on the tepals of some Spiloxene species, but not S. aquatica.
The plant is found in marshes, vleis, streams and seasonal pools of the Western and Eastern Cape. There are about 25 species, all South African, in this genus of the Hypoxidaceae or stargrass family (Manning, 2009; Bond and Goldblatt, 1984; www.plantzafrica.com).