Variable-leaf pondweed is a perennial plant that has two kinds of leaves. The floating leaves are leathery textured, oval to elliptical 3/8 to 1 1/2 inches long and 3/8 to 3/4 inches wide with a petiole one to two times a long as the blade. The submerged leaves are thin, less than 1/8 of an inch wide and 3/4 to 2 1/4 inches long with obvious midvein and a pointed tip. The fruits are flat about 1/8 of an inch wide and arise from the axis of the floating leaves.
Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. Variable-leaf pondweed seeds are consumed by waterfowl.