This perennial plant is ¾–2½' long. It either floats on water or sprawls across the ground. The stems are light green to red (often the latter), glabrous to sparsely pubescent, and terete. Alternate leaves along these stems are 1¼–3' long and ½–1' across; they are elliptic, oblong-elliptic, oblanceolate, or oblong-oblanceolate in shape and smooth along their margins. The leaves are usually glossy green in appearance, although sometimes they develop patches of red or yellow. The upper leaf surface is glabrous, while the lower leaf surface is glabrous to sparsely pubescent. The leaf bases taper gradually into slender petioles about ½–2' long. Individual flowers develop from the axils of the middle to upper leaves on erect to semi-erect pedicels about 1–3' long. Each flower is about 1' across, consisting of 5 yellow petals, 5 light green sepals, 10 yellow stamens, and a narrowly cylindrical pistil with a single style. The petals are obovate in shape with pale pinnate nerves, while the smaller sepals are lanceolate. Compared to the size of the flower, both the stamens and style are relatively short. Between the apex of the pedicel and the bottom of the pistil, there is a pair of tiny bractlets (about 1.0–1.5 mm. in length). The blooming period occurs from late spring to early fall, lasting several months. The flowers are diurnal. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by cylindrical seed capsules about 1–1½' long. Each seed capsule has 5 narrow cells, and each cell contains a row of seeds. The seeds are enclosed in chunky outer coatings (endocarps); they are about 1.0-1.5 mm. in length. The root system is fibrous and fleshy. When the nodes of the stems lie on wet ground, they are capable of developing new fibrous roots, from which new plants are produced vegetatively. Sometimes the root system produces small bladders that keep individual plants more buoyant in the water. This plant often forms large colonies.