The past and present occurrence of Elatine hydropiper L. (eight-stamened waterwort), E. hexandra (Lapierre) DC. (six-stamened waterwort) and E. triandra Schkuhr (three-stamened waterwort) in the Netherlands is discussed. It has proved possible to distinguish the slightly curved seeds of E. hexandra and E. triandra in subfossil material on morphological grounds. E. hexandra is the most common species at present, but subfossil finds are confined to Late-glacial and Pre-boreal sediments of one lake in the Pleistocene area of the Netherlands. Living plants of E. triandra have only been found in the Netherlands in 1838-1839, but there are 17 records from five archaeological sites, all located in the western Dutch estuarine area. Several of these sites also yielded E. hydropiper, archaeobotanically the most common species. The occurrence of E. triandra and E. hydropiper in the Netherlands seems to have been favoured by high summer temperatures. The ecological amplitude of this combination of species gives firm clues for the reconstruction of the environment, which must have been a freshwater tidal area. Since this type of environment is strongly threatened on a worldwide scale, the presence of these species in the past may also provide interesting information for present nature development projects in the Dutch estuarine area. © 2007 Springer Verlag.