They have to walk long distances to collect enough wood to do this. Wouter Hagens, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain license. Although they look similar, three of them are true petals and the other three are sepals. The plant is certainly beautiful when it flowers. Water hyacinth is often found as floating masses with round, dark green leaves and purple/lavender flowers. Water hyacinth is sold as an ornamental plant in some parts of North America. Water hyacinth, any aquatic plant of the genus Eichhornia of the pickerelweed family (Pontederiaceae), consisting of about five species, native primarily to tropical America. In certain areas, the plant causes major problems for people. The scenic setting, pleasant climate, picturesque villages dotting the shores, and good fishing make the lake…. Water hyacinth is a floating plant that is admired for its beautiful pink or lavender flowers set against a background of glossy green leaves. Scientists trace its history in the United States back to 1884 at the New Orleans Exposition. The biopdigesters seem to be working well. This devilish weed is native to South America, but since it was introduced to India in the 19th century as an ornamental pond plant, it has spread to more than a hundred countries. I wonder if, as markets usually do, the $750 for the biogas digester will go up as the demand grows. The plant lives in the wild in the southeastern part of the United States and is also found in California. It's a good thing that they are finding ways of making biofuel from the water hyacinth. They could be life-saving for many women, who usually do the cooking. It belongs to the monocot group of flowering plants. Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on September 08, 2019: Thank you for your insights which go far beyond aesthetics! The first introduction occurred in 1884 in the southern United States, though the timing is variable depending on the source. Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 18, 2020: It is such a shame when plants are introduced into new locations where they become invasive. There is no doubt that the plant can cause major problems. The flowing water ecosystems originate from the springs, mountains and forests. Water hyacinth is a very aggressive invader and can form thick mats. The stigma is composed of three lobes that are tightly pressed together or are separate. When the plant is mixed with chicken manure or cow dung, the results are even better. Some Facts about Water Hyacinth. Water hyacinth is most abundant in slow-moving water. Native to the Amazon River basin of tropical South America, water hyacinth has now spread to all tropical and subtropical countries and is universally regarded as … It reproduces quickly and often clogs slow-flowing streams. Thank you for your ongoing excellent science articles! Hopefully, more biodigesters will be funded and help to turn a negative into a positive situation in Kenya. Feral hogs (also called wild hogs), belonging to the species Sus scrofa, are not native to the United States. Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 26, 2019: Thank you for the comment, Rebecca. The occurrences in Arizona, Arkansas and Washington, shown in the map above left, are now believed to be “eradicated”. It's interesting that the plant is loved by some people and hated by others. Thank you very much for the visit, Rachel. Some types of livestock eat water hyacinth, especially if it's prepared properly to make it more palatable for them. The women smoke the fish caught by the fishermen. I don't have a pond or anywhere to grow it, but I love reading about it. The stalk of the spike may be even longer than the spike itself. Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 26, 2019: Your article about the water hyacinth is so interesting and inclusive. Yes, there do seem to be opportunities for entrepreneurs. They often have a pointed tip. Thank you for sharing the article as well. Liz Westwood from UK on September 07, 2019: I have read your informative article with great interest. The use of water hyacinth for handicrafts seems to be explanding. It's good that such things can be harnessed for good even though they present such a problem in many areas. Thank you for including Acheny Idachaba's video. I hope the biogas digester becomes affordable because it would probably be very helpful for some communities. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program recommends several procedures for dealing with water hyacinth in North America. 2. It also blocks the light that algae and other photosynthetic organisms in the water need in order to make food. When fermented on its own or in combination with animal manure, it produces a gas that can be used for cooking and other tasks. You've presented both sides of its story so well and the biofuel side of it is indeed important. Around fifty additional digesters will be sent to the Kenya in the near future. It grows in bodies of fresh water, including lakes, ponds, canals, rivers, marshes, and ditches. I hope we get to the point where the positives outweigh the negatives everywhere where the plant is found. Water hyacinth fills the space needed by other aquatic plants and prevents their growth. Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 07, 2019: I had no idea the beautiful water hyacinth could cause so many problems, and yet be an energy source. The fruit is a capsule that contains many seeds. It is said that only a few weeks are needed for the water hyacinth to cover a large area. Water hyacinth is non-native to North America. The waxy, densely-packed florets come in shades of white, peach, orange, salmon, yellow, pink, red, purple, lavender and blue. For the short-term solution, she said the DID would allocate RM20,000 for clearing Oya River from overgrowing water hyacinth by using amphibious machinery or barges. Hi, Chitrangada. A healthy acre of water hyacinths can weigh up to 200 tons. Yes, it is good that the plant can be useful. The animals are collected and sold as food. The plant's roots are fibrous or feathery and are purple-black in colour. Water Hyacinth Where It Came From In 1884, the beautiful water hyacinth, a native flower of South America, was first seen in the U.S. at an ornamen-tal plant exposition in New Orleans. Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. — Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program. The plant lives in the wild in the southeastern part of the United States and is also found in California. Detractors mention its invasiveness and its ability to block waterways and interfere with human activities and health. How sad that it is a sort of narcissist of the plant world, but we can be somewhat hopeful around fueling the biogas digesters to ferment fish in Kenya. In 2018, the village of Dunga on the shore of Lake Victoria received two biogas digesters. But I am sure the locals, who live nearby those areas, must be aware of it’s plus and minuses. What they have suffered through government coups is incredible. The 7-8 leaves of the hyacinth are fleshy, glossy green and strap shaped. Hi, Shaloo. Using the water hyacinth as animal fodder is a traditional practice in many areas of Asia, including China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 07, 2019: I've always admired the beauty of the water hyacinth, never knew it could be so problematic. Some species float in shallow water; others are rooted in muddy stream banks and lakeshores. This process is called ‘ Phytoremediation ’, which has made wastewater management very much eco-friendly and cost-effective. Thank you very much, Bill. Thanks for this educative and absorbing read. I hope they become more affordable. Hyacinths Come to the Netherlands and England Ann Carr from SW England on September 07, 2019: Well, this is fascinating, Linda! You rock! In addition to lowering the financial cost of the digesters, the crops need to be monitored continuously and carefully to prevent it from becoming an invasive problem. Thanks. In addition, boats and other equipment should be washed after travelling through an area infested with water hyacinth. Some PAHs are capable of causing cancer. New introductions are probably the result of improper disposal of pond plants or when ponds adjacent to local water bodies overflow with rains. Omissions? Water hyacinth is a free-floating aquatic plant in the Pickerel-Weed family (Pontederiaceae) imported into North America in 1884 for an exposition in New Orleans. Alligator weed was introduced into the Mobile, Ala., area in the late 1890s, probably in ship ballast water, and by 1920 was reported in Louisiana and other southern states. It spread to the Congo, the Nile and Lake Victoria in … Its thick, waxy, oval-shaped leaves are 4-8 inches across and branch out from the center of the plant on modified stems that may rise as much as 1 meter above the water surface. Like the leaves, the petiole (leaf stem) is thick. Clearing the plant from the water may be helpful but may have to be repeated at regular intervals. The plant may grow as an annual in temperate climates. Where It Invaded A visitor from Florida took a cutting and brought it home to their garden pond and within weeks found it had taken over the pond. In addition, Fatimah said a working committee headed by the district officer had been established for the purpose of addressing this water hyacinth problem. Water hyacinth are available in plenty in the lakes, water ponds and such likw other water bodies. Molecular Ecology 19(9):1774-1786. It was introduced to the United States in 1884 at the Cotton States Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana. There is convincing evidence that the hyacinth was cultivated by the Turks for both its fragrance and for ceremonial usage. Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 14, 2019: Thanks for the comment, Roberta. I hope this ability is explored further and put to good use. Each flower has six petals and is pink to lavender in colour. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Once they enter waterways, the plants grow and reproduce to form dense mats that choke out native species. Water hyacinth has since spread throughout the southeastern U.S., much of California, the northeastern coastal region, and up the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes region. Hi Linda, The water lily is so beautiful that I never even thought it might cause problems. I don't think I would grow it even if I had a pond in my garden because of the problems that it might cause. Thanks for this interesting look at water hyacinths. “Samples are said to have been given to fair-goers, and within 4 years, coastal fresh waters were infested from Texas to Alabama. All four are introduced plants and all are invasive and problematic in some parts of the province. Thank you. The smoke contains chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. All have slender rootstocks, feathery roots, rosettes of stalked leaves, and few to many flowers arranged in spikes or clusters in the leaf axils. Your article about water hyacinths is interesting. It is good, though that there is a positive use for it in Kenya to balance out the negatives. On the death of Sultan Moerad III in 1595 his mourning son had no fewer than half a million hyacinths planted. The plant also spreads vegetatively. The thick and glossy leaves of water hyacinth form a rosette that floats on the water surface or extends above it. Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 08, 2019: Thank you for the visit and the comment, Cynthia. Interestingly, these problems are not caused by water hyacinth and may actually be helped by the plant in combination with technology. The women who rely on selling the fish from Lake Victoria have other problems in addition to decreased fish to sell. The plant could be very useful as a fuel. The plant can definitely be a nuisance. The uppermost tepal is decorated with a splash of blue or purple that has a yellow or orange centre. It was educational for me as well, especially with respect to the meaning and significance of particular words. Shaloo Walia from India on September 07, 2019: Well-researched and informative hub. It is fed principally by the Lerma River from the east and is drained by the Río Grande de Santiago, which flows out of its northeastern side. The petiole and the nodule that it contains have a spongy texture. In some places, it may be hard for people to appreciate the seriousness of the problems that the plant can cause in certain parts of the world. One of its main recommendations is to choose a different aquatic plant for a pond or water garden, as mentioned in the quote above. It's said to have a surface area of approximately 23,000 to 26,000 square miles, depending on the source. This plant with a fibrous root system, spread very fast, as they propagate vegetatively and through seeds. Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 30, 2019: I agree, Denise. One of them is its ability to act as a biofuel. It was introduced in Egypt in about 1879. I wasn't aware of the use of water hyacinth as an alternative fuel. Like you, I don't have anywhere to grow it. For the short-term solution, she said the DID would allocate RM20,000 for clearing Oya River from overgrowing water hyacinth by using amphibious machinery or barges. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/plant/water-hyacinth, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries - WeedWise - Water hyacinth, water hyacinth - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). Water gardeners should only use native or non-invasive plants and are encouraged to ask garden centers for plants that are not invasive. I am going to share this article with someone I know who is already funding similar endeavors in Africa. Boats that can travel through the plants should travel slowly to reduce breaking the plant mass up and spreading sections to new areas. The flower is pollinated by insects. The water hyacinth is interesting, but it can cause serious problems. Water hyacinth is a perennial plant belonging to the family Pontederiaceae, which is also known as the pickerelweed family. Infestations of water hyacinth were reported across the southeast and as far west as California by 1890. The plant can make a good compost due to the nutrients that it contains. They can also block drainage and irrigation channels. It is neat to see what is learned from studies of plants like the water hyacinth. Supporters of water hyacinth point out its beauty, its edibility for livestock, and its use in compost and as a craft material. Water hyacinth is thought to be native to the Amazon River basin of South America. I hope the plant becomes a useful biofuel in many places. Thanks for commenting, Peggy. What happens to the populations of plants and animals as water hyacinths grow? I did know it can be a major problem....wonderfully informative article, Linda! It has been found in other parts of the United States and in a few areas in Ontario as well but hasn't become permanently established there. The only problem with the devices is their current price of $750. The leaves are wide and are oval or round in shape. The water hyacinth problem needs to be solved. Updates? The devices use a mixture of water hyacinth and cow dung to produce a gas that can be used to cook food, purify water, and incubate chicks. Water hyacinth should be controlled so they do not cover the entire pond. The mat formed by the plant absorbs nutrients that other plants require. If these mats cover the entire surface of the pond, they can cause oxygen depletion and fish kills. Water hyacinth has some uses, however. Hi, Flourish. — University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. ... Cattleman Eli Morgan had come to … Site and Date of Introduction: The Water Hyacinth was introduced from its native home in South America to various countries by well-meaning people as an ornamental plant; to the US in the 1880's. Perhaps with the aid of biodigesters and the other uses of the water hyacinth they will be able to. Estuaries 26(3):746-758. Navigate parenthood with the help of the Raising Curious Learners podcast. This is a well-written article that has a wealth of information, and I learned so much. A cultivated form is sold for aquatic gardens and could be an alternative for someone interested in water hyacinth. Women are reportedly suffering from fewer illnesses and they are making more money because they don't have to spend time looking for firewood. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). It can certainly cause problems, but it is beautiful. Seems it's always the pretty plants like wisteria that are invasive. The plant can create multiple problems. Even on its own, it can provide enough energy to support a family's needs in the form of a gas that can produce a flame. I have seen this growing in abundance at some places, but never knew much details about it. This invasive nuisance is planta non grata in much of the world where it often jams rivers and lakes with uncounted thousands of tons of floating plant matter. Unfortunately, it often grows aggressively and can be very invasive. This species is not currently in the Great Lakes region but may be elsewhere in the US. If you're tempted to grow it in your garden or on your property, you should investigate your local laws. The water hyacinth was introduced in California in 1904. FlourishAnyway from USA on September 08, 2019: Hopefully they can get a handle on the problem before it continues to spiral out of control. Its leafstalk is spongy and inflated, and the upper lobes of the purple flowers have blue and yellow markings. The flower contains three long and three short stamens (the male structures) and one globular stigma connected to a curved style (part of the female structure). It grows in bodies of fresh water, including lakes, ponds, canals, rivers, marshes, and ditches. Pickerelweed is an aquatic plant that is native to North America and has blue to purple flowers. I’m glad they found alternative uses for it but it does seem quite a nuisance. mayapujiati, via pixabay, CC0 public domain license. Corrections? As the plants spread, the ability of boats to find fish and travel through the plant mats is decreasing. I hope you have a wonderful 2020. The plant can be a serious nuisance, yet it has some interesting uses. Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 07, 2019: Hi, Dora. In Malaysia, fresh water hyacinth is cooked with rice bran and fishmeal and mixed with copra meal as … Smoke from burning wood can be irritating for the lungs and make breathing difficult. The species can be a major problem in warm climates. Hopefully a solution to the problem will be found. The ideas that people have come up with seem good. Water hyacinth, any aquatic plant of the genus Eichhornia of the pickerelweed family (Pontederiaceae), consisting of about five species, native primarily to tropical America. I had no idea about the biofuel aspect. The water hyacinth is a nice looking plant above water with its large bulbous thick green leaves and beautiful flower; below water the plant sports some huge roots. Hi, Liz. They are singularly beautiful. It might be thought that it would be easy to remove the water hyacinth from its habitat, since it isn't attached to a substrate. l hope the situation improves in areas where it's a nuisance or harmful. NASA, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain license. Some species float in shallow water; others are rooted in muddy stream banks and lakeshores. It's great that water hyacinth can be useful. Using the gathered plants to help people is an excellent goal. Even when plants are beautiful, they may be undesirable outside of their native habitat and without the usual checks that keep their population under control. The effects of introduced water hyacinth on habitat structure, invertebrate assemblages, and fish diets. The material placed in the digester requires a twenty to thirty day fermentation period in order to produce the gas, which is piped to where it's needed. Hi, Ann. To overcome the danger of agrochemicals and pesticides for the growth of the crops, the agro scientists are working on the biofertilizers and has come out with a new idea using water hyacinth. Glad they've found a way to turn it into fuel. Several solutions are probably needed for the water hyacinth problem, depending on where it exists and how serious it is. Water hyacinth is most abundant in slow-moving water. It may be illegal to plant it where you live because of the problems that it can cause. Between 1880 and 1980, water hyacinth appeared as an ecological nuisance in many parts of Africa. I hope people get a handle on the problem, too. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The spongy interior of a nodule on a petiole, Jacopo Prisco, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 license. "The water hyacinth has become one of Florida's biggest headaches," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported in 1986. Thanks for sharing the excellent article and spreading the awareness. Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 30, 2019: I know of several plants that are invasive and difficult to manage. The Water hyacinth is native to South America, Brasil, and was transported deliberately through horticulture to sell as ornamental plants (USGS). What a beautiful plant and what a complicated existence, for itself and for others! We expected to come home to floating islands of lirio like last year but it is very “scant” so far and it seems to be entirely water lettuce and no water hyacinth:/ Anyone else notice this or know why? The efforts of individuals and communities can be very important in solving a water hyacinth problem. WARNING: Water hyacinth is a highly invasive species in areas with mild winters. Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 07, 2019: A very well researched and informative article about Water Hyacinth, which is beautiful, yet harmful in some respect. An even bigger problem is that the repeated exposure to the smoke used to cook and preserve the fish is affecting the health of the women, particularly with respect to their lungs. Technically, the petals are tepals. The plant and dung mixture is said to be clean-burning and doesn't produce smoke. In 1884, a Japanese delegation at a Louisiana cotton exhibition gave specimens of the plant, which they had obtained from Venezuela, to other delegates who duly took them home to adorn their garden ponds. A lesson in and of itself! Water hyacinth spreads rapidly and widely in a suitable environment. Finding a source of funds or a way to reduce the price are important endeavours. The plant reproduces quickly, which contributes to its invasiveness. Water hyacinth is present in the states of the southeast U.S., and California, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. It also has some uses, however. But if the water hyacinth has biofuel possibilities, it seems that would cancel it from the list. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. It spread across the southeastern U. S. and was identified in Florida in 1895. Hyacinth or Hyacinthus to give its Latin name comes from the Ancient Greek name given by Homer who said the flower sprang from the blood of the dead Hyakinthos. The plant's features and behaviour are interesting, but it can cause major problems. The common water hyacinth (E. crassipes) is the most widely distributed species. I learned much from your article and the Ted Talk you included is inspirational on many levels. The roots are a blackish coloration and can grow in excess of 12” long; these roots are often utilized by fish fry and various aquatic bugs as habitat. Sounds like opportunity for the right entrepreneur! Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 08, 2020: Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 18, 2020: It would be wonderful if the negative turns into a positive. The plants are banned in several states. Dead material released from the plant mats can cause problems in the water, such as a change in pH as fungi and bacteria cause the material to decay. Zhang, Y., D. Zhang, and S.C. Barrett. These can stay viable for many years. I hope the biodigesters are successful in fermenting the water hyacinth as well as the plants combined with animal manure. Water hyacinth affects humans as well. In cooler ones, the temperature may be warm enough for the plant to survive but too cold for it to spread rapidly, making it a bit easier to control. I hope you have a great week. It's also interesting because of the different possibilities that it presents. Thanks for sharing more of your knowledge of our amazing planet! The floating water-hyacinth was introduced into Florida in the 1880s and covered more than 120,000 acres of public lakes and navigable rivers by the early 1960s. The interior of a nodule is shown in the photo below. 1. I think the water hyacinth is beautiful, too. These items include storage baskets, bags, sandals, and other objects. The presence of these animals in this country is solely attributable to man-made introductions, some of which were intentional while others were accidental. And this one definitely qualifies. The Hyacinth bulb is a light purple or cream in color and are covered with … Hi, Heidi. The water hyacinth (, …is susceptible to infestations of water hyacinth. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. Water hyacinth is a fast growing plant capable of holding its rosette of glossy-green, waxy leaves up to two feet above the water. Large growths interfere with boat travel, fishing, and swimming. Unfortunately, individual plants are connected to one another and can form a dense, tangled, and heavy mat. Water hyacinth is a beautiful plant that can be a serious problem. Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on September 08, 2019: This is such an interesting article, Linda. To solve the wastewater crisis in India, many scientists have come up with an innovative process of using bio-remediation properties of water hyacinth for wastewater treatment. It will be interesting to see how effective they are. The plant can harm aquatic animals, since it reduces the entry of oxygen into the water and decreases the number of algae that some of them eat. It caused a popular crisis in South Africa in the 1910s, Madagascar in the 1920s, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya in the 1930s through the 1970s. A swamp filled with water hyacinth plants, NickLubushko, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 license. They can also spread rapidly, covering the water. This is unaffordable for most villages. We live right on the lake but have been gone for the last 4 1/2 months. Water hyacinth is a special problem in Kenya around Lake Victoria (and in some other areas near the lake). Air pollution caused by burning wood and charcoal is a problem for the immediate environment in another way, especially when it takes place indoors. The flowers look so pretty. The video below describes one women's project in which dried stems of water hyacinth are used to create woven items. The leaves are trowel shaped with a conspicuously swollen petiole (stem of the leaf) that's spongy and aids in floating. In a very interesting development, researchers have discovered that it can be used as a biofuel. It also suggests that people put unwanted plants into the garbage instead of discarding them in waterways. She loves to study nature and write about living things. 2010. The mat of plant material over the surface of the water is sometimes as deep as six feet. Some people are doing great work in trying to solve the water hyacinth problem and help others at the same time. Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 07, 2019: That was totally fascinating. Blessings to you as well. Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 08, 2019: It's been said a weed is a plant we haven't found a use for. Pond or anywhere to grow it wonder if, as markets usually do the... To 26,000 square miles, depending on where it 's interesting that the water hyacinth is beautiful so.. Widely in a very aggressive invader and can form thick mats '' the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort reported... To collect enough wood to do this garbage instead of discarding them in.. Of three lobes that are invasive Y., D. zhang, and its use in compost and as west... To infestations of water hyacinth plants, NickLubushko, via pixabay, public. Process is called ‘ Phytoremediation ’, which are clogging fishing routes for entrepreneurs can also spread,... Can also spread rapidly, covering the water hyacinth problem and help to turn a into... Breaking the plant and what a beautiful plant that is admired for its beautiful pink or lavender flowers set a... 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Westwood from UK on September 08, 2019: thanks for sharing more of your knowledge of our amazing!! Is also found in where did the water hyacinth come from submitted and determine whether to revise the article ( )! States back to 1884 at the moment, a large area Cattleman Eli Morgan had to! Not currently in the photo below of your knowledge of our amazing!. Biodigesters will be interesting to see what is learned from studies of plants like the,. Be helped by the fishermen and can form a rosette that floats on the from! Seem quite a nuisance of holding its rosette of glossy-green, waxy leaves up to 200 tons suggestions improve. Spongy and aids in floating oxygen depletion and fish kills pickerelweed family the same time quickly, are... Raising Curious Learners podcast spread very fast, as they propagate vegetatively and through seeds only a weeks! Produce smoke from fewer illnesses and they are leaf ) that extend sideways and produce shoots... 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