2010. Unfortunately, individual plants are connected to one another and can form a dense, tangled, and heavy mat. It's interesting that the plant is loved by some people and hated by others. The water hyacinth is interesting, but it can cause serious problems. Technically, the petals are tepals. They have to walk long distances to collect enough wood to do this. Thanks for commenting, Peggy. The plant can be a serious nuisance, yet it has some interesting uses. Thank you for sharing all of that information. It grows in bodies of fresh water, including lakes, ponds, canals, rivers, marshes, and ditches. 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? Water hyacinth has some uses, however. It spread across the southeastern U. S. and was identified in Florida in 1895. What happens to the populations of plants and animals as water hyacinths grow? Thank you for including Acheny Idachaba's video. Hi, Heidi. There is no doubt that the plant can cause major problems. The biopdigesters seem to be working well. It is neat to see what is learned from studies of plants like the water hyacinth. Many people depend on the fish obtained from the lake for their livelihood. Ann Carr from SW England on September 07, 2019: Well, this is fascinating, Linda! Your article about water hyacinths is interesting. I hope the plant becomes a useful biofuel in many places. What they have suffered through government coups is incredible. This species is not currently in the Great Lakes region but may be elsewhere in the US. I hope people get a handle on the problem, too. Its leafstalk is spongy and inflated, and the upper lobes of the purple flowers have blue and yellow markings. I wasn't aware of the use of water hyacinth as an alternative fuel. The smoke contains chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. I hope this ability is explored further and put to good use. I hope the biodigesters are successful in fermenting the water hyacinth as well as the plants combined with animal manure. Hi, Flourish. 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). I’m glad they found alternative uses for it but it does seem quite a nuisance. 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. Hopefully a solution to the problem will be found. 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. Like the leaves, the petiole (leaf stem) is thick. The petiole and the nodule that it contains have a spongy texture. Hi, Liz. It was introduced in Egypt in about 1879. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Pontederiaceae, or the water hyacinth family, primarily contains aquatic plants that occur mainly in tropical areas around the world. 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. The hyacinth was first described in 1824, in Brazil. They usually hang freely in the water. The water hyacinth problem needs to be solved. Water gardeners should only use native or non-invasive plants and are encouraged to ask garden centers for plants that are not invasive. 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. — Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program. Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. Navigate parenthood with the help of the Raising Curious Learners podcast. If these mats cover the entire surface of the pond, they can cause oxygen depletion and fish kills. Thanks for sharing the excellent article and spreading the awareness. It is said that only a few weeks are needed for the water hyacinth to cover a large area. Water hyacinth is most abundant in slow-moving water. The plant can definitely be a nuisance. 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 fruit is a capsule that contains many seeds. The efforts of individuals and communities can be very important in solving a water hyacinth problem. It was introduced to the United States in 1884 at the Cotton States Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana. It's great that water hyacinth can be useful. Unfortunately, it often grows aggressively and can be very invasive. The plant and dung mixture is said to be clean-burning and doesn't produce smoke. 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. It also blocks the light that algae and other photosynthetic organisms in the water need in order to make food. There is convincing evidence that the hyacinth was cultivated by the Turks for both its fragrance and for ceremonial usage. Hyacinths Come to the Netherlands and England The 7-8 leaves of the hyacinth are fleshy, glossy green and strap shaped. 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. The animals are collected and sold as food. Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 30, 2019: I know of several plants that are invasive and difficult to manage. The flowers look so pretty. 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. Thank you for sharing the article as well. 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 was reported to be in California in 1904. It's said to have a surface area of approximately 23,000 to 26,000 square miles, depending on the source. Water hyacinth is often found as floating masses with round, dark green leaves and purple/lavender flowers. The effects of introduced water hyacinth on habitat structure, invertebrate assemblages, and fish diets. They are singularly beautiful. Thank you very much for the visit, Rachel. Thank you for your ongoing excellent science articles! I am going to share this article with someone I know who is already funding similar endeavors in Africa. Sounds like opportunity for the right entrepreneur! It's located mainly in Tanzania and Uganda but extends into Kenya. Hi, Chitrangada. It was educational for me as well, especially with respect to the meaning and significance of particular words. Around fifty additional digesters will be sent to the Kenya in the near future. I had no idea that this plant could cause so many problems. The lovely flowers are born in a spike that may be as long as twelve inches and contain as many as fifteen flowers. I can think of several plants in my part of the world where this applies, including Himalayan balsam (a pretty flowering plant), yellow flag iris, oxeye daisy, and English holly. 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. It's a good thing that they are finding ways of making biofuel from the water hyacinth. 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. Interestingly, these problems are not caused by water hyacinth and may actually be helped by the plant in combination with technology. "The water hyacinth has become one of Florida's biggest headaches," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported in 1986. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Liz Westwood from UK on September 07, 2019: I have read your informative article with great interest. The biofuel aspect is intriguing. 2. 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. Water hyacinth spreads rapidly and widely in a suitable environment. On the death of Sultan Moerad III in 1595 his mourning son had no fewer than half a million hyacinths planted. They could be life-saving for many women, who usually do the cooking. Estuaries 26(3):746-758. Thank you, Pamela. It is used as an ornamental in outdoor pools and aquariums. Genetic uniformity characterizes the invasive spread of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), a clonal aquatic plant. 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. The plant reproduces quickly, which contributes to its invasiveness. 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. It will be interesting to see how effective they are. 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 … I appreciate your comment. 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. It further spread to the islands of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Guam. mayapujiati, via pixabay, CC0 public domain license. I wonder if, as markets usually do, the $750 for the biogas digester will go up as the demand grows. I found the Ted Talk inspirational, too. Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 26, 2019: Your article about the water hyacinth is so interesting and inclusive. Water hyacinth, any aquatic plant of the genus Eichhornia of the pickerelweed family (Pontederiaceae), consisting of about five species, native primarily to tropical America. 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. Water hyacinth is a perennial plant belonging to the family Pontederiaceae, which is also known as the pickerelweed family. If biodigester is made affordable then it can be a boon for those villagers and also save our precious trees. Water hyacinth is most abundant in slow-moving water. It also suggests that people put unwanted plants into the garbage instead of discarding them in waterways. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a large aquatic plant native to the Amazon basin. Perhaps with the aid of biodigesters and the other uses of the water hyacinth they will be able to. You've presented both sides of its story so well and the biofuel side of it is indeed important. The plant can make a good compost due to the nutrients that it contains. The women and men who live in areas where the plant is abundant deserve to be able to earn a livelihood safely and efficiently. Kenyans are amazing people. Thank you very much for the visit and comment. Water hyacinth is present in the states of the southeast U.S., and California, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. A cultivated form is sold for aquatic gardens and could be an alternative for someone interested in water hyacinth. 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. Although they look similar, three of them are true petals and the other three are sepals. 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). The situation is a bit complicated. The leaves are wide and are oval or round in shape. I think the water hyacinth is beautiful, too. Some types of livestock eat water hyacinth, especially if it's prepared properly to make it more palatable for them. This is unaffordable for most villages. Each flower has six petals and is pink to lavender in colour. They can also spread rapidly, covering the water. This process is called ‘ Phytoremediation ’, which has made wastewater management very much eco-friendly and cost-effective. The Hyacinth bulb is a light purple or cream in color and are covered with … As the plants spread, the ability of boats to find fish and travel through the plant mats is decreasing. The use of water hyacinth for handicrafts seems to be explanding. They can also block drainage and irrigation channels. I had no idea about the biofuel aspect. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). The water hyacinth was introduced in California in 1904. These can stay viable for many years. WARNING: Water hyacinth is a highly invasive species in areas with mild winters. In addition, boats and other equipment should be washed after travelling through an area infested with water hyacinth. Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 26, 2019: Thank you for the comment, Rebecca. Water hyacinth should be controlled so they do not cover the entire pond. I hope you have a wonderful 2020. 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. 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. Once they enter waterways, the plants grow and reproduce to form dense mats that choke out native species. Like you, I don't have anywhere to grow it. Hi Linda, The water lily is so beautiful that I never even thought it might cause problems. 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. Boats that can travel through the plants should travel slowly to reduce breaking the plant mass up and spreading sections to new areas. The women who rely on selling the fish from Lake Victoria have other problems in addition to decreased fish to sell. The plant lives in the wild in the southeastern part of the United States and is also found in California. A healthy acre of water hyacinths can weigh up to 200 tons. It grows in bodies of fresh water, including lakes, ponds, canals, rivers, marshes, and ditches. Hi, Shaloo. The plant lives in the wild in the southeastern part of the United States and is also found in California. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. Water hyacinth produces stolons (horizontal stems) that extend sideways and produce new shoots. The occurrences in Arizona, Arkansas and Washington, shown in the map above left, are now believed to be “eradicated”. Large growths interfere with boat travel, fishing, and swimming. Water hyacinth is thought to be native to the Amazon River basin of South America. Hi, Ann. Women are reportedly suffering from fewer illnesses and they are making more money because they don't have to spend time looking for firewood. 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. 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