GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state’s Department of Natural Resources confirms that one of the world’s most invasive aquatic plants has finally been spotted in Michigan.
The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy was doing surveillance for a different invasive plant — parrot feather — when they found hydrilla on two adjacent residential ponds in Berrien Springs. Both are banned in Michigan, meaning it is illegal to sell, possess or import them.
“It’s not clear how either plant made its way to this pond, but seeds or fragments of invasive plants may have been attached to ornamental plants installed in past years,” EGLE aquatic biologist Bill Keiper said in a statement. “Sediment core samples of the pond and genetic analysis of the plant material are planned to help determine how long the hydrilla has been here and where in the U.S. it might have originated.”
Hydrilla can reproduce in several ways, allowing it to outcompete other native plants. The DNR says even small fragments of the plant can develop into new ones, allowing hydrilla infestations to grow quickly.
EGLE plans to conduct more surveys of nearby ponds and streams to see if they can find more established populations. Herbicide treatments have already been started at the two infested ponds.
Hydrilla was first found in the U.S. in the 1950s in Florida and spread across the southeast. According to the DNR, a separate strain of the plant was found in Delaware in 1976 and that species has spread to neighboring states, including several in the Great Lakes region.
Hydrilla can live in virtually any freshwater habitat regardless of water quality. It roots in sediment up to 25 feet below the water surface. Herbicides can kill the plant but the DNR says it is difficult to completely eradicate because of quickly it can reproduce.
There are several native plants that look similar but are not dangerous like hydrilla. The invasive plant has pointed, bright-green leaves that are usually a little more than half-an-inch long and have serrated edges. Each ring of the stem generally has between four to eight leaves, and the root includes a “yellowish potato-like tuber.”
If you suspect you know of a hydrilla infestation, you can file a report with EGLE. Make sure to include close-up photos and a detailed location of where the infestation is located.