Water hyacinth have attractive flowers, but the invasive and dense foliage have taken over Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, harming the fish that call the body of water home. Water hyacinths are one of the fastest growing water plants in the world and they have become an epidemic! In fact, if you visit Lake Victoria now, there is no water in sight! Instead, the lake has become a sea of green from shore to shore. It looks like a field than a body of water.
Water hyacinth is floating water plant with a vigorous and fibrous root system with dark glossy green, oval leaves that grow on spongy, bulbous stalks. The plant produces attractive lavender-coloured flowers, which grow in spikes.
The problem is that not only are the plants fast growing, they also produce massive quantities of seeds, ones that will be viable up to 30 years! Water hyacinth can double their population in a week! A healthy acre of water hyacinth can weigh up to 200 tons!
While some entrepreneurial women are embracing the water hyacinth by creating handbags, furniture and other handicrafts as a means to increase their income, fisherman are struggling to catch any fish. The invasive water hyacinth is killing the fish and other native wildlife in the lake. Many fishermen have left the profession because they can no longer make a living catching fish.
Moreover, the water hyacinths attract mosquitoes and other insects to breed in the area, which increases the chances of malaria and other diseases. It also destroys natural habitats by depleting the lake of oxygen.
There have been efforts, such as releasing South American weevil (a type of beetle) to eat the plant and the use of heavy machinery, to control the water hyacinth population, but the painstaking problem remains. They haven’t been able to find a permanent solution yet.
The water hyacinth has become a problem since it was introduced in the 1980s, especially in the 1990s when the invasive plant covered 90% of the lake.
News source: cnn.com