Control Invasive Aquatic Plant Species

invasive aquatic weeds - aquatic plant species

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Control Invasive Aquatic Plant Species

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It’s no secret that Florida is a tropical paradise known not only to man, but also to wild, non-native plants. Most humans travel to Florida on vacation whereas others relocate to the state as retirees seeking the comforts that warm climate brings, among other benefits. On the other hand, the wild non-native plants arrive in Florida with a completely different agenda. As a result, a variety of aquatic weed species have invaded and transformed Florida’s public waters. These aquatic weed species require focused consistent attention to help reduce infestations and prevent further spread.

invasive aquatic weeds - aquatic plant species
invasive aquatic weeds in florida text

What are invasive aquatic plant species and why should we care about them?

Invasive aquatic plant species are a unique class of organisms that can enter freshwater habitats, quickly become established, and change the nature of the habitat. It’s like the invasive plant species sneak in and try and act like they belong, or become ‘owners’ of, their new habitat. 

As they are getting established, the non-native invasive plants are doing everything they can to get rid of native plant species in the habitat. If nothing is done to get rid of them, the invasive plants may become the dominant species within the habitat with an ability to spread into new areas.  

How are invasive aquatic plant species able to dominate a habitat? 

Invasive aquatic weeds are characterized by multiple reproductive methods, wide and rapid dispersal and survival, broad environmental tolerance, rapid growth to reproductive maturity, ability to degrade entire ecosystems, and are difficult to control.

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 University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (2017), Accessed on Nov. 3, 2020, Florida’s Most Invasive Aquatic Plants.

After invasive aquatic weeds become established, what can they do?

Once they become established in a habitat, the invasive aquatic weeds can cause the following: loss of recreational opportunities, extreme oxygen depletion and pH changes, stunted fish populations and/or fish kills, restrictions to water-flow leading to flooding, restrictions to navigation, habitat destruction, reduction in species diversity and richness, and reduction in property values.

Okay, how bad is the invasive aquatic plant species problem in Florida?

According to the University of Florida, 96% of Florida’s public waters contained one or more non-native plants. This means that if the non-native aquatic species possesses invasive characteristics, there is potential for the species to establish itself and spread.  

So, how did the invasive aquatic plant species get here in the first place?

Well, there are two common ways: accidental and intentional introductions. 

With accidental introductions, we really don’t know how the plants get here, whereas with intentional introductions, think of those lovely ornamental plants that are brought in from other parts of the world and which you purchase from your local greenhouse or florist. The foreign plants can eventually become invasive because they have no natural enemies in their new habitat.  

Florida has over 20 non-native invasive aquatic species and hydrilla (Hydrila verticillata) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) are of highest importance. 

green hydrilla - aquatic plant species
hydrilla courtesy of istockphoto.com
water hyacinth in a water - aquatic plant species
water hyacinth courtesy of trudy

Hydrilla, which was introduced into the United States as a plant for aquariums, is a species that grows completely submerged in water where it forms thick mats that block sunlight to other native submerged plants. Hydrilla spreads via fragmentation, whereby any piece of the plant can break off and become seed for another plant.

By most accounts, water hyacinth was introduced into the United States as an ornamental plant, because of its strikingly beautiful flower. However, beware of the deception of a beautiful flower, for this species has a vicious agenda. 

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 University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (2017), Accessed on Nov. 3, 2020, Florida’s Most Invasive Aquatic Plants Management in Florida.

Water hyacinth floats on water surfaces and can double its population within a week. The rapid growth rate makes it possible for water hyacinth to clog waterways and prevent transportation. Furthermore, these characteristics allow water hyacinth to practically choke out other plant life while starving submerged plant life of sunlight. 

If almost all public waters in Florida are infested by invasive aquatic plant species, what can one really do about it?

First, it is vitally important that you join the effort in stopping the spread of invasive aquatic plants in Florida. Second, you need to understand the biological, chemical, mechanical, and physical methods used to control invasive aquatic plants. Third, a clear understanding of the methods used to achieve maximum control will allow you to pick the best method, or a combination of methods, to use. Currently, the most effective method for controlling invasive aquatic plants is chemical. 

YES! Herbicides to the rescue.

Hold on a minute before you go out there and unintentionally cause some damage to the environment, non-targets, or yourself. Unlike herbicide application on land, there are numerous challenges when herbicides are applied in aquatic systems.

Herbicides that are used in aquatic systems must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they are used. Once the aquatic herbicide is approved and registered it can be used according to the instructions on the label. 

The next challenge then becomes selecting the best herbicide that will control the invasive aquatic plants and applying it without harming desirable species. Within aquatic systems this is a tall order because directing the herbicide to targeted plants is not easy to do. Thus, whenever herbicides are applied in aquatic systems, there is potential for serious harm to the ecosystem, endangered species, and human health. Furthermore, herbicides may drift away from their target and affect non-targets.  

So, how can you use herbicide to control invasive aquatic plants?

First, you need to select the best technique to use based on the type of invasive aquatic plant species (i.e. totally submerged, partially submerged, or not submerged) to ensure you get the best delivery of the herbicide and maximum herbicidal activity and control. Second, you need to select the best herbicide for your purpose. Third, you need to select the best surfactant and/or adjuvant to maximize herbicide efficacy and invasive plant species control.

animated type of aquatic plant species
classification of different types of aquatic plant species

Here are some specific guidelines for achieving maximum control of invasive aquatic plant species:

1. Select the proper herbicide that is approved for use in aquatic systems and for control of the invasive aquatic plant species you are targeting. Be sure to read the herbicide label carefully and completely. For improved control, use a nonionic surfactant.

2. For best results when aquatic herbicides are applied, use the nonionic surfactant, Cide Kick. This formulation is 100% d’limonene which is a low viscosity oil and byproduct of the citrus industry. Cide Kick is a wetting agent, activator and protectant combined.

How does Cide Kick work?

Cide Kick helps herbicide uptake by breaking down the waxy cuticles on leaf surfaces and penetration of the bud and bark area. 

Cide Kick is compatible with most aquatic and terrestrial herbicides, insecticides, and other pesticides.  

Are there other uses for Cide Kick

one gallon of cide kick - aquatic plant species

Yes. Cide Kick can be used as follows:

  • In low volume basal applications in brush control. 
  • In the agriculture, citrus, and turf industries for weed control or invasive plant species control.
  • In forest site preparation.
  • In utility rights-of-way and roadside vegetation management.

To achieve the best control of invasive plants when using Cide Kick, make sure you read the herbicide label and follow all recommendations.

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University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (2017), Accessed on Nov. 4, 2020, Herbicides Registered for Use in Florida Waters.

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