Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides). Credit: Public Domain, wikimedia.org
For the last 15 years, alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) has commanded the better part of the resources dedicated to central Arkansas lakes like Conway.
Hitching a ride on the ballasts of ships, the perennial plant made its way to the United States from South America in the 1890s. Able to spread by seeds, buds and fragments, the plant has spread as far west as California and as far north as Illinois.
"Essentially, every little piece of plant that is broken off of the main stem has the potential to create a new plant and mat of vegetation," said Matthew Horton, AGFC habitat biologist in Mayflower, Arkansas. "Add in that it can grow almost 4 inches a day and extend over 3 feet above the ground or water, and you can see how easily it could overrun a lake."
And while a combinatino of mechanical and biological methods have proven effective with other invasives, that isn't the case with alligatorweed. "Grass carp and alligatorweed flea beetles have proven unreliable and inefficient at controlling the plant in Arkansas," said Horton. "Mechanical removal causes fragmentation of the plants which only exacerbates infestation. Some herbicides, rated for aquatic use, have proven effective at killing the plants
but it is impossible to kill every little plant on a water-body."
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