The weather has been beautiful (except for Tuesday's massive storm), and so many people have been enjoying boating, fishing and swimming in the lake. But, like usual, there is a threat to our waterways, and this time it's in the form of a plant. Hydrilla was found last year in the inlet of Cayuga Lake, which is at the south end near Ithaca. This plant is an incredibly invasive aquatic weed that can choke the life out of a lake very quickly.
Hydrilla is a native to Asia and Africa that is believed to have arrived in the United States in the 1950s as an aquarium plant. This plant was most likely to have been released by people dumping aquariums too close or directly into our lakes and streams. This plant can grow up to an inch per day, and to great lengths. These weeds can form a mat across the surface of the water that blocks sunlight, killing other aquatic plants. As oxygen levels decrease, other plants produce carbon dioxide as they decompose, causing fish to die as well. The weeds can clog areas and make them impassable for boaters and swimmers. And people who enjoy fishing might want to find another spot if hydrilla makes it to their normal fishing spots. Even if fish are still in the area, this weed will tangle up lines and get caught in lures, making fishing extremely frustrating.
So what can you do to help stop the spread of this invasive weed? Learn to identify it. There are a few native lookalikes, but hydrilla is slightly different from all of them. Hydrilla has small, pointed leaves with toothed edges. These leaves are clustered in whorls of three to 10 along the stem, though a whorl of five is most common. Hydrilla usually spreads through small fragments, which can easily be moved from lake to lake on boats, floats or fishing equipment. This summer, make sure to clean your boat whenever you take it out of the water. Make sure to inspect your trailer and other equipment for plant fragments as well, and dispose of them on dry land or in provided aquatic weed or trash areas. This same information goes for nonmotorized boats and fishing gear. If you visit the lake often or live on the water, make sure to familiarize yourself with what hydrilla looks like and keep an eye on the plants' water. Early detection is key if we want to contain and (hopefully) eliminate this threat to our waters.