Hunting For The Invasive Water Chestnut

Water Chestnut was recently found on the Connecticut River near Deep River.

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Invasive Water Chestnut on the Connecticut River near Deep River.
Photo:Judy Preston
Hunting For The Invasive Water Chestnut
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Hunting For The Invasive Water Chestnut

The Tidewater Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are surveying the lower Connecticut River for an invasive aquatic plant, called “Water Chestnut”. WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports.

Water Chestnut has emerald green, leathery leaves that look, kind of like pond lilies. This is not the same as the Water Chestnut used in Asian cooking. The invasive plant, which is native to Eurasia, can develop thick mats on slow moving freshwater. It’s become a problem in stretches of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. That’s why Ecologist Judy Preston is hunting for the plant on the river from East Haddam south to Lyme. Working from a boat operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Preston and her colleagues spent a day recently pulling out about 500 water chestnut plants by hand near Deep River

“It looks almost like an idyllic pond, if you could not know this is an invasive plant. Our concern is once this plant gets a foothold  it can completely cover and fill in the surface water, so that it would out-compete any of the native plants that are here.” 

So far Water Chestnut has been found on several locations on the river. It has also been found in other rivers, ponds and at least one lake in Connecticut. Besides the plants there are a lot of seeds. They’re tough, sharp and look a bit like medieval weapons. The seeds can float and take root in new areas.

For WNPR, I‘m Nancy Cohen.