The other day, someone here in town brought by a big plastic bag with all sorts of plant matter inside. The plants had all come from a small pond behind his home, here in Columbia, South Carolina, and this fellow wanted all the plants in the bag identified; he suspected that some of them were aquatic weeds, and potential nuisances.
I’m rather pleased to say that we were able to identify everything in his plastic bag, and we also were able to tell him a bit about the life history and natural range of each of his plants. In this case, nearly all of them were introduced, weedy, aquatic plants, and this particular one — our Mystery Plant this week — was probably the worst of the lot.
It’s an herb that is native to a large area of South America, particularly the Amazon basin. It was noted for its attractiveness as an aquatic plant, suitable for indoor and outdoor aquariums, in North America — and of course, therein is a problem. It was introduced intentionally into the U.S. way back in the late 1800s.
The problem is that it is easily capable of spreading itself into natural bodies of water. Now imagine how many times somebody has gotten rid of all the stuff in an aquarium — critters, too — by dumping the whole thing into a nearby pond or creek. By now, this plant can be found nearly worldwide as an aquatic weed.
The plants are quite attractive, I think, and I suppose they deserve their status as a popularly cultivated aquatic species.