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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Beastly Beauty

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, October 16, 2014/Categories: space science, environment

Some things can be both beautiful and beastly at the same time. A perfect example is the water hyacinth ( Eichhornia ) an aquatic plant native to the Amazon that is now a major pest.

The aquatic herb was displayed during the 1884 World's Fair in New Orleans where it was given away as gifts to visitors. The floating plant was soon choking rivers, killing fish, and affecting shipping on the Mississippi River in Louisiana. It later clogged Florida lakes and other waterways throughout the American South. The invasive weed is now found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide and was recently photographed from space in Lake Victoria on the border separating Kenya and Uganda.

According to NASA, the water hyacinth became established there during the 1990s, causing outbreaks for communities bordering the lake where "it completely blocked out local fishing, clogged water supplies, and harbored pathogens harmful to local people and animals." Between March and April 2007, the hyacinth-covered area grew to more than 150 square miles in just a month due to fertilizer run-off from surrounding agricultural lands after rains. The latest image was captured by the  Earth Observing Satellite System  in May 2014.

  Water Hyacinth (credit: Wiki-commons)     Water Hyacinth Lake Victoria, Kenya (credit: NASA)

A natural predatory weevil has been released to control the weeds but ecologists don't know if it will be enough to control the pretty beast.


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