Category Archives: Invasive water plants

History of invasive plant management in Florida’s public waters

Invasive water plants like the water hyacinth nearly enveloping the water course for a steamer in the St. Johns River in the ca. 1890's.

Invasive water plants like the water hyacinth nearly enveloping the water course for a steamer in the St. Johns River in the ca. 1890’s.i

Reportedly, water hyacinths were introduced into the waters of the St. Johns River and the Ocklawaha River as early as the 1880s.  The history of the growth of invasive aquatic plants has paralleled the growth in the use of steamboats in these waters. By the turn of the century, the invasion of these plants interfered with steamboat traffic.  Dense hyacinth growth interfered with docking at Palatka and dense mats of plant growth pushed flat bottomed steamers off course in Lake George.

In 1899, Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to eliminate plant obstructions in the navigable waters of the southeastern United States.  While the railroad replaced the steamboat as the primary mode of travel in Florida by the 1920’s, the growth of invasive plant species continued to choke off navigable waters throughout Florida, reduced biodiversity, deprived the waters of oxygen, killed off fish and other aquatic life, and disrupted ecosystems dependent on the growth of the smallest living animals for food.

Methods of removing water hyacinths and other invasive plant species included a wide variety of mechanical means like large cutters and choppers and long draglines to pull large mats of plants from the surface of navigable waters.  Courtesy, IFAS, University of Florida.