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Invasive Species in Zambia: Water Hyacinth

Updated: May 11, 2023

The Water Hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes Mart.) is an invasive species in Zambia which rapidly spreads across open slow moving waterways out competing and displacing native aquatic vegetation.

Water hyacinth with purple flower
Water hyacinth with purple flower

The plant's fast growth and ability to clog waterways is achieved by the production of stolons or 'runners' which form daughter plants in addition to potentially producing thousands of seed per plant per year. With such a quick ability to spread and obstruct waterways, the flow of rivers and lakes can be slowed and obstructed resulting in significant economic and environmental impacts, including decreased water availability for irrigation, increased water pollution, and decreased fish populations.

Water hyacinth  covering a lake
Water hyacinth covering a lake

Additionally, water hyacinth can cause damage to infrastructure and increase the risk of flooding. The lack of any predators have made water hyacinth an invasive species in Zambia, which must be managed and controlled to mitigate its harmful impacts. Because of it's wet habitat, chemical control of water hyacinth is not advised due to the possibility of poisoning our waterways and creating other environmental problems. Instead, the physical removal of plants from the waterways is the best short-term solution close to where it is removed and the removed plants can be composted or even fed to livestock. However, physical removal is a continuous process in order to reduce an infestation of the water hyacinth.

Find out more about Zambia's indigenous plants.

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