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8/10/17- Alligatorweed

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

This summer has been extremely wet, especially compared to the summer we had last year. With all the standing water, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for one particularly devastating invasive species. Alligatorweed, like the critter it shares a name with, thrives in wet habitats and can create havoc for any landowner or farmer throughout the United States.

Alternanthera philoxeroides is a weed that looks like clover at a glance, but does not have the same endearing qualities as clover. It is a thick, evergreen forb with a hollow stem and leaves that are opposite from each other along the stem. It begins to flower in the summer months. The clover like flower is white and is on the end of an erect stem. Alligatorweed has no fruit and it does not produce seeds. To many people, the weed resembles succulents, with a thick, glossy looking stem. So what is the fuss? Well, as I mentioned before, Alligatorweed loves water. It can survive in streams, canals, ditches, and flooded corn fields. Once established, the weed begins to form thick mats that prohibit native vegetation from growing and also destroy wetland habitat for native wildlife. The weed spreads like wildfire because it can start producing from stem fragments that are moving through the water. It begins rooting at the nodes and then begins multiplying. Unfortunately, it is not picky about the water it lives in either. It can survive in fresh water or brackish. It also can survive in different soil types. Needless to say, Alligatorweed is VERY tolerant which makes it very hard to eradicate. Alligatorweed also can impede recreational activities like boating and swimming in areas where the weed has formed very dense mats. Unlike many of the other invasive species, Alligatorweed actually originated in South America and arrived in North America around the 1900s. After that, it moved its way across the continent from south to north.

If your land has many low lying areas with creeks and streams, you most likely have Alligatorweed thriving on your property. If you own a lake house or camp house on the river, you may also want to check for this pesky weed there. If you see that you’re a host to this aquatic invasive species, you’re in a bit of a pickle. There is no good way to eradicate the weed from wetland habitats because of how it reproduces, but it is best to try and manually remove it. Chances are it will continue to survive, but you can at least control the size of the infestation. If it is on land, it is best to treat the weed with an herbicide. In Australia, they have used flea beetles that actually eat the plant. However, the beetle only survives in temperate areas and has not been deemed effective in the United States.

By: Red Clay

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