What is Brazilian Elodea?

Invasive plant species can cause immense ecological and financial damage to the areas they enter; Brazilian elodea is no exception.

Invasive plant species are a major threat to many waterways around the world; one of them in particular costs millions of dollars every year due to its prevalence and the difficulty of managing it. Brazilian elodea is an invasive and fast growing species of aquatic plant.

Although it is frequently used in aquariums to enhance water quality, large amounts can be dangerous; if Brazilian elodea gets into lakes, ponds or other bodies of water, it quickly becomes an expensive and dangerous problem.

Where Does Brazilian Elodea Grow?

Brazilian elodea is a native of the central regions of Brazil as well as areas of Uruguay and Argentina. It is also found in the United States, Australia, Chile, Europe, Japan and New Zealand as an invasive species. In the United States, Brazilian elodea can be found in fresh inland waters from Washington to Massachusetts; the plant also affects Hawaii, Florida, California and the West Coast states.

Brazilian elodea has been present in the United States for more than a century, but was not available for commercial sale until 1915. The first recorded presence of Brazilian elodea in a nonnative body of water in Europe was in 1910 in Germany.

What are the Types of Elodea?

Brazilian elodea is only one type of the elodea plants, but it grows energetically. When it is introduced to an area that promotes its growth as an invasive species, it quickly begins to cause serious problems. Elodea canadensis, which is also called waterweed, is a type of elodea plant that is native to the United States; Brazilian elodea is similar in appearance, but larger and leafier than its native counterpart.

Effects of Brazilian Elodea

Since Brazilian elodea has been introduced into nonnative areas, it has spread into waterways and caused a huge amount of ecological and fiscal damage. Despite being a popular plant for aquarium use, it is illegal to sell it in the state of Washington. Because the plant is so widespread, managing its rampant growth has cost countries millions of dollars and numerous bodies of water have been severely damaged.

Brazilian elodea thrives in wet environments because it is an aquatic plant; it grows rapidly and becomes much harder to remove or manage after it has established itself within a body of water. The leafy plant grows in large patches and clumps that reduce the movement of water and retain sediment, which can be harmful to other aquatic life.

Large mats of Brazilian elodea can make navigating a challenge for swimmers, boat pilots and jet skiers; in addition, it can prevent the migration of some species of fish. Because of its quick growing nature, Brazilian elodea will force all other plant life out of the body of water, removing vital food sources and filtration of oxygen from the ecosystem.

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