Disclaimer:

The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.




Eichhornia crassipes
Eichhornia crassipes
(floating waterhyacinth)
Plants
Exotic
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Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms

Common name: floating waterhyacinth

Synonyms and Other Names: water hyacinth, water-hyacinth, common waterhyacinth, Eichhornia speciosa Kunth, Piarpus crassipes (Mart.) Britton, Heteranthera formosa, Pontederia crassipes (Mart. and Zucc.), Eichornia crassipes (Mart. and Zucc.)

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Free-floating perennial monocot with thick, glossy leaves (12-15 cm wide) that are obovate to lanceolate.  Leaves are held above the water by bulbous, spongy inflated petioles (to 30 cm long) when plants grow in relatively open conditions.  Petioles are thinner and more vertical when growing under crowded conditions (Center and Spencer 1981; Gettys 2014; Penfound and Earle 1948).  Generally, 6-8 leaves per plant.  Rosette leaf arrangement from central growing point (monopodial) with older leaves in an increasing horizontal orientation (Center and Spencer 1981).  Roots are pendant, typically dark in color and feathery.  Showy lavender flower spikes (sometimes pale blue to white) bloom summer to early fall and are insect pollinated; individual flowers are 4-6 cm wide and have six lobes with the upper lobe enlarged and a central yellow spot surrounded by dark blue.  Pollinated flowers produce capsules containing many seeds (Barrett 1980). Multiple ramets, or daughter plants, form on an horizontal stolon from axillary buds.

Size: Up to 1 m in height.

Native Range: South America (Brazil)

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Alaska
Hawaii auto-generated map
Hawaii
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Eichhornia crassipes are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Alabama1971201823Coosa-Tallapoosa; Guntersville Lake; Lower Alabama; Lower Black Warrior; Lower Conecuh; Lower Coosa; Lower Tallapoosa; Lower Tombigbee; Middle Alabama; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Coosa; Middle Tallapoosa; Middle Tennessee-Elk; Middle Tombigbee-Chickasaw; Middle Tombigbee-Lubbub; Mobile Bay; Mobile-Tensaw; Mulberry; Pea; Sepulga; Sipsey; Upper Alabama; Upper Black Warrior
Arizona196520027Aqua Fria; Brawley Wash; Lower Salt; Lower Santa Cruz; Rillito; Upper Santa Cruz; Upper Verde
Arkansas193420168Bayou Bartholomew; Lake Conway-Point Remove; Lower Arkansas; Lower Arkansas-Maumelle; Lower Ouachita-Smackover; Lower White; Robert S. Kerr Reservoir; Upper Ouachita
California1904201844Butte Creek; Central Coastal; Clear Creek-Sacramento River; Cottonwood-Tijuana; Death Valley-Lower Amargosa; Honcut Headwaters-Lower Feather; Imperial Reservoir; Los Angeles; Lower American; Lower Sacramento; Lower Sacramento; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; Mojave; Monterey Bay; Newport Bay; North Fork American; Northern Mojave; Rock Creek-French Camp Slough; Russian; Sacramento-Stone Corral; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Francisco Bay; San Jacinto; San Joaquin; San Joaquin Delta; San Luis Rey-Escondido; San Pablo Bay; Santa Ana; Santa Ana; Santa Monica Bay; Santa Ynez; Southern Mojave; Suisun Bay; Tomales-Drake Bays; Tulare Lake Bed; Upper Cache; Upper Coon-Upper Auburn; Upper Cosumnes; Upper King; Upper Merced; Upper Mokelumne; Upper Stanislaus; Upper Tuolumne
Colorado200120061San Luis
Connecticut200220126Housatonic; Lower Connecticut; Lower Hudson; Quinebaug; Quinnipiac; Thames
Delaware199320004Brandywine-Christina; Broadkill-Smyrna; Chincoteague; Nanticoke
Florida1890201846Alafia; Apalachee Bay-St. Marks; Apalachicola; Apalachicola Bay; Aucilla; Big Cypress Swamp; Blackwater; Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Chipola; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Daytona-St. Augustine; Econfina-Steinhatchee; Escambia; Everglades; Florida Southeast Coast; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Lake Okeechobee; Little Manatee; Lower Chattahoochee; Lower Choctawhatchee; Lower Ochlockonee; Lower St. Johns; Lower Suwannee; Manatee; Myakka; Nassau; New; Oklawaha; Peace; Perdido; Santa Fe; Sarasota Bay; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Southern Florida; St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays; St. Marys; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Upper Suwannee; Waccasassa; Western Okeechobee Inflow; Withlacoochee; Withlacoochee; Yellow
Georgia1902201825Alapaha; Altamaha Basin; Aucilla; Canoochee; Cumberland-St. Simons; Ichawaynochaway; Kinchafoonee-Muckalee; Little; Lower Flint; Lower Ogeechee; Lower Savannah; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Flint; Middle Savannah; Ogeechee Coastal; Satilla; Spring; St. Marys; Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Ochlockonee; Upper Ocmulgee; Upper Oconee; Upper Ogeechee; Upper Suwannee; Withlacoochee
Guam201020101Guam
Hawaii197520184Hawaii; Kauai; Maui; Oahu
Illinois1975201610Apple-Plum; Big Muddy; Chicago; Des Plaines; Lower Fox; Lower Ohio; South Fork Sangamon; Upper Fox; Upper Illinois; Vermilion
Indiana200020142Highland-Pigeon; Lower East Fork White
Kansas199820133Lower Cottonwood; Lower Kansas; Middle Neosho
Kentucky198620085Lower Cumberland; Lower Ohio-Salt; Lower Tennessee; Middle Green; Red
Louisiana1884201838Amite; Atchafalaya; Bayou Cocodrie; Bayou Macon; Bayou Pierre; Bayou Sara-Thompson; Bayou Teche; Black Lake Bayou; Boeuf; Caddo Lake; Calcasieu-Mermentau; Castor; East Central Louisiana Coastal; Eastern Louisiana Coastal; Lake Maurepas; Lake Maurepas; Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta; Little; Louisiana Coastal; Lower Grand; Lower Mississippi-Lake Maurepas; Lower Mississippi-New Orleans; Lower Ouachita; Lower Ouachita; Lower Pearl; Lower Red-Lake Iatt; Lower Red-Ouachita; Lower Sabine; Mermentau; Red-Saline; Saline Bayou; Tangipahoa; Tensas; Tickfaw; Vermilion; West Central Louisiana Coastal; West Fork Calcasieu; Whisky Chitto
Maryland199819981Gunpowder-Patapsco
Massachusetts199219981Cape Cod
Michigan201120188Au Gres-Rifle; Clinton; Detroit; Huron; Lake St. Clair; Lower Grand; Raisin; Shiawassee
Minnesota201320131Twin Cities
Mississippi1916201819Big Sunflower; BigBlack - Homochitto; Buffalo; Coldwater; Deer-Steele; Escatawpa; Homochitto; Lower Big Black; Lower Leaf; Lower Mississippi-Helena; Lower Mississippi-Natchez; Lower Pearl; Middle Pearl-Strong; Mississippi Coastal; Pascagoula; Tangipahoa; Tibbee; Upper Chickasawhay; Upper Tombigbee
Missouri193020014Big Piney; Cahokia-Joachim; Current; St. Francis
New Hampshire195619601Piscataqua-Salmon Falls
New Jersey200220155Cohansey-Maurice; Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Great Egg Harbor; Lower Delaware; Raritan
New York192920155Chaumont-Perch; Lower Hudson; Middle Hudson; Niagara; Southern Long Island
North Carolina194920188Coastal Carolina; Lower Cape Fear; Northeast Cape Fear; Upper Neuse; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Tar; Waccamaw; White Oak River
Ohio199520184Cuyahoga; Little Miami; Lower Maumee; Tuscarawas
Oregon195620155Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower Deschutes; Lower Rogue; Lower Willamette; South Umpqua
Puerto Rico188420184Cibuco-Guajataca; Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico
Rhode Island200920152Blackstone; Pawcatuck-Wood
South Carolina1952201519Black; Broad-St. Helena; Carolina Coastal-Sampit; Coastal Carolina; Congaree; Cooper; Edisto River; Lake Marion; Little Pee Dee; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Savannah; Middle Savannah; Salkehatchie; Saluda; Santee; Santee; Upper Savannah; Waccamaw
Tennessee197220084Hatchie-Obion; Lower Mississippi-Memphis; Red; Stones
Texas1936201853Aransas Bay; Austin-Oyster; Austin-Travis Lakes; Big Cypress-Sulphur; Buchanan-Lyndon B. Johnson Lakes; Buffalo-San Jacinto; Caddo Lake; Cedar; Central Texas Coastal; East Galveston Bay; East San Antonio Bay; Elm Fork Trinity; Lake Fork; Lake O'the Pines; Lavaca; Lower Angelina; Lower Brazos; Lower Brazos; Lower Brazos-Little Brazos; Lower Colorado; Lower Frio; Lower Guadalupe; Lower Neches; Lower Nueces; Lower Rio Grande; Lower Sabine; Lower San Antonio; Lower Sulpher; Lower Trinity; Lower Trinity-Kickapoo; Lower Trinity-Tehuacana; Lower West Fork Trinity; Middle Brazos-Lake Whitney; Middle Guadalupe; Middle Neches; Middle Sabine; Navasota; Navidad; Sabine Lake; San Bernard; San Bernard Coastal; San Gabriel; San Marcos; South Laguna Madre; Toledo Bend Reservoir; Upper Angelina; Upper Neches; Upper Sabine; Upper Trinity; West Fork San Jacinto; West Galveston Bay; West San Antonio Bay; White Oak Bayou
Virgin Islands189520122St. Croix; St. John-St. Thomas
Virginia197720125Albemarle; Eastern Lower Delmarva; Hampton Roads; Lower Chesapeake; Lynnhaven-Poquoson
Washington199520144Lake Washington; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Pacific Northwest Region; Snohomish
Wisconsin200520187Buffalo-Whitewater; Castle Rock; La Crosse-Pine; Middle Rock; Milwaukee; Upper Fox; Wolf

Table last updated 12/4/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.


Ecology: Eichhornia crassipes is a fast growing, troublesome aquatic plant with global distributions in tropical and subtropical areas of the world (Center and Spencer 1981; Penfound and Earle 1948). The showy, attractive lavender flowers precipitated this worldwide distribution. 

Once introduced to a new region, the plant quickly establishes and spreads.  In the absence of sustained freeze, the plant grows as a perennial.  In its northern range, the plant grows as an annual, where it is either re-introduced or germinates from seed.  Long-term exposures (2-4 weeks) to temperatures at or near freezing are required to significantly reduce E. crassipes populations (Owens and Madsen 1995; Russell 1942). The plant has a low tolerance for saline waters.  Plants grown in water containing 3% seawater exhibited significant leaf necrosis after 28 days (Penfound and Earle 1948). 

Dense, floating mats of E. crassipes and the subsequent build-up of organic detritus in the mat create an environment that supports the growth of emergent aquatic and terrestrial species, including woody species such as Salix spp. and Cephalanthus occidentalis.  These floating islands (also referred to as tussocks, sudds, and flotants), accelerate succession and create concern for navigation and infrastructure (Penfound and Earle 1948; Russell 1942). 

Eichhornia crassipes reproduces vegetatively through the production of ramets and an abundance of seeds.  Flowers are known to be pollinated by a number of insects, most notably the introduced honey bee (Aphis mellifera L.) (Penfound and Earle 1948; S.C.H. Barrett).   Seeds remain dormant in the hydrosoil until exposed to a drying event (Penfound and Earle 1948; Gettys 2014). Eichhornia crassipes can double its population in as little as two 2 weeks, creating an enormous amount of floating biomass (Penfound and Earle 1948).  One hectare of healthy E. crassipes can weigh as much as 415 metric tons (Schardt 1997).

Means of Introduction: Sold as an ornamental for fish ponds; sometimes escapes or is intentionally introduced into larger water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs. 

Status: Populations in the southeastern (North Carolina to Texas) and southwestern (California and Arizona) US remain established (including Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands), while those in northern states (Washington to Colorado to New York) likely do not overwinter.

Impact of Introduction: Since its introduction, E. crassipes has notoriously interfered with navigation, triggering the 55th Congress, through the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address the problem (Schardt 1997) after commercial commerce was impeded by E. crassipes on the St. Johns River (Webber 1897).  In one instance, 65 feet of a railroad trussel across Rice Creek near Palatka, FL was destroyed in 1894 by build-up of waterhyacinth.

Eichhornia crassipes can develop into dense floating mats of substantial biomass, intertwined with stoloniferous offshoots, and often associated with the growth of opportunistic emergent macrophytes, resulting in this introduced plant being labeled one of the “world’s worst weeds” (Holm et al. 1997; Lowe et al. 2000).  The free-floating nature of the plant only exacerbates its problematic standing because the populations can move with water flow and wind. Recreational use of waters infested with this plant are greatly reduced. Eichhornia crassipes can also impede drainage, creating backwater flooding conditions.

Water quality and wildlife habitat can be greatly affected, reducing dissolved oxygen levels under mats by an order of magnitude and covering the water surface with an impenetrable barrier (Penfound and Earle 1948).  These dense surface mats shade out desirable submersed aquatic plants and create a safe breeding environment for mosquitoes (Savage et al. 1990).

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Author: Pfingsten, I.A., D.D. Thayer, C.C. Jacono, M.M. Richerson, and V. Howard

Revision Date: 2/29/2016

Peer Review Date: 2/25/2016

Citation Information:
Pfingsten, I.A., D.D. Thayer, C.C. Jacono, M.M. Richerson, and V. Howard, 2018, Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=1130, Revision Date: 2/29/2016, Peer Review Date: 2/25/2016, Access Date: 12/11/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [12/11/2018].

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