Egeria densa Planch.

Common Name: Brazilian waterweed

Synonyms and Other Names:

Anacharis densa (Planch.) Victorin, Elodea densa (Planch.) Caspary, Philotria densa (Planch.) Small & St. John, leafy elodea, dense waterweed, Brazilian elodea

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Identification: Egeria densa is a dioecious, submersed perennial found in lentic and lotic freshwater systems. Only male plants are found in the U.S., and in its native range, male plants outnumber female plants by as much as 6:1 (Cook and Urmi-König 1984). Leaves and stems are generally bright green (often dark green when below the surface of the water) and the short internodes give this plant a very leafy appearance. Leaves, which are are minutely serrated (needing magnification) and linear, are 1-3 cm long, up to 5mm broad, and found in whorls of four to eight, while the lowest leaves may be opposite or in whorls of 3. Stems are erect, cylindrical, simple or branched, and grow until they reach the surface of the water, where they form dense mats. Flowers have three petals which are white (18-25 mm) and float on or rise just above the water's surface on a slender peduncle. Slender roots are unbranched and typically a white to pale color. Adventitious roots are freely produced from double nodes on the stem (Washington State Department of Ecology 2003). It can be distinguished from related species such as Hydrilla verticillata by the absence of turions (shoots from underground stems) and tubers, and by the presence of showy white flowers that float on the water (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001). The male flowers are significantly larger than the male and female flowers of Hydrilla and Elodea in the US. Egeria densa flowers more closely resemble Hydrocharis morsus-ranae flowers (Pfingsten, 2018, pers. comm). It is usually rooted in the bottom mud, but can be found as a free-floating mat or as fragments with stems near the surface of the water.

Size: 3-5 m long, 2-2.5 mm diameter.

Native Range: South America (central Minas Gerais region of Brazil, coast of Argentina, and coast of Uruguay)

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Egeria densa is declared a weed in Argentina (Cabrera Walsh et al. 2013) and in Tasmania, Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). Egeria densa has been reported in Bogakain Lake, Bangladesh in 2010 (Alumujaddade Alfasane et al. 2010). This species was historically introduced outside its native range through the aquarium trade and is considered naturalized in parts of Central America, Chile, England, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, United States, and the West Indies (Cabrera Walsh et al. 2013, Curt et al. 2010, Flora of North America Editorial Committee 2000).

Egeria densa was first reported outside of its native range in 1893 in Long Island, New York (Yarrow et al. 2009). 

This species is not currently in the Great Lakes region but may be elsewhere in the US. See the point map for details.

Table 1. States/provinces with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, 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 Egeria densa are found here.

State/ProvinceFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL1941202210Apalachicola; Coosa-Tallapoosa; Guntersville Lake; Lower Chattahoochee; Mobile-Tensaw; Pickwick Lake; Upper Alabama; Upper Black Warrior; Upper Choctawhatchee; Wheeler Lake
AZ194319844Lower Colorado Region; Rillito; Upper San Pedro; Upper Santa Cruz
AR197420227Beaver Reservoir; Lake Conway-Point Remove; Lower Arkansas-Maumelle; Lower Sulpher; Ouachita Headwaters; Upper Ouachita; Upper Saline
CA1935202236Big Chico Creek-Sacramento River; Central California Coastal; Clear Creek-Sacramento River; Crowley Lake; Honcut Headwaters-Lower Feather; Lower American; Lower Pit; Lower Sacramento; Mad-Redwood; Middle Kern-Upper Tehachapi-Grapevine; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; Monterey Bay; North Fork American; Owens Lake; Paynes Creek-Sacramento River; Russian; Sacramento-Stone Corral; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Francisco Bay; San Francisco Bay; San Jacinto; San Joaquin; San Joaquin Delta; San Pablo Bay; Suisun Bay; Tomales-Drake Bays; Upper Coon-Upper Auburn; Upper Cosumnes; Upper Dry; Upper Kern; Upper Klamath; Upper Merced; Upper Mokelumne; Upper Stanislaus; Upper Tuolumne
CO198419841Big Sandy
CT199220203Outlet Connecticut River; Quinnipiac; Saugatuck
DE194120045Brandywine-Christina; Broadkill-Smyrna; Chincoteague; Choptank; Nanticoke
FL1937201725Apalachee Bay-St. Marks; Apalachicola; Aucilla; Blackwater; Caloosahatchee; Chipola; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Florida Southeast Coast; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Lake Okeechobee; Lower Ochlockonee; Lower St. Johns; Lower Suwannee; Nassau; Oklawaha; Peace; Santa Fe; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Southern Florida; St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays; St. Marys; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Withlacoochee
GA1972202211Hiwassee; Lower Chattahoochee; Lower Flint; Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Savannah; Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga; Spring; Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Ocmulgee; Withlacoochee
HI193720094Hawaii; Kauai; Maui; Oahu
ID200720082Lower Boise; Palouse
IL1978201813Big Muddy; Cache; Des Plaines; Lower Fox; Lower Ohio; Lower Ohio-Bay; Lower Wabash; Saline; Skillet; Sugar; Upper Fox; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau; Wabash
IN200320042Blue-Sinking; Lower White
IA201720171South Skunk
KS197319841Lower Kansas, Kansas
KY198620124Lower Levisa; Lower Ohio-Salt; North Fork Kentucky; Upper Cumberland
LA1960199316Atchafalaya - Vermilion; Bayou Teche; Black Lake Bayou; Castor; Central Louisiana Coastal; East Central Louisiana Coastal; Eastern Louisiana Coastal; Lake Maurepas; Louisiana Coastal; Lower Mississippi Region; Lower Ouachita; Lower Ouachita; Lower Red-Ouachita; Red-Sulphur; Vermilion; West Central Louisiana Coastal
MD193820217Chester-Sassafras; Choptank; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Patuxent; Tangier
MA193920212Charles; Narragansett
MN200720071Twin Cities
MS196720103Lower Pearl; Mississippi Coastal; Upper Leaf
MO197020145Cahokia-Joachim; Eleven Point; Little Chariton; Sac; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau
NE197719841Missouri Region
NH200120011Merrimack River
NJ199020196Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Hudson; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Mullica-Toms; Raritan; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
NM196119961Upper Gila
NY189320228Hackensack-Passaic; Long Island; Lower Hudson; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Middle Hudson; Northern Long Island; Rondout; Southern Long Island
NC1968201913Albemarle; Albemarle-Chowan; Cape Fear; Middle Roanoke; Neuse; New River; Northeast Cape Fear; Pamlico; Roanoke Rapids; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Upper Broad; Upper Catawba; Upper Neuse
OH199020234Ashtabula-Chagrin; Black-Rocky; Hocking; Little Miami
OK196920206Arkansas-White-Red Region; Cache; Mountain Fork; Red-Little; Red-Washita; West Cache
OR1934202322Alsea; Clackamas; Coast Fork Willamette; Coos; Lower Columbia; Lower Columbia; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower Willamette; Middle Columbia-Hood; Middle Willamette; Necanicum; Oregon-Washington Coastal; Pacific Northwest; Pacific Northwest Region; Siletz-Yaquina; Siltcoos; Siuslaw; Sixes; South Santiam; Tualatin; Upper Willamette; Willamette
PA191720044Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Lower Delaware; Raystown; Schuylkill
PR198219833Cibuco-Guajataca; Eastern Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico
RI200920092Pawcatuck River; Quinebaug River
SC1936202213Congaree; Cooper; Enoree; Lake Marion; Middle Savannah; Saluda; Santee; Santee; Tyger; Upper Broad; Upper Savannah; Waccamaw; Wateree
TN1946202210Buffalo; Caney; Holston; Lower Cumberland-Sycamore; Lower French Broad; Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga; South Fork Forked Deer; Upper Duck; Upper Elk; Watts Bar Lake
TX1949202312Caddo Lake; Denton; Lake O'the Pines; Lower Angelina; Lower Brazos; Lower Neches; Lower West Fork Trinity; Middle Sabine; San Gabriel; San Marcos; Toledo Bend Reservoir; West Fork San Jacinto
VT191319131West River-Connecticut River
VA1946202213Albemarle-Chowan; Appomattox; French Broad-Holston; James; Lower James; Lower Potomac; Lower Rappahannock; Middle New; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Nottoway; Roanoke; Roanoke Rapids; Upper Roanoke
WA1977202418Duwamish; Grays Harbor; Hood Canal; Lake Washington; Lower Chehalis; Lower Columbia; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower Columbia-Sandy; Lower Cowlitz; Lower Skagit; Nisqually; Puget Sound; Puget Sound; San Juan Islands; Snohomish; Strait of Georgia; Upper Chehalis; Willapa Bay
WV201520151Tygart Valley

Table last updated 5/23/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Egeria densa is an aquatic plant in the waterweed family that inhabits mild to warm freshwaters, such as slow-flowing streams in warm, temperate, and tropical regions (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). It occurs at depths of up to 7 m. It grows in thick mats of intertwining stems (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001), which alter the light and nutrients available to the biota where it occurs (Yarrow et al. 2009), allowing it to act as an ecosystem engineer (Jones et al. 1994).
Egeria densa can inhabit waters with a wide range of temperatures, low CO2 levels, and low light levels. This species can survive in waters with temperatures of 3-35°C (Yarrow et al. 2009). The plant can overwinter as seeds, dormant shoots, or semi-dormant shoots until temperatures rise above 15°C (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). Egeria densa exhibits the C4 pathway and utilizes HCO3-, and is thus able to photosynthesize in waters with low CO2 levels (Casati et al. 2000). Egeria densa can tolerate high phosphorus levels, but is susceptible to iron deficiency (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). This species has a low light requirement and can thrive in turbid environments (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). Optimal light intensity is about 100 lux. Egeria densa cannot tolerate high light intensities or high levels of ultraviolet and blue light, as it experiences chlorophyll damage at light levels of 1250 lux. Egeria densa cannot tolerate high UV-B radiation, as it can damage the enzymes involved in photosynthesis and can reduce photosynthetic capacity (Casati et al. 2002).

Flowering occurs in November-February in Australia, in which flowers float above the water surface and are pollinated by insects (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). This species reproduces asexually in Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001) and in California (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001), where only the male plant has established. Egeria densa is capable of vegetative fragmentation: stems of at least two nodes can break off from the parent colony and disperse via streamflow (Parsons and Cuthberson 2001). Stem fragments that break off can take root in bottom mud or grow as free-floating mats (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001). Fragmentation can occur as a result of the mechanical shearing of water flows, wave action, waterfowl activity, and boating. Seeds of E. densa have not been documented in California.

Nonindigenous E. densa populations in Río Cruces, Chile have similar genotypes as populations in Western Oregon, suggesting that the two populations experienced similar bottlenecking events at introduction, or that there is a lack of genetic diversity in the native population (Carter and Sytsema 2001).

Means of Introduction: Egeria densa has a high probability of introduction to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: Low).

Potential pathway(s) of introduction: Hitchhiking/fouling, unintentional release

Introduced world-wide through the aquarium trade - sold widely as good "oxygenator" plant and dispersed secondarily by boat trailers and vegetative dispersal downstream. As a popular ornamental plant, E. densa is planted in water gardens (Indiana Department of Natural Resources 2013) and can be purchased (e.g. in Ohio; however, there is not enough information available to determine the frequency of E. densa plantings.  Egeria densa is cultured in Florida for the ornamental aquatic plant industry (Fenner); however, there is no indication that E. densa is commercially cultured in the Great Lakes region.

Egeria densa is one of the most common species sold in the Montreal aquarium trade (Cohen et al. 2007). The sale and transport of E. densa is prohibited in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Great Lakes Panel of Aquatic Nuisance Species 2012); but there are no regulations on the sale or transport of E. densa in New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, or Quebec. A survey performed from 2002 to 2003 on aquarium and pet stores near Lakes Erie and Ontario found that 35% of stores surveyed sold E. densa (Rixon et al. 2005). Due to the availability of E. densa in stores near the Great Lakes, and the ability of the species to overwinter, Rixon et al. (2005) predicted that it has the potential to be introduced to the Great Lakes. Based on the number of aquarium stores in Montreal, Quebec that sold E. densa, the number of E. densa sold by each store, and the disposal pathways for aquatic plants, Cohen et al. (2007) estimates that 188 E. densa individuals are released into the St. Lawrence Seaway each year.

This species may be transported by hitchhiking on recreational gear; E. densa grows in thick mats that can become entangled on boat propellers and trailer wheels, or can be captured in bilge water (Washington State Department of Ecology 2013). Attached fragments can be transported between water bodies. Egeria densa is not known to be taken up in ballast water.

Status: Established in North America, but not including the Great Lakes.

Egeria densa has a moderate probability of establishment if introduced to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: High).

E. densa has established extensively in at least 27 countries beyond its native range (Curt et al. 2010). Egeria densa has broad physiological tolerances. It can tolerate low light conditions (Lara et al. 2002). Although a tropical plant, it is able to adapt to seasonal changes and overwinter (Indiana Department of Natural Resources 2013, Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001, Rixon et al. 2005, Yarrow et al. 2009). It can tolerate low levels of CO2 (Casati et al. 2000), nitrogen, phosphorus, and nutrients (Yarrow et al. 2009). This species can survive in waters with salinities up to 8 ppt (Hauenstein and Ramirez 1986). Increased salinization may negatively impact this species’ establishment if salinities exceed 8 ppt (Hauenstein and Ramirez 1986). This species is known to have a relatively fast growth rate (Yarrow et al. 2009).

The introduced ranges of Egeria densa have similar climate and abiotic conditions as the Great Lakes. Egeria densa has established near the Great Lakes previously (e.g. Griffy Lake, Indiana), in areas that have similar water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels (Aquatic Control 2008, NOAA CoastWatch 2014). This species can survive in freshwater habitats of varying temperatures, light levels, and CO2 levels; thus suitable habitats are readily available in the Great Lakes region. Turbidity and nutrient levels of the Great Lakes is likely suitable for E. densa to obtain sufficient light, phosphorus, and nitrogen. It is likely that Egeria densa will benefit from the effects of climate change, including warmer temperatures and shorter duration of ice cover. E. densa is likely to continue to expand its range northward as a result of climate change, with predictive models suggesting that it could spread as far north as the St. Lawrence River by 2050 if introduced (Gillard et al 2017).

Egeria densa reproduces asexually by vegetative fragmentation (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001), which may aid its establishment in the Great Lakes region. This species spreads rapidly by vegetative fragmentation and recreational activities, (Indiana Department of Natural Resources 2013).

In Australia, E. densa spread quickly; over a period of two years, it doubled its biomass and doubled the area it occupied in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River (Roberts et al. 1999).

Great Lakes Impacts:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


Egeria densa has the potential for high environmental impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

The model developed by Rixon et al. (2005) predicts that E. densa poses a threat to the Great Lakes. Egeria densa acts as an ecosystem engineer by preventing the resuspension of sediments and controlling light and nutrient availability (Yarrow et al. 2009). The dense growth of E. densa can retard water flow and reduce turbidity (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). This species can reduce the abundance and diversity of native plant seeds in lake bottoms due to increased sediment accumulation under its weed beds (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001). Egeria densa removes nutrients from the water column, thereby decreasing the standing stock of phytoplankton (Yarrow et al. 2009). Furthermore, Egeria densa forms mats that can shade out phytoplankton. 

Egeria densa can outcompete native species. In Duck Lake, Washington, E. densa displaced native stonewart, elodea, and pondweed in a period of 3 years (Washington State Department of Ecology 2013). In Hawkesbury-Negean River, Australia, evidence suggests that E. densa outcompeted native vallisneria (Vallisneria americana) for light (Roberts et al. 1999) and that floods were responsible for the rapid spread of E. densa.

Egeria densa is not known to pose a threat to the health of native species. This species is not known to alter predator-prey relationships or genetically affect native populations.

Egeria densa has the potential for high socio-economic impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Dense stands of E. densa may restrict water movement, trap sediment, and cause fluctuations in water quality. The dense growth of E. densa can interfere with irrigation projects, hydroelectric dams, and urban water supply (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001, Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). In New Zealand, there was an infestation of E. densa in the Wikato River that clogged the water intake pipes resulting in the shut-down of an electrical plant (Washington State Department of Ecology 2013). In Brazil , E. densa (as well as E. najas, Ceratophyllum demersum, and Eichhornia crassipes) have severely infested hydropower reservoirs. It was estimated that 48,000 cubic meters of aquatic weeds were removed from water intake structures in Jupia Reservoir (Marcondes et al. 2000).

Egeria densa can inhibit recreational activities as a nuisance for navigation, fishing, swimming, and water skiing (Washington State Department of Ecology 2013). The removal of E. densa is costly; Washington local and state governments spend thousands of dollars each year to control the species. Egeria densa may pose a risk to human safety. In 2006, police reports indicate that E. densa may have contributed to the death of a physician in San Joaquin County, who drowned after becoming entangled in the “tentacle-like Delta weeds trap” in attempts to save his nephew (Breitler 2006, Victorian DPI 2013).

Egeria densa has gained widespread recognition by parks departments and local and state governments as a nuisance species (e.g. Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species 2012, Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center 2009, Mcglynn 2013). Resources have been devoted in various cities and states to remove infestations of E. densa due to its costly impacts on water supply, infrastructure, and recreation (e.g. California State Parks 2014, Indiana Department of Natural Resources 2013).

Egeria densa has the potential for moderate beneficial impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

It is an ornamental plant for aquariums and small ponds. Egeria densa has been recommended as a submerged oxygenator plant for water gardens (Creative Homeowner 2010). Egeria densa is also utilized in plant biology classes for students to study photosynthesis (Berkely 2014).

Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes region)

The sale and transport of E. densa is prohibited in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Great Lakes Panel of Aquatic Nuisance Species 2012); but there are no regulations on the sale or transport of E. densa in New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, or Quebec.

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.


Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and Congo tilapia (Tilapia meanopleura) can be biological control agents for Egeria densa (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001, Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). Sterile triploid grass carp usage to control E. densa is permitted with California Department of Fish and Game authorization in several counties in California (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001).  However, it is not likely that this fish will prevent the establishment of E. densa in the Great Lakes (Anderson et al. 2008, Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). In Argentina, the leafminer fly Hydrellia sp. is an herbivore that specializes on E. densa (Cabrera Walsh et al. 2013). Pekin ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) were experimentally used to remove E. densa, but they were not effective (Curt et al. 2010).

E. densa is difficult to control once established (Yarrow et al. 2009) and it is necessary to correctly identify the plant due to its similarities with native plants (Indiana Department of Natural Resources 2013). Hand-pulling, cutting, and mechanical removal provide temporary control, but can encourage dispersal by vegetative fragmentation (Curt et al. 2010, Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001). As a result, physical removal is not recommended as this vegetative fragmentation encourages dispersal of E. densa. Flowing water treatments are used in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia which can help control other aquatic nuisance plant species (Parsons and Cuthbertson 2001).

In California, herbicides are used with the consultation of a specialist (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001). Contact-type Diquat, copper, acrolein, and fluridone are used in California (Hoshovsky and Anderson 2001). In Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, fluridone treatment started in June 2014 and will continue through September 2014 (California State Parks 2014). In an attempt to control E. densa in Griffy Lake, Bloomington, Indiana, fluridone treatments started in April 2006 and continued until September of that year (Jones 2006). The dose needed to control E. densa was high enough to kill all aquatic plants in the lake. Post-treatment surveys found only fragments of native species.

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.

Remarks: Egeria densa can be  detected using digital imagery (Mandvikar and Huan Liu 2004). It is often sold in the name “Anachris” and is advertised to aquarium customers as oxygenators.

References (click for full reference list)

Author: Morgan, V.H., E. Baker, C. Stottlemyer, and J. Li

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 8/2/2018

Citation for this information:
Morgan, V.H., E. Baker, C. Stottlemyer, and J. Li, 2024, Egeria densa Planch.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 8/2/2018, Access Date: 5/23/2024

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.