Species Profile: Hydrilla Verticillata

Written by Miranda, Niagara River Steward

September 17, 2014

Hydrilla is thought to have originated from the island of Sri Lanka and possibly the southern mainland of India, but it arrived in the United States from Korea as a popular aquarium plant. Colonies were first identified in canals in Miami and Tampa, Florida. Hydrilla fragments made their way up to New York by attaching to boats, their trailers, and live wells. Boat motors, oars, and other equipment break the plant into fragments, facilitating its spread throughout the affected water body and into nearby water bodies that are hydrologically connected. Hydrilla can spread between water bodies that are separated by geographic distance by “hitching a ride” on watercraft trailers and other recreational equipment. August of 2011 was the first time Hydrilla was found in New York. It was found in the Cayuga Inlet by Jordan Stark. In September of 2012 the species was found in the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist. It also was found in Long Island. Since the introduction of Hydrilla in New York we have taken quick action to help prevent its further spread.


hydrilla photo

Hydrilla is a perennial plant. It grows in springs, marshes, lakes, canals, and rivers. This plant can tolerate low and high nutrient conditions and up to 7% salinity. There are two kinds of Hydrilla; a southern population which is comprised of mostly dioecious females (meaning the plants only have female flowers), and northern populations which are monoecious (meaning the plants have both male and female flowers).  The dioecious females overwinter as perennials. The monoecious plants set fertile seed and depend on their tubers for overwintering. Hydrilla can reproduce four different ways, including fragmentation, tubers, turions, and seeds. Fragmented pieces with one node are able to sprout into a whole new plant. Tubers are formed on the rhizome of the plant and each one can produce up to 6,000 new tubers! These tubers can lay dormant for over four years before sprouting into a new plant. Turions form in the leaf axil of the plant and then break off and settle into the sediment to produce a new plant. Seed dispersal is the least important reproductive method for the species and is often facilitated by ingestion and subsequent dropping of migratory birds. These plants can grow in low light conditions, deep depths and can photosynthesize earlier in the morning than their native competitors. At its beginning stages it can grow up to an inch a day until it reaches the surface of the water.

Identifying Hydrilla can be very tricky at times because it looks similar to a native plant, American Elodea, and another invasive plant, Brazilian Elodea. There are a few distinguishing characteristics that set Hydrilla apart from the other two aforementioned species. The leaves are 5/8 inches long and they grow in whorls of 3-10, 5 leaves per whorl being most common. The leaves have distinct serrated edges. A key feature is the dull-white to yellowish, potato like tuber that grow 2-12 inches below the sediment.


Hydrilla is one of the highest priority invasive plants in New York state.  It outcompetes native plants and causes destruction in our aquatic habitats. It can invade the deeper waters where many of our natives cannot and can aggressively grow up to an inch per day. This allows Hydrilla to form thick mats at the top of the surface blocking sunlight for the native plants below.  Oxygen is then depleted leading to decreased dissolved oxygen and potential fish kills. Sportfish weight and size can decrease due to the loss of open water and natural vegetation and their spawning habitats can be eliminated by Hydrilla. The species also causes obstructions for boating, swimming and fishing. The large dense mats of vegetation can cause property value to decrease, creating problems for homeowners and communities. Hydrilla not only affects our native habitat but also our local communities and businesses.


Hydrilla can be controlled several different ways, however some methods are more effective than others. There are both chemical and non-chemical control options. These methods are very expensive and must be administered correctly to eliminate established populations of Hydrilla.



control methods chart
The Erie Canal in North Tonawanda is infested with Hydrilla. Just this past summer the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted herbicide treatments to try and decrease the population. On July 22, 2014 about 1,850 gallons of aquathol were applied to seven miles of the westernmost portion of the canal by boat. To do this they reduced the flow of the canal for 48 hours and allowed the herbicide to travel slowly downstream. This is the first year of application and it is said that it will greatly reduce the Hydrilla densities. The goal is to reduce Hydrilla biomass by 95% and decrease tubers by 85%. Extensive monitoring will be required to manage Hydrilla in the Erie Canal and Tonawanda Creek.


References/Photo Credits

“Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County.” 2011 Hydrilla Eradication Efforts. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://ccetompkins.org/environment/invasive-species/fighting-hydrilla2011

“Hydrilla (Hydrilla Verticillata (L.f.) Royle).” New York Invasive Species Information. N.p., 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://www.nyis.info/?action=invasive_detail&id=16

“Aquatic Invasive Species.” HYDRILLA (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 11 Sept.2014 www.in.gov/dnr/files/hydrilla.pdf

“Highly Invasive Aquatic Plant Threatens New York’s Waters.” Department of Environmental Concervation. N.p., 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/85078.html

“Combating Hydrilla.” US Army Corps of Engineers. N.p., 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsStories/tabid/6146/Article/494240/combating-hydrilla.aspx





Steward Spotlight: Jake teaches summer camp at the Friends of Robert Moses State Park Nature Center

Written by Jake, Thousand Islands  Steward

September 8, 2014


On the last Thursday and Friday of August, I got the chance to work at the Friends of Robert Moses State Park Nature Center and help educate young children in the importance of environmental awareness. The first day consisted of me taking a nature walk with the kids and collecting water samples for them to use for exercises with microscopes. On our way to the river where we would collect samples, we managed to get a rare, close up look at a deer. We stood quietly watching the deer for a few minutes before it took off. This was some of the kids’ first close encounter experience with a wild animal.  Following our collection of the water samples, we took a walk back to the Nature Center and began exercises in microscopy. The kids learned about all the tools used with a microscope and got to look at some of the things you would find in water bodies. This first day gave me a chance to get introduced to the kids and see if they had interests in the environment.

On Friday, we learned about the history of the St. Lawrence River and got to participate in a few art projects. The first art project was making paper canoes with Native American designs on the side of them. This was the day that I also got the chance to do a presentation about invasive species and the Boat Steward position. The kids surprised me at the end of the presentation with a barrage of questions and comments about the plants I was looking for. They specifically thought that Fanwort was a pretty funny name for such a “scary” plant. The last thing we did with the kids was make a paint imprint of a fish on paper. To show their appreciation, all of the kids made an imprint for me and signed all of their names. I haven’t worked with children since I was in high school and it reminded me of how rewarding it is to actually be able to reach out to these kids.

Jake's gift from kids

      Above: The campers made a fish imprint for Jake as a “thank you” gift.

 This whole opportunity was such a wonderful experience and it made me think about a couple things. The first was that while this program is targeted towards checking boats for plants and educational outreach to boat owners, those owners’ kids are just as important to talk to about these issues. Even if contact is limited and they may not grasp all that they are being told, I realized that we as stewards should directly spread our message to all the people partaking in boating, not just the watercraft owner. I have been giving out children’s tattoos and bobbers to the kids and the pamphlets to the adults, but perhaps with these last few weeks on the job coming up, I should try and give more educational materials to the kids in the groups. My second thought is that after working with these kids, they seem to really have an interest in learning about the natural world. Seeing how excited they were after seeing that deer in the woods and taking part in environmental art projects, it just shows that education and outreach really do work.

It was a true privilege to get to work with these kids, even if it was for such a short time. Working with the employees at the Nature Center was also a pleasure. They were very kind and willing to assist me to make an invasive species presentation a little more interesting to young children. Getting a signed painted imprint that the kids made was also such a nice gesture and it meant a lot to me.



Stories from the Field: Niagara River Boat Races

Written by Miranda, Niagara River Steward

September 4, 2014

The boat races on the Niagara River are an annual event that occurs every summer in the City of North Tonawanda. This event brings people from all around the country who enjoy the sport of hydroplane boat racing. Local vendors set up, bringing in delicious food and crafts and making it an event for all.  It also helps our local businesses in the city of North Tonawanda. There was a 1 ¼ mile race course for the boats; it had flag signals for time and instruction that told the racers specific information during the races. The boats complete between 3-5 laps each race. When the hydroplane boats are racing they create a rooster tail, this is a long plume of water that can be up to 4 boat lengths. Certain boats can reach speeds up to 170 mph during these races. This is an extremely dangerous sport. On the last race of the second day a boat caught wind and ended up doing a 360 degree turn in the air. Luckily the driver was not harmed, but the boat was severely damaged.


Boat race                                                                   

Above: Boats racing on the Niagara River in the City of North Tonawanda.

Photo Credit: Miranda Papp.

On the first day of the races there was inclement weather, so unfortunately only two races went on and the rest had to be canceled. Even though the weather was poor there still were people who showed interest in the invasive species table. The second day had a great turnout. Races occurred all day and the weather was amazing. This is the day I met a lot of great people who expressed interest in what our Boat Steward Program does. Many people asked which invasive species were in our area, how we decrease their numbers, where boat stewards were located, and many others. Everyone that I met was extremely friendly and showed a high level of interest.  I had about an equal number of people who knew about invasive species as those who didn’t. Therefore I got a lot of information out to people who didn’t know about the invasive species issue and the harm that it does. People from other states told me about the water bodies near their homes and similar problems that they deal with due to invasive species. It was nice to hear other people’s stories and encounters that they have had.

Altogether this was probably my favorite event and the one I felt people were most interested in. Doing public events such as the boat races reaches the target audience that we want because it is people that value the water systems in a different way. I was able to have great conversations with people who know about the problems, and I had the opportunity to hear their own personal stories.  I found it very rewarding to be able to educate people who knew little or nothing about the invasive species issues. That’s exactly why this program exists!

Anatomy of a hydroplane boat

Above: Anatomy of a hydroplane boat. 

Boat Types

  1. Grand Prix: hulls are a maximum of 26’ long and 12.5’ wide. Internal combustion engine with a maximum size of 468 cubic inches. A top speed of 170 mph. Mostly run in the Great Lakes region.
  2. “H and E” Hydro 350: hulls are a minimum of 16’ long and weigh no less than 1450lbs. Engine is a GM 305 cubic inch V-8 with a four barrel carburetor. A top speed of 120 mph. Most competitive class of inboard hydroplane racing.
  3. Pro-Stock/CanAm: hulls a maximum of 20 feet long. Motors can be a maximum of 500 cubic inches. This class has special rules set up and enforced by the A.C.T.O.N. Board.
  4. “T & CT- class” 1.5 liter stock: hulls are a minimum of 13’6’’ long and must weigh a minimum of 750lbs. Top speed of 90 mph. Mostly runs on the east coast.
  5. “S and CS class” 2.5L Stock: hulls are a minimum of 13’ long and weigh a minimum of 975lbs. this class is promoted for the purpose of establishing a low cost stock class engine for racing. Top speed of 110 mph.


Press Release: Governor Signs AIS Bill

Andrew M. CuomoGovernor

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Aiding in Fight Against AIS

Albany, NY (September 2, 2014)Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation prohibiting the launch of watercraft in New York State without taking reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. The bill (A9619-B, S7851-B) advances current efforts by the State and private organizations to halt the introduction and spread of invasive aquatic species into New York’s waters.“The natural beauty that is found in every corner of New York is second to none, and it is imperative that we do everything possible to protect that from the dangers of invasive species,” Governor Cuomo said. “We all share a responsibility to protect our natural environment, and this legislation helps ensure that all who enjoy New York’s waters will also do their part to limit the spread of different types of aquatic life that would otherwise harm the local ecosystem.”

The legislation signed by Governor Cuomo makes it the responsibility of boaters launching watercraft to use common sense when putting in and taking out their boats. Before transportation or launch, the boater should first clean, drain and dry the boat, trailer, and any other exposed equipment of visible plant and animal matter, or have taken other reasonable measures to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. This will help prevent the spread between waterbodies and introduction of invasive species in new waterbodies throughout New York.

Invasive species are a threat because they have few natural predators in their new environment and can carry harmful diseases. Ultimately, invasives can outcompete native plants and animals and change entire ecosystems. Aquatic invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the State’s treasured waterways because once introduced, they are nearly impossible to eradicate and expensive to manage.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, aquatic invasive species seriously threaten economically important industries, such as tourism and fishing. Invasive species cost the U.S. economy an estimated $120 billion per year, and while the State has implemented various programs designed to control the spread of aquatic invasives, it is far more cost-effective to prevent them altogether.

Senator Tom O’Mara said, “Individual boaters are the front line of defense against the spread of invasive species, and this new initiative offers a straightforward approach asking all boaters to do our part to help protect waterways, regional tourism economies and local jobs. Taking every possible step to stop the spread of destructive invasive species before they take hold is the most cost-effective and common-sense approach to combat this severe threat to the environment and economy of the Finger Lakes and other waterways statewide.”

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said, “I am very pleased and appreciate the governor signing into law this important piece of legislation. This is a promising new day in our battle against aquatic invasive species that threaten our high-quality water resources and the recreational and economic benefits they provide,”

Stuart F. Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy in New York, said, “The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation, which will reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species that harm human, economic and environmental health. Each year, invasive species cost our communities millions of dollars. By taking simple and common sense measures to clean, drain and dry our boats we can reduce the spread of these harmful species and protect our fishing, tourism and other water-dependent industries. We appreciate Governor Cuomo’s commitment to prevent the spread of invasive species and applaud the bill sponsors Senator Thomas O’Mara and Assemblymember Barbara Lifton for their leadership on this issue in the Legislature.”

Governor Cuomo’s signing of the bill today complements a broad approach by State agencies to combat the spread of invasive species in New York’s waters. The Department of Environmental Conversation this summer adopted regulations similar to this bill that prohibits boats from launching or leaving water access sites on Department of Environmental Conversation land without first taking these precautions. The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation this summer published proposed regulations that would place similar requirements on watercraft using State Parks. Several local municipalities and organizations in the State have already adopted local laws to address the spread of aquatic invasive species, including boat inspection and washing requirements. In 2014, the State adopted the first ever mandatory invasive species inspection programs at all boat launches on Lake George.

New York State has invested millions of dollars in response, mitigation and prevention programs to rid the environment of invasive species on water and land. In July, Governor Cuomo announced the State’s first-ever Invasive Species Awareness Week to teach New Yorkers and visitors about the threat that these pests pose to our environment. More information about the State’s efforts to control and rid the environment of invasive species can be found here.