Invasive European water chestnut spotted in the St. Francis

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to the Record
Invasive European water chestnut spotted in  the St. Francis
The water chestnut plant can clog up waterways and choke out native species, and it grows like crazy. (Photo : Courtesy of COGESAF)

A foreign invader is taking hold in the waters of the St Francis river, says COGESAF, the organization dedicated to maintaining the waters in and around the river. Colonies of European water chestnuts have cropped up in the waters near St. Bonaventure and Lac Pierre and are at risk of travelling up the river into the Townships.
The European water chestnut is a particularly damaging invasive species that was inadvertently released to the waters of New England and eastern Canada over 70 years ago. It alters the living conditions for native plants and animals by growing so many floating leaves that sunlight isn’t able to pass through the surface of the water.
Not only does it cause damage to local wildlife and habitats, it also clogs up waterways and gets in the propellers of small boats. The spiny shape of the nuts can also make them painful to step on if they end up on the shore.
In order to keep the invasive species in check, the COGESAF is undergoing operations to remove the bulk of the plants from the St. Francis. This year, in just over a week, the organization managed to remove over 1000kg of water chestnut plants from the river.
The program will last a total of five years to allow for proper detection and removal of the plants, and then monitoring to make sure there isn’t a resurgence. Sections of the plant can regrow into a separate plant on their own, making eradication almost impossible. A single water chestnut plant can make enough seeds to grow up to 120 the next year.

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