Aquatic Plant Pest Spreads To Eastern NC

May 14, 2013

A stem of the hydrilla plant. Biologists say the invasive aquatic weed is spreading to bodies of fresh water on the Coastal Plain.
Credit Reinaldo Aguilar / Flickr Creative Commons

An invasive plant called hydrilla is spreading from the Piedmont toward lakes near the coast. 

Biologists say the aquatic weed first found in Wake County is now on river banks in northeastern North Carolina and in lakes near Wilmington.  Dr. Rob Richardson is a crop science professor at N.C. State University.  He says the plant grows in thick patches, which can cause problems in drinking water supplies.

"Large mats have, at times, clogged turbines," says Richardson.

"Hydrilla can also serve as a breeding habitat for some species of mosquito.  It can also get so thick that depending on the situation, it can stunt some fish growth because then only small fish can weave their way in and out of dense beds."

The state Division of Water Resources shares the burden of treating the plant with local governments, but recent budget cuts have limited efforts to fight it.