Invasive weed found in El Dorado Hills

By From page A1 | June 14, 2017

Parrot feather watermilfoil grows in a Silva Valley Parkway pond. Courtesy photo

Out looking for mosquito breeding sites in El Dorado County, Jeffrey Dufour, a senior vector technician with the county, found instead what he said is the first documented sighting in the county of an invasive weed called Parrot feather watermilfoil.
Located in a pond that feeds into a creek paralleling Silva Valley Parkway, the Parrot feather watermilfoil bloom is still relatively small but rapidly growing. When Dufour said he first spotted the weed several weeks ago, it was only about 3 feet wide. Surveying it a second time on June 8 in the company of Jeffrey Warren, an El Dorado County environmental health program manager, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist Gabriele Quillman, it was at least three times as large.
Because of how quickly the plant can spread, Dufour said by September it could cross the pond and take over entirely if left unchecked.
The plant is considered noxious because as it grows it consumes all the oxygen in the water, killing fish and other animals. The plant also forms dense mats that can clog waterways, making them unusable for navigation or recreation and causing flooding. It can also block irrigation pumps and water intakes and is an optimal habitat where mosquitoes can breed.
So far, Dufour said he’s only found the weed at this location, “but chances are this is not the only place it is.”
Parrot feather watermilfoil is native to South America and was introduced into the United States in the late 1800s for use in aquaria and water gardens. It can be spread by dumping unwanted plants from water gardens or aquaria or by boats, trailers and fishing equipment not cleaned before being moved to a new waterway. Bird droppings and moving water are other ways for it to travel.
Once established, there are few ways of removing the plant. Mechanical harvesters are used where it is widespread even though there is a risk that small pieces can escape and take root elsewhere. Herbicides have also been used, but with less success. The best approach is to catch it early and then pull it out root and branch.
The pond where the Parrot feather watermilfoil is growing belongs to Serrano, according to Dufour, so it appears ridding the weed will have to be a joint effort between the county, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the homeowners association.

Dawn Hodson


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