Links for Eithhornia crassipes (Common Water Hyacinth): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichhornia_crassipes (Wikipedia) & http://www.hear.org/pier/species/eichhornia_crassipes.htm (details with pix).
Some extracts from Wikipedia link (for pictures/ more details, pl. click on the link):
The seven species of water hyacinth comprise the genus Eichhornia. Water hyacinth is a free-floating perennial aquatic plant native to tropical South America. With broad, thick, glossy, ovate leaves, water hyacinth may rise above the surface of the water as much as 1 meter in height. The leaves are 10-20 cm across, and float above the water surface. They have long, spongy and bulbous stalks. The feathery, freely hanging roots are purple-black. An erect stalk supports a single spike of 8-15 conspicuously attractive flowers, mostly lavender to pink in colour with six petals. When not in bloom, water hyacinth may be mistaken for frog's-bit (Limnobium spongia).
One of the fastest growing plants known, water hyacinth reproduces primarily by way of runners or stolons, which eventually form daughter plants. It also produces large quantities of seeds, and these are viable up to thirty years. The common water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a vigorous grower known to double its population in two weeks.
Water hyacinth has been widely introduced throughout North America, Asia, Australia and Africa. It can be found in large water areas such as Louisiana, or in the Kerala Backwaters in India. In many areas it, particularly E. crassipes, is important and pernicious invasive species. First introduced to North America in 1884, an estimated 50 kilograms per square metre of hyacinth once choked Florida's waterways, although the problem there has since been mitigated. When not controlled, water hyacinth will cover lakes and ponds entirely; this dramatically impacts water flow, blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starves the water of oxygen, often killing fish (or turtles). The plants also create a prime habitat for mosquitos, the classic vectors of disease, and a species of snail known to host a parasitic flatworm which causes schistosomiasis (snail fever). Directly blamed for starving subsistence farmers in Papua New Guinea, water hyacinth remains a major problem where effective control programs are not in place. Water hyacinth is often problematic in man-made ponds if uncontrolled, but can also provide a food source for gold fish, keep water clean and help to provide oxygen to man-made ponds.
Water hyacinth often invades bodies of water that have been impacted by human activities. For example, the plants can unbalance natural lifecycles in artificial reservoirs or in eutrophied lakes that receive large amounts of nutrients.
In some areas, uses are being found for the abundant plants, such as for cattle food and in biogas production. Recently, they have also begun to be used in wastewater treatment due to their fast growth and ability to tolerate high levels of pollution. Parts of the plant are also used in the production of traditional handicrafts in Southeast Asia. In Bangladesh, farmers has started producing fertiliser using Water Hyacinth or Kochuripana as it is most widely known there locally.
As chemical and mechanical removal is often too expensive and ineffective, researchers have turned to biological control agents to deal with water hyacinth. The effort began in the 1970s when USDA researchers released three species of weevil known to feed on water hyacinth into the United States, Neochetina bruchi, N. eichhorniae, and the water hyacinth borer Sameodes albiguttalis. Although meeting with limited success, the weevils have since been released in more than 20 other countries. However, the most effective control method remains the control of excessive nutrients and prevention of the spread of this species.
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