Arctic blast killed 90% of this invasive floating fern, but experts say we’re not in the clear yet

Outdoors

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Though it certainly left a wide negative impact, one good thing did come from the February arctic blast: it made a considerable dent in an invasive species that threatens many Texas and Louisiana lakes.

While the floating fern known as giant salvinia might not be completely gone, this is a step in the right direction. Surveys have found that last month’s freeze took out around 90% of Texas’ salvinia.

Giant salvinia is a non-native aquatic fern that creates thick mats of leaves that make swimming and fishing nearly impossible. Giant salvinia leaves are quarter to half-dollar sized, about twice as large as common salvinia leaves.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, giant salvinia is one of the most problematic aquatic plants in Texas. It damages aquatic ecosystems by outgrowing and replacing native plants that provide food and habitat for native animals.

Experts say they saw a similar situation during the winter storm of 2018 at Caddo Lake.

“It reduced that 6,000 acres to less than 100 acres in Caddo Lake and it did it in 72 hours,” aquatic invasive species expert biologist John Findeisen said. “A lot more effective than what we are trying to manage this stuff as aquatic invasive species biologists.”

The fern can double in size every seven to 10 days. If left untreated, it will cover huge portions of a lake.

Though the freeze got rid of a large portion of the plant, salvinia is already showing signs of regrowth in many places.

Experts say that if you’re going to take your boat out, make sure it’s clean and dry with no vegetation or mud.

If you’re going from one lake to another, experts recommend waiting at least 7 days.

Because of its fast growth and highly invasive nature, it is illegal to transport giant salvinia on boat trailers, boat motors or live wells.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, Game Wardens are authorized to issue tickets for transport of salvinia species, as well as other prohibited plants.

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