The water hyacinth is a highly-invasive, rapidly-growing aquatic plant that can quickly destroy the aquatic habitats it is introduced to. The plant itself can be used as a organic biomass to apply high levels of nitrogen to a soil without the same risks of harming the environment as chemical alternatives that are commonly available on the market.
Water hyacinth is an aquatic plant that produces waxy leaves and flowers that can be purple, pink or white. The plant can grow up to one meter in height and are known for floating freely across the surface of the water. Though native to South America the plant has been widely introduced to a number of continents, including North America, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The water hyacinth produces a large quantity of seeds that are able to survive and remain viable for up to thirty years. Although impressive, this is the plant's secondary form of reproduction. Primarily, as one of the fastest growing plants in the world, the flower is able to reproduce through stolons that develop into daughter plants. These can develop even from the smallest fragments of the flower making it extremely difficult to remove the flower from areas it has been introduced to.
Some scientists suspect that the water hyacinth contains a higher nitrogen content than most other invasive aquatic plants, but there is little evidence available to support this theory. The plant does store nitrogen within its root system for growth which can then be broken down into compost for the improvement of fertilizer.
Compost is developed through the use of dried water hyacinths by applying both wood ash and manure as well as the flower itself into a mix. The nitrogen provided by this blend is one of the main macro-nutrients any number of plants require for proper growth and development. This compost helps combat nitrogen deficiency which can weaken and kill many crops humans depend on for harvest.
One of the most common uses for the compost is in farming. Fertilizers developed from the water hyacinth provide nitrogen that is cost effective for many poor farmers throughout the world. Rice farms specifically benefit greatly in developing countries all around the world from water hyacinth-based fertilization.