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The Effect of Cadmium on Water Hyacinth

By Laura Wallace Henderson ; Updated September 21, 2017
Water hyacinths can help enhance the health of your pond environment.

Water hyacinth is a type of aquatic plant that thrives in areas of shallow water, such as the banks along lakes and streams. It is a common selection for cultivating as a pond specimen. Like many varieties of aquatic plants, water hyacinth possesses the capability of filtering metals and toxins from the water, making this a useful selection in water gardens that contain high levels of cadmium and other minerals. Compared to other aquatic plants, water hyacinths experience only a minimal negative impact from cadmium exposure.


Water hyacinth is native to South America. This aquatic plant has naturalized among many southern areas of the United States. It is a free-floating plant that develops long leaf blades and flower stocks above the water and small root systems that trail beneath the water’s surface. In optimal conditions, these plants reach about 3 feet tall.


Water hyacinths filter and clean their watery environment by drawing moisture and minerals through their root systems. Cadmium and other minerals tend to accumulate within the plant fibers. This filtering effect helps protect other plant life and animal life from consuming toxic levels of cadmium, making this plant a useful variety in promoting a healthy pond or water garden environment.


While this mineral accumulation within the plant fibers may harm some plants, such as salvinia, it seldom bothers water hyacinths that grow in areas with minor to moderate cadmium exposure. Water that has a high concentration of cadmium may cause a noticeable effect on water hyacinth growth, however. High accumulations of cadmium may slightly decrease the rate of growth in these aquatic plants.


Water hyacinths tend to experience the highest amount of cadmium accumulation in their root systems. The roots contain about 80 percent of the total amount of cadmium within the plant’s tissues.


Water hyacinths are both useful and attractive plants to grow in ponds and water gardens, especially those that have a high concentration of metals. These aquatic plants can become a nuisance, due to their aggressive nature. Thick growths of water hyacinth can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, posing a risk to aquatic life. Minimize this risk by clearing out enough of the water hyacinth to expose at least half of the water’s surface.


About the Author


Laura Wallace Henderson, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She has served as the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." She continues to empower and encourage women everywhere by promoting health, career growth and business management skills.