The water hyacinth is an invasive aquatic plant from South America that now has a wide global distribution. Although it produces a beautiful flower, its visual appeal does not outweigh the harm this plant does to waterways.
Tropical regions of South America are the original home of the water hyacinth, but it now grows in much of the warmer climates around the globe. Water hyacinth exists in the southern United States as well as parts of Africa, Australia, Asia, India and New Zealand.
The water hyacinth grows in lakes, ponds, ditches, rivers and streams, taking nutrients from the surrounding waters. The plants often link together, forming nearly impenetrable floating mats.
A member of the same family as pickerelweed, water hyacinth has green glossy leaves as tall as 8 inches and 2 to 6 inches wide. The roots extend down from the plant and branch out to form an extensive fibrous network.
The flowers of the water hyacinth develop on a spike and have six individual petals that join at the bottom to produce a tube-like bloom. The colors of these flowers range from a lighter shade of blue to violet, with some flowers being white.
As water hyacinth takes over an area it has the ability to hinder navigation, power-generation, recreational pursuits and irrigation efforts. The water beneath the floating mats become oxygen-depleted, native water plants cannot compete with them and mosquitoes breed in the conditions water hyacinths create.