FLI Working to Control Water Chestnuts – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

FLI Working to Control Water Chestnuts

A recent article in the Finger Lakes Times explained the potential harm that may come to Keuka Lake from water chestnuts, a recently discovered invasive species. The Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has been involved in the effort to control the water chestnuts in the Penn Yan Marsh where they were discovered, with an eye to controlling their spread to Keuka Lake. At this point, that entails canoeing around the marsh and hand-pulling the plants.

According to the article, “Water Chestnuts aren’t as compatible with local wildlife as native species. They can reduce light, which is critical to the ecosystem, and reduce oxygen levels, which can kill fish.”

Marion Balyszak, director of the Finger Lakes Institute, is quoted as saying hand-pulling plants is the best way to remove them and expects it to be necessary to do so again.

“It will be critical over the next few years to do this every year,” she is quoted. “If it gets ahold of this area, pretty much you’ll have no boating on that area eventually. … That whole area can be closed down by this plant.”

The full article as it appears in the Finger Lakes Times follows.


Finger Lakes Times
Yank ‘Em
Groups try to stop invasive plant from taking hold in Keuka Lake
Amanda Folts • September 21, 2009

PENN YAN – An invasive plant species recently discovered in the waters of Keuka Lake may be a nuisance for years to come.

Water Chestnut plants were discovered this year in the Penn Yan Marsh by Dave Armstrong – a Penn Yan native and hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Massachusetts – who was canoeing. The Yates County Soil and Water District confirmed their presence Aug. 13.

Efforts to control the plant began Sept. 11 and 15, with involvement by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County, the Yates Soil and Water District, Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Finger Lakes Community College, Keuka College and the Keuka Lake Association. Staff and students paddled around the marsh in canoes, pulling out enough plants to fill two trucks.

Peter Landre, executive director of the Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension, said the groups patrolled the Keuka Outlet near the marsh but found no signs that the plant had spread. The fear, Landre said, is that Water Chestnuts could travel down the outlet to Seneca Lake.

“We certainly didn’t get all of [the plants], so … the expectation is you’re going to have to go back in and pull whatever’s there next year,” Landre said.

But they’ll be better prepared next year, he said, and will go earlier in the summer, when the plant’s leaves, which float on the water, aren’t so thick and fully grown, which is when the seeds get viable.

He said he doesn’t know if they’ll ever be able to get all of the plants out of the marsh: The seeds can remain viable for 12 years.

The good news, Landre said, is that the plants are easy to identify and pull out because they’re almost free floating, with light roots that don’t firmly plant themselves.

“The good thing is we were able to get in there and start to pull them,” he said. “We got there in the nick of time.”

Landre said waterfowl or boats may have brought the plants to the marsh.

Water Chestnuts aren’t as compatible with local wildlife as native species. They can reduce light, which is critical to the ecosystem, and reduce oxygen levels, which can kill fish. Landre said the plant’s stiff barbs can also puncture people’s feet.

Marion Balyszak, director of the Finger Lakes Institute, said hand-pulling the plants is the best way to remove them and, like Landre, expects they’ll have to go back next year.

“It will be critical over the next few years to do this every year,” she said. “If it gets ahold of this area, pretty much you’ll have no boating on that area eventually. … That whole area can be closed down by this plant.”
The Water Chestnut

• Was first observed in North America near Concord, Mass., in 1859.

• Can be found in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

• Originated in Europe, Asia and Africa.

• Submerged stems can grow 12 to 15 feet long.

• Leaves lie at the water’s surface and are triangular with saw-toothed edges.

• The plant’s white flowers are four-petaled and form in June. The fruit of the plant is a nut that has four 1/2-inch barbed spines. The rosette and fruits detach from the stem to spread the plant.