Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 21, 2003

Milfoil is found in Howard Lake

By Lynda Jensen

Eurasian Milfoil, an invasive aquatic plant species, was recently found in the waters of Howard Lake, according to Curt Forst of the Lake Association of Howard Lake.

The plant is located at the south part of the lake near the public access at Lions Park, and has also been found along docks on the western shore, Forst said.

"It's not surprising, but disappointing," Forst commented, saying that most area lakes already have the problem, including Ann Lake, Big and Little Waverly.

Eurosian Milfoil is known for crowding out native plant species, and dampening recreation because of its thick floating canopies, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

It has incredible reproductive capabilities, since it can spring from the smallest fragments and has been known to regenerate after lying dormant and dry on the beach several weeks, Forst said.

Not every lake that is found with Eurasian Milfoil suffers the same, according to the DNR.

In some lakes, the weed has difficulty becoming established where well-established native plants exist.

At times, it appears to coexist with native flora and has little impact on fish and other aquatic animals, in some cases.

However, in lakes that are nutrient-rich, it forms thick underwater stands of tangled stems and vast mats of vegetation at the water's surface.

Eurasian Milfoil was accidently introduced to North America from Europe.

Spread westward into inland lakes primarily by boats and also by water birds, it reached Midwestern states between the 1950s and 1980s.

It was first discovered in Minnesota at Lake Minnetonka during the fall of 1987. Eurasian milfoil can limit recreational activities on water bodies by forming mats on the water surface, and alter aquatic ecosystems by displacing native plants.

Milfoil spreads by getting entangled with boat propellers, or may attach to keels and rudders of sailboat.

Stems can become lodged among any watercraft apparatus or sports equipment that moves through the water, especially boat trailers, according to the DNR.

Since a single segment of stem and leaves can take root and form a new colony, the plant spreads easily.

To make matters worse, the mechanical clearing of aquatic plants for beaches, docks, and landings creates thousands of new stem fragments, according to the DNR.

Removing good native vegetation also aggravates the situation, since it creates perfect habitat for the weed.

Those who enjoy the lake should continue vigilance on removing the milfoil from boats, to prevent its spread to other lakes, Forst said.

Milfoil can be controlled using aquatically approved herbicides or by mechanical means, such as a harvester or cutter, which requires a permit from the DNR.

Kissing cousins

Quite often, Eurasian Milfoil is confused with a plant that looks like it called Northern Milfoil.

Northern Milfoil is indigent to the area and does not have the invading habits of its cousin, Eurasian Milfoil.

"They're kissing cousins," Forst said. Northern Milfoil can be held in check, he said.

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