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Eurasian water-milfoil is an invasive aquatic plant native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Introduced to North American the 19th century, it is now one of the most widely distributed invasive aquatic plants on the continent. It may have been introduced through the aquarium trade or the ballast water of ships.
Eurasian water-milfoil prefers shallow water one to three metres deep, but can root in up to 10 metres of water. A fast-growing perennial, it forms dense underwater mats that shade other aquatic plants. When large stands begin to die off in the fall, the decaying plants can reduce oxygen levels in the water.
The plant can interbreed with native milfoils, creating a more aggressive form of the invasive species. Because tiny plant pieces can develop into new plants, Eurasian water-milfoil is easily spread when water currents, boat propellers, trailers or fishing gear carry plant fragments to new areas.
Eurasian water-milfoil was first discovered in Canada in Lake Erie in 1961. Since then it has spread to all the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, many inland lakes throughout southern and central Ontario, and much of the United States. Outside its native range, the plant has spread across every continent except Antarctica.
Impacts of Eurasian Water-Milfoil
The plant reduces biodiversity by competing aggressively with native plants.
Reduced oxygen levels in the water caused by decomposing plants can kill fish.
Thick mats of Eurasian water-milfoil can hinder recreational activities such as swimming, boating and fishing.
Dense stands can create stagnant water, which is ideal habitat for mosquitoes.