Eurasian Milfoil is the common name for myriophyllum spicatum, a floating aquatic plant native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. It was imported and sold in the United States as a decorative aquarium plant. It is a problem in many northern lakes, and has been in our lake for about two decades. It grows faster than many native lake plants, and now dominates the native flora in many parts of Lake Fairlee.
Because it roots in the lake bottom and reaches for the sunlight at the surface, it grows primarily in water less than 15 feet deep. Even a small fragment can take root, so it spreads easily within a waterbody and from lake to lake, traveling on boat bottoms and trailers. In the spring it is frail and brittle, and easily fragmented. In the summer it grows strong and thick.
If allowed to spread unchecked it threatens to clog the lake with dense mats of plant material. Parts of the lake will become inhospitable to boaters and swimmers, and ultimately property values and tax revenues could suffer. This has happened to other lakes. We are working to prevent this.
At this time there is no known way of completely eliminating milfoil from out lakes. Chemical methods have been tried, as well as biological agents. However successfully they attack milfoil (and other species) milfoil will sooner or later return, as long as boaters (and maybe ducks) travel from lake to lake without a quarantine (e.g. a stringent boat washing regimen).
There are many sources of information on the web. Here is a representative sample. Many of them have good drawings and photographs.
- State of Washington Department of Ecology site
- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources site
- The Western Aquatic Plant Management Society site — includes a summary of alternative control methods
- Maine Department of Conservation site
- Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources milfoil page
- USDA (links to other sites)