This is the infestation that never ends…

 …Yes it goes on and on my friends.

The thing with invasive species is that once they’re introduced to a habitat in which they are not native, they’re extremely difficult to eradicate, especially if that population has been there for a while AND it’s in the water.

The flowering rush, Butomus umbellatus, is one such species.

Flowering rush

This unusual aquatic species, which is the only one in its genus, is extremely difficult to eradicate, and often appealing as an ornamental plant to those who don’t know what it is.

IMG_3606People kept introducing flowering rush just because when in bloom, the plants have a distinct umbrella-shaped cluster of pink and white flowers that is definitely one-of-a-kind for those prized water gardens. From there, it has spread into freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers – including the iconic Bow River.

Although it looks harmless – some may even say pretty – this species can completely alter Alberta’s waterways with severe infestations, causing thick floating mats that people can even walk on!

Infestations of flowering rush create an unfavorable habitat for native species, causing less diversity and reducing the overall number of species. Infestations also provide the ideal environment for the great pond snail – the intermediate host of the swimmer’s itch parasite.

Access for property owners and recreationists can become an issue. It can also cause problems with water delivery systems such as irrigation and municipal water supply. And just to complete this already never ending tale, flowering rush roots and rhizomes break off very easily. Floating root pieces can start entirely new populations.

So far, 14 flowering rush infestations have been found in Alberta. The distribution of flowering rush, as well as other invasive species can be viewed and reported using EDDMapS (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System) Alberta.IMG_3622

There is definitely more than meets the eye where flowering rush is concerned. Albertans may be surprised to learn it’s illegal to import, sell, transport or possess flowering rush. Individuals can face penalties of up to $100,000 and a year in jail! Now that would really feel like a year that never ends!

So, is there an end in sight? Well, flowering rush is very difficult to control, especially at large scales. To protect Alberta’s waters from this invasive species, follow these three steps:

  1. DON’T LET IT LOOSE! Never release aquarium or domestic pond water, plants, or animals (dead or alive) into water bodies.
  2. If you see flowering rush, report it to the Aquatic Invasive Species Hotline, 1-855-336-BOAT (2628), or use EDDMapS Alberta from your smart phone. It can only be addressed if someone knows where they are!
  3. DO NOT pull or dig it as small fragments can break off and start new plants.

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