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Distinguishing features: Distinguished by pale blue–lavender flowers with darker purple and yellow blotch, and some leaves with a swollen, buoyant base of leaf stalk.
Medicinal UsesNone known
Other UsesBiomass; Pollution. Water hyacinths are potentially an excellent source of biomass. Through an anaerobic fermentation process, polluted hyacinths can be converted to the natural gas methane - a costly process that may become more economical as supplies of underground natural gas are depleted. Dried and cleansed plants can be used as fertilizer and plant mulch. Eventually, living aquatic plants might serve aboard long-distance manned spacecraft, absorbing wastes and converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, then being themselves converted into food. The plant can be cultivated for use in wastewater treatment, and can be incorporated into a system where the biomass is harvested for fuel production. Since this biomass is a by-product of wastewater treatment, it has a positive environmental impact, and thus poses no threat as competitor to food, feed, or fibre-producing plants. Wilted water hyacinth, mixed with earth, cow dung, and woodashes in the Chinese compost fashion, can yield useful compost in just two months. Although potential yields are incredible, so are the costs of removal or attempted eradication of this water weed. Standing crops have been estimated to produce 100-120 tonnes per hectare per year. Under ideal conditions, each plant can produce 248 offspring in 90 days. Water hyacinth roots naturally absorb pollutants, including such toxic chemicals as lead, mercury, and strontium 90 (as well as some organic compounds believed to be carcinogenic) in concentrations 10,000 times that in the surrounding water. In Africa, fresh plants are used as cushions in canoes and to plug holes in charcoal sacks.
Notes: Attractive but troublesome plant that has spread worldwide, obstructing waterways, reducing fish production, harbouring mosquitoes, and severely disrupting life in some communities along rivers and lakes, mostly between latitudes 35° north and south of the equator. Luxuriant growth is usually a symptom of nutrient enrichment (eutrophication). Water Hyacinth will not thrive in good quality tap water. Biological control has been effective in some regions, particularly in tropical areas.
Philippines, image by IRRI
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