Scientists discover new invasive plant on Connecticut River

Hydrilla on the Connecticut River.

NEW HAVEN — Scientists with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Invasive Aquatic Plant Program have discovered a new strain of hydrilla, an invasive plant, on the Connecticut River, according to a release.

A task force was formed to investigate reports of hydrilla in the southern part of the river in 2018, officials said in a release.

The weed is “among the most troublesome invasive aquatic plants in Florida and other southern states,” officials said, as it “crowds out native vegetation, harms fisheries, sickens wildfowl, impedes recreation, and reduces property values.”

The task force found that, while no hydrilla was found north of southern Massachusetts, it “became common” from the Connecticut border south, so that portions of the river, particularly in shallow shoals and protected coves, “were choked with the weed.”

Scientists determined that the hydrilla was “a strain genetically distinct from any yet found in North America,” according to the release.

The agricultural experiment station then conducted a “comprehensive survey of the Connecticut River from Haddam to Long Island Sound in 2019,” drawing on funding primarily provided by the Connecticut River Gateway Commission. They found 189 acres of the weed, according to the release.

“Finding such dense stands of hydrilla in a northern state is alarming and could be a result of a warming climate,” said Gregory Bugbee, who directs the CAES IAPP, in the release. “We have found small populations in several lakes, but these do not compare to the extensive areas in the Connecticut River.”

Scientists with the station said they hope “to acquire funding to survey the river from Haddam to the Massachusetts border in 2020,” allowing officials to understand the full extent of the infestation and develop next steps.

“The CAES IAPP has been working to understand and protect Connecticut’s water resources in the state since 2004 and this work on the Connecticut River adds significantly to existing knowledge of how this environment is changing,” said Jason C. White, director of the station, in the release.

Connecticut Media Group