Water hyacinth

Eichhornia crassipes
Water hyacinth: Eichhornia crassipes Water hyacinth: Eichhornia crassipes

Common name:

Water hyacinth

Scientific name:

Eichhornia crassipes (Pontederiaceae)

Alternative common names:

Nile lily (English); waterhiasint; Nyllelie; snotterbel (Afrikaans); amazibo (isiZulu)

A perennial aquatic plant, free-floating or anchored in shallow water, usually 10-20cm high but up to 1m when growing in dense mats. It has dark shiny green leaves in rosettes with distinctive, swollen, bladder-like petioles. Pale violet or blue flowers in 8-10 flowered spikes appear from November to April. This aquatic plant invades dams and slow-moving rivers.

Additional Info

  • Where does this species come from?

    South America.

    What is its invasive status in South Africa?

    Existing legislation: CARA 2002 – Category 1 NEMBA – Category 1b

    Where in South Africa is it a problem?

    Throughout many waterways in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State and Mpumalanga. It is particularly problematic along vast stretches of the Vaal River.

    How does it spread?

    It produces flowers and seeds, otherwise it reproduces by runners.

    Why is it a problem?

    Forms dense mats which completely cover the water surface leading to altered water chemistry and composition at the detriment of other organisms.

    What does it look like?

    General description: Perennial, aquatic plant, free-floating or anchored in shallow water, usually 10-20cm high but up to 1m when growing in dense mats; roots of floating plants long and feathery. Leaves: Dark shiny green occurring in rosettes with swollen, bladder-like petioles growing above the surface of the water. Flowers: Pale violet or blue, in 8-10 flowered spikes, upper petal with a prominent dark blue, yellow-centred patch. Flowers from November-April. Fruit/Seeds: Produces capsules with very fine seed.

    Does the plant have any uses?

    Used as a fishpond or water feature ornamental.

    Plant me instead alternatives

    White water-lily (Nymphaea lotus), blue water-lily (Nymphaea nouchali), small yellow water-lily (Nymphoides thunbergiana)