Invasive Asian plant found in Kansas

? Kansas wildlife officials have confirmed the state’s first wild case of hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant that can overwhelm healthy waterways.

Hydrilla, a native of Asia that is often used to decorate aquariums, could choke off other plant life if left unchecked in the pond at Black Bob Park, where it was recently found. Hydrilla can also slow water flow and clog irrigation and flood-control canals.

Kevin Corbett, director of parks and recreation for Olathe, said it’s unclear how the plant got there, but the most common way hydrilla spreads to new waters is when fragments or seeds attach to boats, boat trailers and fishing equipment.

Boats are not allowed on the Black Bob Park pond, but another culprit could be people dumping their aquariums.

Paul Krueger, park services manager, said the park’s department has long suspected that residents dump aquariums into Olathe ponds and lakes. Recently they found evidence — aquarium gravel — on the bank of the Black Bob Park pond.

A Kansas Wildlife and Parks employee noticed the growth last fall and sent a sample for testing. It was confirmed as hydrilla.

“The pond was fairly well covered in it,” Krueger said.

First discovered in 1960 in Florida, Hydrilla verticilla has spread throughout the southern states, California, Washington and Arizona. It’s been called the perfect aquatic weed and has slowly invaded northern waterways in recent years.

Olathe’s is the first case of hydrilla growing in the wild in Kansas, said Jason Goeckler, aquatic nuisance species specialist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The first official case was when Kansas officials found it growing in a restaurant’s water display.

“That was easy to eradicate,” Goeckler said.

Krueger said it will take about two years to eradicate the plant from Black Bob Park by applying the chemical floridone in the pond.

State officials are monitoring the pond and it appears on the surface that the treatment has killed the hydrilla, Krueger said. But it will take more floridone applications to make sure it’s dead.