Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating perennial aquatic plant endemic to tropical and sub-tropical areas.  With broad, thick, glossy, ovate leaves 10-20 centimeters across, the plant may rise above the water surface as much as 1 meter in height.

Water hyacinth is one of the fastest growing plants known. Without natural enemies it extends its life between 15 to 20 days.  Uncontrolled, they cover lakes and ponds entirely, dramatically affecting water flow and blocking sunlight from other aquatic plants.  It also starves the water from oxygen, often killing fishes and other water animals.  The plant also creates a prime habitat for mosquitos, the classic vectors of disease. Because of these, water hyacinth is becoming a plague and remains a major problem where effective control programs are not in place.

However, the plant also gives some benefits. It absorbs heavy metals and oil-film by purifying the water; such is applicable in various regions of the world.

To stimulate a healthy ecological balance, intensive harvesting of water hyacinth as material applied to products not just controls the plague, but also provides economic value to communities cleaning up the overpopulated water area.

The fiber from the plant is a material that is as strong as abaca and could also be soft for other applications.  Stems are dried to take the fiber and the formed strings are woven to create braids or cords for bags, footwear, wreaths, hats, vases, Christmas lanterns, and more decorative materials.

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