Water Hyacinth – Water Weed or Livestock Feed?

Eichhornia Crassipes (Water Hyacinth)

water hyacitnh invasive weed or livestock feed

Invasive? But…..it’s so beautiful.

According to the University of Florida, it’s labeled the “Worst Floating Weed“. If you’re not familiar, water hyacinth is a rapidly multiplying floating water plant.  It’s considered invasive in many countries and illegal in many US states.   In favorable conditions it can double in population every 12 days and as it grows, it creates a connected web of plants that can stretch all the way across bodies of water. Currently, there is no known way to get rid of it.  In Florida, you’d probably be better off getting caught transporting cocaine than water hyacinth. (seriously…..it’s a big deal in FL!)

Water Hyacinth as Livestock Feed

What do you do with a plant that everyone hates and grows like a weed?  Figure out how to turn it into food!  Coincidentally, water hyacinth makes an excellent supplement to chicken and duck feed.  It’s also been tested on cattle, geese, and swine. Various studies from the Ministry of Ag. in TanzaniaAn Giang University in VietnamCelAgrid in CambodiaCantho University in Vietnam and the FAO United Nations verify water hyacinth’s usability as livestock feed.  The main problem is in harvesting it.  Collecting it is a wet muddy mess and we don’t have a good efficient way as of yet.

In our Aquaponics system, as you can see below, water hyacinth collection is quite simple.

Other Benefits of Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth pulls metals and toxins out of water supplies and can be used to help filter small pond and aquaculture systems and reduce algae.  It acts as an oxygenater and is an excellent water clarifier. Its foliage provides shade and its roots provide filtration.   The beautiful purple flowers also offer an aesthetic value to any watery area.Surprisingly enough, you can eat it!  We’ve fried the small bulbs in pork fat.  They don’t taste like much, but they’re a free snack.  The flowers can be mixed into stir fry and have no adverse effects.  The young leaves can be eaten cooked and raw, however they may cause itching in some individuals.   It’s something fun to try out.

It originated in South America, but below is an account of how it made its way into US waters. 

Water hyacinth originated in tropical South America, but is naturalized in warm areas of the world: Central America, California and southern states, Africa, India, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, the latter where it is illegal so eat it fast. It was introduced to the United States in 1884 at an exposition in New Orleans. A Florida visitor to the exposition returned home with water hyacinth and subsequently released them into the St. Johns River. He later said the citizens of the state should thank him for what he did. The view now is they should have hanged him. While water hyacinth does not like winter temperatures, it can be found in many protected spots in northern states such as Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York even adjoining Canada.
– Green Deans Profile on Water Hyacinth

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