On Wednesday night this week I spent two hours in a high school biology lab learning to identify invasive milfoil. Yes, this was as dull as it sounds. And also vitally important. Maine depends on healthy lakes for a healthy economy, and native plants and animals depend on healthy lakes for their lives.
The instructors mentioned in passing that lakes in other states are so thoroughly infested with invasive (non-native) aquatic plants that the people there have given up on trying to prevent infestations – because they have already lost this battle – and instead they MOW – yes, I said mow – their lakes, and take similar startling measures to cope with the fact that plants that do not belong in our ecosystem have nonetheless made their way here. So what? Well, non-native species of plants and animals do not have natural predators, which means they can go wild, grow wild, run amok, overrun, overtake and choke out the life of native species. (This is a gross oversimplification but I’m only a citizen scientist, after all, and besides I bet your eyes glazed over three sentences ago.)
Thursday morning, armed with scant knowledge of how to identify the type of milfoil that has taken root in at least one part of Annabessacook Lake, I trotted myself down to the water, ready to look for trouble. Okay, who am I kidding? The sun was out and the water was calm and I was itching to see what I could find through the lens of my Nikon. Happily for my budding efforts at learning to distinguish invasive milfoil from native look-a-likes – or the bad plants from the good plants – the water was clear to a depth of four feet.
I’ve attached some of my photos. The startling giraffe-neck looking thing is the root system for some of the many lily pads that camp out in my muck.