Camalote: a very invasive plant

What type of plant is the camalot? It is a floating aquatic plant that, although a priori may seem harmless and very pretty, it has enormous destructive potential as an invasive plant in certain environments. The so-called water lily or water hyacinth has been used and is used on many occasions for the decoration of aquatic gardens or small ponds, but without the necessary maintenance and vigilance, it can cause serious damage to the environment, as occurs with the camalot in the Guadiana river , in Spain.

Camalote Characteristics

Apart from the camalote plant , there are many names that this aquatic plant receives: water hyacinth, water violet, water lily, water lily, bora flower, aguapey, reyna, water buchón, lechuguín, tarope or tarulla, being also its scientific name Eichhornia crassipes .

  • It is a floating aquatic plant , whose roots float in the aquatic environment instead of being fixed to a substrate. Thus, the river gutter develops by forming groups or islets that float together on the water surface, being able to be displaced enormous distances with the natural flows of the water.
  • Under ideal conditions, with high temperatures and nutrient-rich waters, it can reach heights of more than a meter with short roots, while, if there is a shortage of food, the plant reverses its priorities and concentrates its energies on developing a root system more extensive, leaving a smaller aerial part.
  • Why can the camalote float on water? One of the most striking adaptations of the camalote is its stem, which is what allows it to float with ease. When we look at what the stem of the camalot looks like, it is very striking to see the enlarged part that it forms near its birth, with an oval or swollen shape that may be reminiscent of tubers or tuberous roots. However, in the case of the camalot, this is nothing more than a hollow part that functions as a flotation organ and that allows the plant to float, despite its considerable size.
  • The camalot flower is also striking , very showy and of great ornamental value. The inflorescences appear in prized flower spikes of lilac or violet tones, which is why the plant is often used in water gardens or ponds.

Camalote: a very invasive plant - Characteristics of the Camalote

Why the camalote is an invasive plant in Spain and what are its effects

The origin of the camalote is in South America, specifically in the Amazon . It is, therefore, a plant of tropical climates, which develops especially well in warm waters.

The plant has found in the Guadiana River a particularly suitable habitat for its reproduction, having become a serious threat to the biodiversity of the environment. And it is that the camalote is not only an invasive plant in the Guadiana , but it is considered one of the 100 most dangerous invasive species in the world , having caused problems in other areas. However, the situation of the Guadiana is one of the most important, being the only case in which the plant is located in the middle section of the river, instead of being at its mouth. In addition, the variety of camalote present in Extremadura is also the one with the most aggressive reproduction in terms of speed and efficiency.

The effects it causes on the freshwater ecosystem are very diverse.

  • In controlled quantities, the plant has a great capacity to capture sediment and organic matter in the water, acting as a filter and helping to maintain cleaner and clearer water.
  • Without control, however, it covers the entire surface in a very short time, generating a huge amount of organic matter that dries up and decomposes when the plant dies, seriously altering the composition of the water.
  • By blocking the passage of light, it limits the growth of other aquatic plants and algae, as well as stopping or hindering the circulation of water.
  • They reduce the temperature of the water, take its nutrients and can consume the oxygen from it.

Thus, while in small quantities the effects of the camalot on ecosystems are beneficial, providing shelter and food for animals, when it occupies the entire surface, or covers almost the entire surface, it acts drastically by doing the opposite and being very harmful. for the biodiversity of the area, being able to cause its displacement and disappearance.

Apart from knowing the water hyacinth as an invasive species, here we talk more about invasive plants: what they are and examples and also about invasive species: what they are, examples and consequences , since not only are there plants that invade ecosystems, but also there are cases of animals and other living beings that, when entering ecosystems other than their usual one, can invade it and displace native species or even cause their extinction.

Camalote: a very invasive plant - Why the camalote is an invasive plant in Spain and what are its effects

How the camalote got to the Guadiana river

Before the prohibition of its sale and possession in Spain in 2011 , the plant could be purchased in any gardening or aquaculture establishment in a normal way, almost always recommended for its great decorative value in ponds.

It is valued that the most probable thing is that the camalote reached the Guadiana River , in Spain, through an individual who had acquired it and simply tried to get rid of it there, as happens with other invasive species such as, for example, Florida turtles (which For this reason, they also ended up being prohibited in homes as a companion animal). Other hypotheses point to its possible arrival camouflaged involuntarily among rice seeds from places where the plant is naturally found, or that it reached the river through seeds deposited in machinery that was working in Brazil.Camalote: a very invasive plant - How the camalote got to the Guadiana riverImage: ElAgoraDiario

How camalotes reproduce

Camalots reproduce sexually and asexually . Like all flowering plants, sexually by pollination . However, its most numerous and dangerous method of propagation is asexual reproduction that the plant carries out laterally by stolons .

Stolons are a type of specialized stems for plant reproduction, which grow laterally when the temperature is high and the ideal conditions give rise to new plants at high speed, forming islands on the surface of the water in a very short time.

Camalote: A Very Invasive Plant - How Camalotes Reproduce

How to remove the Camalote

Since it is not possible to use herbicides in environments such as Guadiana, the removal of the camalote must be carried out mechanically , with industrial machinery when possible, and manually when there is no other option.

In the Guadiana, floating barriers are used that prevent the plant from moving freely throughout the river, but occasional floods and other factors can cause them to fail, releasing tons and tons of this plant through the river bed.

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