Lake Victoria is the
second largest freshwater lake in the world. It covers nearly 27,000
square miles, an area roughly the same size as the Central American country of
Costa Rica. Bordered by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the lake serves as a
valuable resource to the region providing food, potable water, hydroelectric
power, and transportation.
Lake Victoria and surrounding area
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia
Crassipes) is a free floating water plant that is native to South
America. It can vary in size from a few inches tall to over three
feet. This plant has blue-green leaves, thick stalks and a showy purple or
lavender flower. It thrives in tropical regions and in waters that are
high in nutrients.
The main way water
hyacinth reproduces is for a mother plant to send out a stalk which grows a
daughter plant, which matures and sends out another daughter plant, and so
on. It is common to find several generations among one stand of hyacinths,
as the plants often remain entangled in a large mass. Hyacinths can also
reproduce through seed, but the seeds must germinate in very shallow, muddy
areas. A seed dropped in relatively deep water is unlikely to ever
grow. Rarer still is the possibility of the hyacinth to regenerate from a
plant fragment. It may be able to do so, but it would
take ideal conditions and several months for a whole plant to form.
Aquatic plant line drawing is the copyright property of the
University of Florida Center for Aquatic Plants (Gainesville). Used with
Although no one is sure
exactly when the water hyacinth first entered the lake, it most certainly
traveled down the Kagera River which empties into Lake Victoria. Satellite
photos taken of Lake Victoria in 1996 showed that hyacinths covered nearly one
percent of the immense lake. This figure is now estimated as high as three
The Kenyan coastline
and Port of Kisumu have been particularly hard hit by this menacing weed. Huge mats have paralyzed the area, at times preventing even large boats from
leaving the harbor.