From the Amazon basin to Africa’s Lake Victoria, to India’s Kerala Blackwaters and the murky fluids of Pasig River, the Eichhornia crassipes is one indomitable aquatic plant. Commonly known as Water Lilly in the Philippines, it possesses qualities that could be the envy of flora and fauna.
First, its perennial nature allows it to live long and prosper. Second, before the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, the water hyacinth can already breed clonally (through runners or stolons) and/or sexually (by giving out thousands of seeds a year), multiplying its population exponentially without a second thought. Third, it thrives at a wide range of habitat temperature, from 12 °C to 35 °C. Making it one of the most invasive plants in the aquatic world; blocking off sunlight and oxygen from aquatic life. As well as becoming a breeding ground for mosquitos. All in all, mankind has met its match in environmental destruction.
However, wealth can come in the unlikeliest places. Forced to deal with the Water Lilly problem, creativity took over.
Water Hyacinth clogged waterways became harvesting grounds. The long stems made of soft yet strong fibers could be dried and a new material for crafting was born. Dark green and mature stems indicate that the plant is ready to be dyed. The color deepens when sun-kissed. Sun-drying is a 7-day process whereiInsect repellant must be applied on the 6th to prevent it from infestations.
Currently, studies are being made to help improve the drying process for maximum yield. Hitting three birds with one stone: this solution controls Water Hyacinth population while creating livelihood for the locals, and inspiring Filipino creativity where the plant abounds.
Old dogs do change spots and learn new tricks, it just depends on how they are handled. The once ecologically destructive plant has become one of the world’s best eco solution.
More on the infamous Water Lilly solution in the next blog!