NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Bayou St. John is hosting an unwelcome visitor. FOX 8 learned about an invasive plant that’s starting to take over, and an effort to get rid of it.
A gorgeous afternoon on Bayou St. John brought Rachel Pedeaux and her brand new baby boy out for a walk. Just a couple of days ago, the water didn’t look so inviting.
“I noticed a huge amount of what looked like water lilies, and I knew that wasn’t right,” Pedeaux said.
The tiny plant can quickly become a menace.
“It only showed up a few weeks ago, and there are already large floating mats,” said Anna Timmerman, an agent with LSU AgCenter.
It’s called giant salvinia and it’s technically a fern from Brazil. The plant started showing up in Louisiana about 20 years ago.
“Depending on if the flood control structures at the lake are open or closed, or what kind of wind conditions we get, or if somebody accidentally dumps their aquarium in the bayou, it does, unfortunately, spread really quickly,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman lives nearby and has been watching the rapid progress.
“It’s highly invasive, and it spreads like wildfire,” she said.
Left unchecked, the plant can completely cover the water’s surface.
“It would look like a green swamp, kind of like what we see in Jean Lafitte.” Timmerman said.
“I hope they get it, because our waters need to stay safe,” Pedeaux said.
Faubourg St. John residents are ready to take action on their own. The neighborhood association is gathering volunteers for a Saturday morning clean-up session.
"Scooping it out and bagging it up and throwing it away or composting it is actually one of the best ways to get rid of it,” Timmerman said.
She said the people who enjoy the bayou may be its best line of defense.
“People love this bayou, and I find it hard to believe that it would get out of control without people noticing," Pedeaux said.
"The fact that people noticed so quickly and that there are already clean-up efforts for this weekend, and all the state agencies are already aware of the situation. I think it’s going to get under control soon,” said Timmerman.
For Pedeaux, it’s what makes this area home.
“We definitely have a canoe and we love to be on the water," she said. "I hope that they clean it up because the bayou is an important part of our life here.”
It’s one place where people can help keep nature in its proper balance.
Giant salvinia can be controlled with an herbicide, but the LSU AgCenter said that can have harmful side effects.
Timmerman said releasing a Brazilian beetle that feeds on the plant is also effective.