Hippo draped in water hyacinth weedCaption: Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) surfaces through a blanket of water hyacinth covering a section of the Letaba River, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/100; Aperture: f/8; ISO: 400.

Left: Another hippo emerges from the water draped in water hyacinth, showing the extent of the weed in this section of river, where it extends from bank to bank.

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), while looking quite pretty with its green leaves and mauve flowers is a rampant invasive alien, widely recognized as one of the world’s worst weeds.

The plant is a native of the Amazon, but tolerates a wide range of climatic and aquatic conditions, allowing infestation across a range of latitudes and climates.

When uncontrolled, water hyacinth will quickly blanket entire dams, lakes and stretches of river, dramatically impeding water flow, blocking sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, starving the water of oxygen and leading to death of fish and turtles.

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