Summertime in the Belgrades
June 22 – 28
Milfoil Hitches a Ride North
by Lynn Matson
Non-native milfoil is an invasive plant that has the potential to greatly diminish the recreational value of our lakes, alter the balance of the ecosystem in our watershed, and adversely impact our entire community. It's a serious threat to everything we cherish and want to protect and preserve about this area.
Last fall, variable milfoil was found growing in North Bay in Great Pond. The good news is that it is confined to a relatively small part of the lake and an aggressive action plan is underway to remove it and keep it from spreading. This column is devoted to telling the milfoil story: what it is, the problems it can cause, what's being done to stop it and what you can do to help.
Where Did Invasive Milfoil Come From?
Eurasian milfoil, the species that was in Salmon Lake, was brought into this country from Southeast Asia as a fish tank plant and sold in pet stores. It's not hard to imagine how it got out. One fish tank carelessly dumped into the Potomac River in Maryland was all it took. That happened in the 1940's, and milfoil been spreading across the country ever since.
Variable milfoil, the species that is in Great Pond and Lake Messalonskee, is actually native to our southern states from Florida to Texas but very foreign and destructive elsewhere, including Maine.
All species of invasive milfoil are spread primarily by hitching a ride on boats and boat trailers. A boat pulled out of an infested lake can easily and unknowingly transport milfoil to a non-infested lake, changing it forever.
That's why the Courtesy Boat Inspection program is such an important part of our invasive plant program. And why it's so critically important for all boaters to inspect their boats and trailers before putting them in and after taking them out of any freshwater pond, lake, stream or river.
Invasive milfoil has spread throughout the U.S. all the way to our western states and into Canada. It has followed the I-95 corridor right up the east coast. Maine was one of the last states to see non-native milfoil invade its lakes. Now it's in 26 of Maine's lakes, Great Pond being one of the last to be added to the list.
Even our winters won't help. Like most perennial aquatic plants, milfoil winters over below the ice. In Minnesota, where the temperature in January regularly drops to 20 below zero, many of its renowned 10,000 lakes are loaded with milfoil.
How Does Milfoil Spread In Our Lakes?
One of the things that makes milfoil so difficult to control is the way it grows and multiplies. Under optimum conditions it can grow an inch a day!
Milfoil reproduces in three ways: by spreading along horizontal shoots, by seed, and by fragmentation. The last one is the real culprit.
When pieces of stem break off a healthy milfoil plant, they can stay alive in the water for many days. In that time the fragments can be moved around the lake by water currents, the wind, on a boat anchor line, a fisherman's hook or a hunter's decoy. When those fragments settle in a new part of the lake, the root hairs, that grow all along the stem, find their way down into the sediment and a whole new infestation breaks out.
It's because of this fragmentation capability that it's so critical for all of us to not only inspect our boats and trailers but anything that goes in the lake and might snag milfoil. And why it's equally important for everyone to stay out of all milfoil infested areas.
Great Pond Milfoil Action Plan Update
The BRCA milfoil team has removed and repaired all the benthic barriers and completed construction of new ones. Last week they laid nine barriers in Great Meadow Stream and pulled 150 gallons of milfoil. New England Milfoil will resume milfoil pulling operations on June 25.
The Stop Milfoil Capital Campaign has received $134,980 from 180 individual donors. To get more information, to volunteer, or to donate, call