Eurasian milfoil, gross yet useful

Read the full story in The Journal.

It’s nice when something gross turns out to be useful (like how sheep sweat, lanolin, makes chewing gum softer.) So I’m happy to report, in answer to a reader’s question some time ago, that, yes, Eurasian milfoil harvested from area lakes can be used in helpful ways, including as a soil amendment, fertilizer and even mulch.

First, though, if you’re not sure what Eurasian milfoil is, it’s that stringy, slimy plant that those big, blue boat harvesters remove from the lakes every summer. First detected in Minnesota in Lake Minnetonka in 1987, it is an invasive aquatic species that has spread to waterways across the state. The plant produces thick mats on the surface of the water and tangled stems and masses below, making it difficult, if not impossible, to swim and boat enjoyably. It can also disturb aquatic ecosystems by displacing native aquatic plants.

Acres of milfoil are removed from Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes annually by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s mechanical harvesters. The machines usually cut off the top 3 to 4 feel of the plant, which can grow up to 15-feet long (super spooky to swim through). If you walk the paths around the lakes, you’ve probably seen (and smelled) piles of it onshore or at the boat launch.

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