Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Troubled waters

Not all invasive plants are found in woods and wetlands. Aliens also harm lakes, ponds and streams. Witness water thyme, which a UConn professor called “one of the world's worst weeds” and the director of the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England described as “a thug.”

Imported from Africa as an aquarium plant, Hydrilla verticillata clogs lakes and streams, pushes out native species of plants, fish and birds, and can even halt boat traffic. Across the nation hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent battling water thyme, using everything from herbicides to a Hydrilla leaf-mining fly from Pakistan.

While one group of scientists looks at how to kill Hydrilla, another eyes it from a different angle. Researchers have found water thyme is rich source of proteins, calcium, potassium, lipids, carotenoids, RNA, DNA, magnesium, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B12, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, 17 amino acids, and essential enzymes. Some claim it's an effective muscle builder and energy enhancer. University studies indicate it may be an appetite suppressant.

And that's just for humans. The University of Florida has found that water thyme increases the yield of milk in dairy cattle and the egg-laying capacity of hens.

So maybe there's another answer to controlling this latest invasive thug: Let’s all eat it.

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