August 22, 2015

Tense Moments Identifying an Aquatic Plant on Androscoggin Lake

Filed under: Events & News,Lake Observations — Buddy @ 12:45 am

There are currently 24 water bodies in the state of Maine which have been identified with infestations of invasive aquatic plants.  Looking at the current invasives map published by the Maine DEP, it is easy to see that the majority of infestations in Maine are of variable water-milfoil.  Last year, only 23 water bodies were on the list of invasive plant infestations.  Sadly, the 24th lake to be added this year was Annabessacook Lake, in Winthrop.   The good news is that early detection of variable water-milfoil on Annabessacook has allowed concentrated efforts by both the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP) and the Maine DEP to make good progress toward possibly eliminating this nasty invasive from Annabessacook.

While 24 water bodies is still less than 1% of the total number of water bodies in our state, an inspection of the invasives map quickly highlights the threat to our own beautiful lake.  The proximity of other infested water bodies to our north, south, east, and west is alarming.

Boat inspections are vital to keeping invasives out of our lake.   And, our lake association, ALIC, continues to promote inspections both through education and by sponsoring a program of Courtesy Boat Inspections at the state launch.

But, when the first line of defense fails, early detection is key.  Early detection can help to isolate an infestation to a small area, increasing the chances of eradication.   Last year, ALIC rolled out an “eyes on the water” initiative for Androscoggin Lake.  This program helps people to adopt small segments of shoreline around the lake and to become familiar with the native plants in both their adopted segments and around the lake.   By learning how to identify what is native to our lake, participants in the program quickly learn how to send out an alert when something suspicious, or unfamiliar, is found.  ALIC provides participants with one-on-one hands-on training, tools, resources, and support.

Yesterday, I went out with a new “eyes on the water” volunteer, Alberta Messer, to harvest aquatic plants in her adopted lake segment near her camp, around Davis point, and into the western end of the cove near the Yacht Club.  This was something of a training exercise, with focus on how to best collect aquatic plants for further inspection.

This afternoon, I met with Alberta again to continue our training exercise by identifying all of the plants that we had seen and collected the day before.   Everything seemed fairly routine;  I’ve already trained a number of participants;  and, I wasn’t really expecting any surprises.   But, then, as we were starting to wrap up the identification part of our training, we found some milfoil!

Okay, yes, milfoil!   But, no reason to panic yet.   There are actually several varieties of milfoil which are native to Maine lakes.  And, in fact, plant patrol teams on our lake have identified at least one native milfoil in our lake, alternate-flowered water-milfoil.   While it is not commonly found in our lake, it is present, and it is native.

We inspected the harvested specimen closely.   It had whorls of finely divided feathered leaves, typical of many milfoils, both native and invasive.  Each whorl of leaves was typically comprised of 4 leaves, but a few with 3.  Each leaf had 5 to 7 leaflet pairs.   And, each whorl was about 4 cm apart.   Looking at the Leafy Milfoil Comparison Chart, we came to the conclusion that this was either variable water-milfoil (invasive) or alternate-flowered water-milfoil (native).

Did we have an invasive on our hands? … tense moments ensued.  This did not quite look like any variable water-milfoil specimen that I had seen in the past.   But, perhaps, it was just an immature specimen.  Frankly, I did start to panic a bit.  I called Debbie Hite, ALIC Executive Director and plant identification expert, to let her know what we had found.   Debbie rushed over.  She, too, felt that the plant was likely alternate-flowered water-milfoil (native), especially given its small size and only a pinkish, rather than reddish, stem.   But, given that this was certainly a variety of milfoil, we decided it best to follow protocol for any and all milfoils and to submit the sample to the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP) for absolute identification.

I was able to deliver our specimen to VLMP by 4:30pm today.   And, luckily, VLMP was able to confirm that our specimen was, in fact, alternate-flowered water-milfoil (native).   Sigh of relief …

The whorls on our specimen were distinct, evenly spaced, and of small diameter;   the stem was pinkish, rather than reddish.  An invasive variable water-milfoil specimen would have sported whorls that were so closely spaced that it would be difficult to distinguish one whorl from the next;  and, whorls would be of larger diameter.

Everyone who has any connection with Androscoggin Lake is certainly concerned with the threat of invasive species to our lake.  Whether you are an ALIC member, a lake shore resident, a resident of Leeds or Wayne, or an occasional visitor to our lake, please do your part.   Inspect your boats for potential hitchhikers.  If you are a business or campground on the lake, put in place a program of voluntary inspections.   Volunteer to help out with our courtesy boat inspection program.   And, participate in our “eyes on the water” program by adopting a lake segment;   monitoring your lake segment can require as little as 2 hours per year of your time!

To find out more about either the “courtesy boat inspection” program or the “eyes on the water” program, send e-mail to

To date, there are no known infestations of invasive aquatic plants on Androscoggin Lake.   Let’s all what we can in helping to keep it that way!



  1. Thanks for your commitment and watchfulness! Good job.

    Comment by Bill Nye — August 22, 2015 @ 2:02 pm

  2. Thanks for this update and for your hard work on behalf of all of us who love the lake.

    Comment by John Haile — August 24, 2015 @ 12:15 am

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