Parrot feather is native to the Amazon River in South America, but it can now be found nearly worldwide. It is thought that this plant was introduced to North America around the late 1800s. During the 20th century it colonized areas in South Africa, Japan, England, New Zealand, and Australia. As it prefers a warmer climate, it is chiefly found in the southern parts of the United States. Parrot feather is a fresh-water plant; it can be found in lakes, ponds, and streams.
Morphology and reproduction
Parrot feather is a perennial plant. As the water warms in the spring, parrot feather begins to flourish. Most plants flower in the spring; however, some also flower in the fall. Flowers of this plant are very small and white in color. Almost all plants of this species are female, in fact there are no male plants found outside of South America. Seeds are not produced in any North American plants. Parrot feather reproduces asexually. New plants grow from fragments of already rooted plants.
The plant has whorls of feathery blue-green to waxy gray-green leaves deeply cut into many narrow lobes.
Use and spread
Parrot feather is now used for indoor and outdoor aquatic use. It is a popular plant in aquatic gardens. It spreads easily and has become an invasive species and a noxious weed in many areas. The plant can be introduced to new areas when sections of its rhizome are dug up and moved. In Florida in the United States, flea beetles have been found to use parrot feather as a host for their larvae.
The parrot feather grows abundantly and shades out naturally-occurring algae, clogs irrigation ducts and canals. Herbicides have not been found very useful in controlling its growth, partly because the plant has a waxy cuticle that seals out the poison. Cutting and chopping can actually promote the plant's spread. In the U.S. states of Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and Washington, parrot feather is a declared noxious weed and is therefore banned from sale.