Do not take aquatic plants from a lake or stream

Moving water plants from a lake to anywhere such as your private pond is illegal and may introduce aquatic invasive species into your own backyard.

Adding the sound of water or introducing a body of water (even if it is a small pool) to a landscape can be a very relaxing feature. Some research suggests that bodies of water create a calming effect for humans. People love to put out bird baths, create patio fountains, build garden ponds, waterscape larger ponds and wetland areas near our homes, and live near lakes and streams.

As with any landscape and garden, we often add additional aquatic plants and animals to these bodies of water. When these organisms are not native to Michigan, the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS) increases, and bringing in rare or exotic aquatic species items can result in introduction of an AIS. In Michigan, some of these AIS were introduced accidentally from migrating waterfowl or ballast water from ships and boats; others were intentionally introduced through pondscaping, and dumping of bait, emptying aquariums, into ponds, streams and lakes.

Every region has some kind of AIS. Some of the more famous are purple loosestrife, Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussel, common reed or Phragmites, goldfish/carp, and flowering rush. Some of the newer bad players are curly pondweed, European frogbit, rusty crayfish, spiny water fleas and round goby. These species are either listed as prohibited or restricted by the State of Michigan. By bringing in plants and animals from open bodies of water you risk bringing in existing invasive species into your own backyard. Many AIS only require a small bit of plant material or tiny unseen larvae to be mixed in with what may appear to be only native plants.

If you are pondscaping or lakescaping your backyard pond, it is recommended that you purchase native plants and from a reputable source. Avoid using plants for your pond that are sold for aquariums, as these are rarely able to adapt to outdoor environments and are often non-native. When choosing fish for your pond, make sure that you take precaution so that the fish cannot escape into the environment. Check to make sure you are not purchasing plants and animals that are restricted or prohibited by the state of Michigan; these organisms are commonly sold though pond stores, fish stores and on the internet. Miniature cattails and miniature water lilies are non-native plants in Michigan. Consider suitable alternative native plants such as watershield in place of water lilies and American bur-reed in place of (invasive) narrow leafed cattail. If you are purchasing native plants know it is recommended that you don’t shop by common names but by their scientific nomenclature to be certain that you get the right plant.

Creating and managing a backyard pond or water garden can be both challenging and rewarding. You are creating an ecosystem or restoring habitat in your miniature pond or along your lake property. When disposing of excess pond plants put them in your compost or in a sealed bag in your trash. Never release plants or fish from your pond into another body of water. Pond management is much like being a responsible pet owner in ensuring that your actions are not contributing to a greater problem with AIS introductions.

If you or your lake association is interested in learning more about invasive aquatic invasive species, watercraft checkpoints education or in a volunteer training to educate boaters at local public launches contact Beth Clawson at For more information about Clean Boats Clean Waters Aquatic Invasive Species program or other water quality concerns contact Michigan State University Extension. Water quality educators are working across Michigan to provide natural resources water quality educational programming and assistance.

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