It was dusk on the first of June and I was standing on a floating fishing pier armed with a garden rake. The pier jostled to and fro under the boots of a pair of teenage fishermen who eyed me quizzically. I must have looked ridiculous; surrounded by water, holding a farm implement like some surrealist’s reinterpretation of American Gothic. Ignoring their stares, I surveyed the murky lake. The water was dark and still; its surface quieted by a dense mat of small white flowers which formed a weedy skirt around the lake.
I was there that evening, absurd tool in hand, because the curlyleaf pondweed was in bloom. Understated and drab, the flowers were almost imperceptible. The real color show will come with the heat of July and August when these early aquatic plants die. Triggered by the excess nutrients from so much decomposing organic matter, the lake will transform into an algal pea green soup.
That, however, was yet to come. At the moment I needed specimens. Incredulous teenage eyes at my back, I thrust the rake into the tannic water and pulled up a thick mass of pondweed with snails and bloodsuckers in tow. Destined to become part of a collagraph, an impression of this seaweed would soon be printed over a reduction woodcut of another invasive species, common carp.
Curlyleaf pondweed was an accidental stowaway brought over with the intentional introduction of carp well over a hundred years ago. Since then, they have proven to be an insidiously perfect pair as they both – in complimentary ways – reduce the clarity and water quality of the lakes they occupy.
Before leaving, I paused to glance over the railing at the space where I had removed rake-fulls of aquatic vegetation. Like the animated vines in campy horror films, the vacancy had already been filled by more bobbing flower heads reaching for the surface.