How to Prepare and Mail Aquatic Plants for Identification 

What is that plant?

We encourage lake residents to be aware of changes in the aquatic plants growing in their lake. Sometimes these changes are the result of seasonal conditions - hot sunny summers may cause increased plant growth - but sometimes these changes mean that a nonnative aquatic plant, like Eurasian watermilfoil, has been introduced to the lake.

If you notice an aquatic plant whose growth seems excessive or atypical, we would like to help you identify it (Washington State residents only please). If it is a nonnative noxious plant, we can suggest some management options. If it is a native plant, its increased growth may be in response to excess nutrients entering the lake. In that case, we may suggest working with your neighbors and the local government to control nutrient sources to the lake.

If you would like to have that aquatic plant identified--here's the steps you need to follow 

How to Collect Aquatic Plant

You can collect an underwater plant by dropping a weighted rake to the bottom of the waterbody and pulling up the plants snagged by the rake. When possible, collect the entire plant, including the roots, stems, flowers or fruits. (The flower and fruits of many aquatic plants often stick up above the water in a spike-like arrangement). 

If it isn't possible to collect the entire plant, get as much of it as you can; not just the top few inches. Some plants have floating leaves and underwater leaves; be sure to include both types of leaves. Wash the plant in clean water to remove algae, debris, and other adhering materials. Don't allow the plant to dry out. 

Make notes of the date, location, collector's name and address, and some details about the site where you collected the plant.

Photographing the Plant 

Most people have digital cameras. We learned that digital photographs often could give us enough detail to enable us to identify the plant without having to handle the plant. Remove the plant from the water and photograph it. If the plant is flowering or has seeds, be sure and take photographs of these features. Then email the photographs to either Jenifer Parsons or Kathy Hamel (email addresses are below). If we can't identify the plant from the photographs, we may ask to you take more photographs or to mail in a specimen. Note: you may want to reduce the electronic size of the photographs before emailing them.

Mailing the Plant 

After you wash the plant and ensure that it is free of debris, lay it carefully on a damp paper towel. Wet the towel and squeeze most of the water out before arranging the plant neatly as if you were going to press it in a book. Lay another paper towel on top of the plant so that it is sandwiched between the two damp paper towels. Place the plant in a watertight plastic bag, such as a ZipLockā„¢ bag and put it in a regular-size envelope for mailing. Be sure to include your name, address, E-mail address, telephone number, and a copy of the notes you made when collecting the plant. Try to mail the plant on a Monday to minimize the time the plant spends in transit. Poorly prepared plants or plants that sit in hot conditions often arrive in such poor shape that we cannot identify them. 

Call or E-mail ahead to make sure that somebody will be there to identify your plants when they arrive. This is important because we can't identify gooey and rotten plants. 

Send plants to:

Jenifer Parsons
Washington Department of Ecology
15 West Yakima Ave -- Suite 200
Yakima, WA 98902-3452

Send E-mail to Jenifer:

Kathy Hamel
Washington State Department of Ecology
P.O. Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600

Send E-mail to Kathy:

What Happens Next?

When we receive the plant (assuming it arrives in good condition), we will identify it and notify you by telephone, by E-mail, or in writing of the plant identification. Some aquatic plants are very difficult to identify as to species--so we can't guarantee that we can provide you with the species name. We can confirm whether it is a nonnative, noxious weed or a native plant and whether it is likely to become a nuisance. If it is a nonnative noxious weed, we can suggest control options. Sometimes, funding options are available. If it is a native plant, we may suggest nutrient reduction measures