Yellow Floating Heart is today’s invasive species of concern. This aquatic plant is a perennial invasive species native to Eurasia, and is now established on Long Island and in the Hudson valley. Floating Yellow Heart is named for its floating heart shaped leaves, 1-4” in diameter, that rest on the water’s surface, while attached to a stem rooted in the bottom sediment. It also has a five petaled yellow flower rising above its leaves on a separate stalk, the petals have a distinct straight center panel and ragged edges.

This plant spreads easily with its hairy seeds and through fragmentation. This means any plant part carried into a water body can grow into a new plant and start an entirely new colony. Once established, this plant grows densely, shading out other plants that grow below and making navigation through the water difficult for boaters and swimmers. Yellow Floating Heart colonies also stagnate the water, lowering oxygen levels for fish and lake dwellers and creating ideal habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

To prevent this invasive from making its way to Central New York waters, remember to clean, drain, and dry your boats, including kayaks, canoes, jet skis, and paddle boards. All fishing gear should also be cleaned and dried either with a towel or by sitting in the sun for five days. Because of the nature of this plant any stray root or leaf attached to your gear is enough to transport the species. If you enjoy water recreation in Cortland County daily or occasionally invasive species prevention is something you need to be aware of if we hope to maintain the aquatic ecosystems we all love.

If you want to learn more about how to identify aquatic invasive species and measures to control them in New York State there will be a series of videos released on Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute Youtube channel this week. Every day a new 30 minute video will be release as part of NYS Invasive Species Awareness Week.


Hopefully you are aware that Aquatic Invasive Species are a threat to local water bodies and natural lands. This week is New York State Invasive species awareness week, so there is no better time to learn more than the present. One new species of concern is the Chinese Mystery Snail. It was discovered recently in Melody Lake, located near the town of Willet. They were likely released from aquariums into the Niagara River in the 1940s, but this is the first time they have been found in Cortland County. This is an example of why you should never release exotic pets, including plants, into local waterways. Because of their abundance, their shells litter shorelines and become a nuisance to people who just want to enjoy the lake. This snail is invasive, outcompeting local snails and disrupting aquatic food chains. These invertebrates also carry  parasites that are a threat to fish and waterfowl. There are currently no chemical control options that could kill the snails without harming other lake inhabitants, so prevention is crucial. To stop these snails from traveling to other water bodies in the area, boaters should remember to Clean, Drain, and Dry their water craft. This means cleaning off visible plants and mud, draining live wells, bilge, and bait containers onto dry land away from water, and then allowing the boat and all fishing gear to dry, or use a towel to get remaining water. These steps make sure aquatic invasives like the mystery snails (full sized adults and their tiny larvae) are not surviving transport from one recreation spot to another.  By taking a little extra time before you go out on the water you can prevent these snails from coming to a favorite lake near you. To find out more about how these snails and other tiny aquatic invasive species can be transported, there is a free presentation by Dr. Kim Shultz of SUNY ESF about what her research team found on and in boats in the 2019 season. It is this Friday, June 12th, from 1-2pm. Click here to register.

Invasive Species Awareness Week 2020

Although this summer is looking very different than any of us expected a few months ago, one thing hasn’t changed: the boating and water recreation opportunities in the Finger Lakes region. While social distancing and taking precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 you can still boat with your family on Little York Lake, fish in the Tioughnioga, and kayak at Tully Lake. While getting outside and spending time with your family or quiet time alone, it is important to remember that something else also hasn’t changed: the threat of invasive species to New York State waters and lands. But the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District is still here to help with our Stop the Invasion program. This week, June 7th-13th, is New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week and we want to make sure everyone is informed and prepared so they can have a safe and enjoyable summer season.

Recently the prolific Chinese Mystery Snails were discovered at Melody Lake in the south east corner of Cortland County. These snails out compete native snails, altering the food chain, and carry parasites that affect local fish and waterfowl. They are nearly impossible to get rid of once introduced into a water body, so preventing the spread is key. There is also the Round goby, with its black spotted dorsal fin and suction cup like pelvic fins. This fish, which is not yet in Cortland County, out competes native fish and eats their eggs, so keeping it out of our waters is important for good fishing stock.

Though there are many aquatic invasive species that threaten local waterways the same steps can be used against all of them: Clean, Drain, and Dry. Cleaning your watercraft, from paddle boards and kayaks to pontoon boats and jet skis, and letting all fishing gear and equipment dry before traveling to another waterbody should kill any invasive you may have picked up along the way. Also make sure to never dump bait buckets and live wells filled elsewhere into local water bodies, but empty them on dry land between trips. To help with these efforts SWCD has installed a brand new boat cleaning station near the entrance to Little York Lake. It has a wet vacuum, air blower, and hand tools available so boaters can inspect and clean their craft and trailers before they enter and after they leave the lake. It is free to the public and will be up and running throughout the season. There is also a boat steward on staff, out most weekends talking to boaters, collecting data on what species are here, and helping with inspections. Some species can survive up to thirty days on your boat, so diligence and constant awareness are important. You can do your part by remembering to Clean, Drain, and Dry every  

time you bring your boat to a new location in the county, state, or country.

To help prevent the spread of terrestrial invasive species like weeds and pests it is important to remove mud and plant material from your shoes so bugs, seeds, and plants parts are not brought from one hiking spot to another. For these same reasons camping gear and mountain bikes should also be washed and cleaned off between uses. To help with this there are boot brush stations for public use located at the entrances to many area parks to clean off your boots before and after your walk. There is one at Dwyer Park right near the trail map.

It is an uncertain world, but you can help our community by taking your time preparing for outdoor activities with Clean, Drain, and Dry measures and by cleaning your boots and camping gear. Then you can feel safe knowing you are doing your part to stop the spread of invasive species and protect local waters and lands that are so important to the Central New York and Cortland County way of life, now more than ever.