O'Hara officials take steps to rid park's pond of nuisance plants

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Squaw Valley pond in O'Hara has been invaded.

Parrot feather, a water plant with delicate, oblong-shaped leaves, has taken over the popular spot at the park along Fox Chapel Road.

“It's everywhere,” township Manager Julie Jakubec said. “We've done everything we can to try to control it. It's strangling our pond.”

So far this summer, crews have cut 1.5 tons of it from the water, Jakubec said.

“We've removed dump trucks full, but it comes back so fast,” she said of the bright green plant, which is common in southern states and grows profusely along the surface of water. It is native to South America, and stems can grow to be five feet under water.

Council has contracted Plum-based Pondscapes for remediation.

Three rounds of an organic spray will be applied at $600 each. Fish and other wildlife will not be affected, Jakubec said.

There is a downside, she said. The spray will kill all of the plant life in the pond, not just the parrot feather.

“The pond will look brown for awhile but the fish will be fine,” she said.

Members of the township's parks and recreation committee will be consulted on which plants are best to put back in the water.

Brian Shema, environmental educator at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel, said options are plentiful.

Several plants provide food and cover for fish, and some even help to add nutrients and take out heavy metals from the water, he said.

“For margins and areas that may see some seasonal water level fluctuation, Blue-flag Iris is a great option,” Shema said.

There are other good choices for areas of water up to 9 inches deep. “Some ducks favor the berries of Arum, and Pickerelweed provides attractive purple flowers on spikes,” he said.

In deeper portions of the pond, Shema said white Waterlily provides good cover for fish and Sago Pondweed is known to take heavy metals from the water. Common Buttonbush is an attractive shrub that provides seeds and nectar for birds and butterflies, he said.

“Ducks and shorebirds prefer the cover provided by this shrub because they often feed in depths where it grows,” he said.

Parrot feather isn't the only plant to take over the pond this summer. Jakubec said cattails were growing out of control and somehow, there is an entire population of Koi fish in the water, too.

“I think folks closing up their home ponds in the fall were putting plants and fish in ours,” she said. “It's not necessarily the best idea.”

Koi, for example, dig in the bed for food and stir up mud. The parrot feather has multiplied so extensively that the township couldn't even run the fountain that usually is a highlight at the pond.

“The plants look like feathers under the water and they get sucked up in the fountain pump,” she said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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