Elephant Ear Management
Elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) is a popular ornamental plant that, when planted along creeks and rivers, often escapes cultivation. Although it is not prohibited, it is highly invasive. This plant spreads downstream when clumps or bulb-like roots break away during periods of high river flows. It rapidly invades and dominates river and streamside areas. Elephant ear has become a serious problem in some areas of the Hill Country where it can form 8-foot tall stands and crowd out the native vegetation.
Upper Llano River
For many years, TPWD has partnered with Texas Tech University, Llano River Watershed Alliance, and an army of volunteers to monitor and manage elephant ear along the upper Llano near Junction, including the South Llano River State Park. Two to three times per year, teams of kayakers paddle more than 25 miles of this scenic river in search of elephant ear and apply precise spot treatments of aquatic herbicide. Control efforts continue to expand downstream, ultimately building toward a watershed-scale approach to elephant ear control.
Management has been very effective. Native plant communities have quickly rebounded without help through passive revegetation. However, ongoing monitoring will be needed for many years to catch new plants and resprouts until the plants’ energy is exhausted. These efforts will continue to expand downstream. Anyone interested in volunteering to help is encouraged to contact us at AquaticInvasives@tpwd.texas.gov.
Gorman Creek at Colorado Bend State Park has also been plagued by a massive elephant ear infestation. In recent years it has grown out of control and begun to spread down the face of the falls to the pools below. Elephant ear slows the flow of water to the magnificent Gorman Falls and has negative impacts on fish and wildlife habitat above the falls. Since late 2017, TPWD staff and volunteers have worked together to manage this invasive plant, restore habitat, and increase public awareness of the harm caused by elephant ear invasion. In less than a year, we’ve seen dramatic changes in the habitat with far fewer, smaller elephant ears and healthy regrowth of native grasses and flowers. Management and restoration efforts continue to expand and visitors to the park are encouraged to come check out this demonstration of a restoration in progress.