Starry stonewort confirmed in Leech Lake

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

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ST. PAUL — An invasive weed that can choke out native plants and fish habitat has been found in one of Minnesota’s largest and most popular walleye lakes, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday.

The DNR has confirmed the discovery of starry stonewort in Leech Lake, located in northwestern Minnesota. The bright green microalgae plant has now been verified in 18 of the state’s 11.842 lakes, according to the DNR, including nearby Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish.

Leech Lake is largely within the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation boundaries. It is one the 10 largest lakes in Minnesota with nearly 200 miles of shoreline, area tourism officials say.

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Starry stonewort has never been eradicated from any U.S. lake, but early detection is the key to effective management, the DNR said. It is most likely spread when fragments have not been properly cleaned from trailered boats, personal watercraft, docks, boat lifts, anchors or other water-related equipment.

The species was first discovered in Minnesota in 2015 in Lake Koronis, which is located near Paynesville in Stearns County. The state has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to combat the weed.