Mystic River Water Chestnut Update

What is that weed blanketing the Mystic River? What is that giant orange contraption sucking it up?

What you may have observed on the Mystic River this summer was removal of the invasive plant water chestnut. While water chestnut would literally take over the river from shore to shore, the Mystic River Watershed Association and many partners battled the invasive plant with the help of mechanical harvesters – those large orange contraptions – and by organizing volunteer hand-pulling events. 

Water chestnut (Trapa natans) is native to Asia, Europe and Africa. It was introduced in 1897 by a gardener as an ornamental plant in Fresh Pond in Cambridge. Since then, it has spread to rivers and lakes throughout the Commonwealth. Eradication efforts of water chestnuts in the Mystic River have been ongoing. Beginning in 2010 the Mystic River Watershed Association has aggressively combated water chestnuts by partnering with municipalities, local organizations, boat clubs, corporations and community members.

We are happy to report that in 2014 we had our most successful year yet! We hosted a record number of events this summer – 19 – by partnering with 34 corporations and community groups. All in all, we engaged more than 940 volunteers to hand-pull 6,603 baskets of water chestnuts from Whole Foods in Medford to Mystic Wellington Yacht Club across from Assembly Row. That is, of course, not to mention the 1,000 tons (2,000,000 lbs.) of water chestnuts removed by the mechanical harvester. By working together, we cleared 2.3 miles of the Mystic River of this invasive plant and filled fourteen 30-yard dumpsters with plant material!

As the fifth season of the Water Chestnut Removal Project comes to a close we have been reflecting on the amount of time and energy that goes into this project. Luckily we are not alone in what can seem like an uphill battle. We are fortunate to work with many partners in this effort, including the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, river boat and yacht clubs, Tufts University, Charles River Canoe and Kayak, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Cities of Medford and Somerville. We also enjoy strong support from our corporate partners including Wynn Resorts, Biogen Idec, AIR Worldwide and the many other local companies listed below. This invasive weed wreaks havoc on many rivers throughout New England. With continued efforts we can control water chestnuts in the Mystic…but we do need community support, and will be seeking volunteers at these fun on-the-water events again next summer!

  • AIR Worldwide

  • Biogen Idec

  • Boston Cares

  • Boston University

  • Boston Volunteers

  • Cabot Creamery

  • Cerulean Pharma

  • Charles River Canoe and Kayak

  • Chelsea Collaborative

  • City of Medford

  • City of Somerville

  • Eagle Eye Institute

  • FedEx Corporation

  • Flatbread Pizza

  • Friends of the Mystic River

  • Gentle Giant Rowing Club

  • Gerson Lehrman Group

  • Google

  • Grace Church Medford

  • Grant Thornton

  • Groundwork Somerville

  • HubSpot

  • IBM

  • Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation

  • Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

  • Medford Boat Club

  • Millennium/Takeda Pharmaceuticals

  • MIT

  • Mystic Wellington Yacht Club

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

  • New England Aquarium live blue™ Ambassadors & live blue™ Serve Corps

  • Northeastern University Outing Club

  • Redemption Hill Church

  • Redeemer Church

  • Regina’s Pizzeria

  • Riverside Yacht Club

  • Team GreenSense, City of Cambridge

  • Tufts University

  • VMware

  • Whole Foods Market Medford

  • Workers Compensation Research Institute

  • Wynn Resorts


For more information see /water-chestnut-removal-project/.