Lily Pond is a small rain-fed pool of water at the eastern end of Golden Gate Park that has been hammered in the local news lately. A recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle said green duckweed coating the surface of the pond was a burden to wildlife and ugly. Another story titled “San Francisco’s Killer Frogs a Statewide Threat,” claimed African clawed frogs, an aggressive invasive species that plagues the pond, now number up to 10,000 in population.
Talk about dramatizing nature for the sake of selling a story…
It’s true that Lily Pond is currently covered with a layer of duckweed, a member of the world’s smallest flowering aquatic plant family. The bright green floating plant thrives in slow moving, nutrient rich water and is found throughout Golden Gate Park, not to mention much of the world. As an interesting aside, the fast-growing plant has been intensely studied as a biofuel, its ability to reduce water pollution, and as a good food source for humans and animals.
What struck me as ridiculous, or maybe just lazy, in the Chronicle story were the opening paragraphs, which cast the duckweed as harassing wildlife:
“The plant coated turtles as they tried to sun themselves Thursday. A family of ducks struggled to swim through the layer of green. The handful of tourists who walked by paused only to say the weed was “unattractive.’”
Even if you’re not a plant nerd, doesn’t the plant’s common name “duckweed” cause you to wonder, just for a second? Maybe the plant earned its moniker for smothering countless mallards? No, no, it’s that ducks the world over like to eat the protein-rich flower.
Those ducks weren’t struggling, they were feasting. So were the turtles.
All I could conclude is that the reporter was desperate for a lead or the pond fauna are playing proxy to justify someone else’s urban park aesthetic. Fine if you don’t like the looks of duckweed, but don’t pin it on the fat and happy animals.
More to come as I a pick apart the Lily Pond frog story…”A tiny pond near the mouth of Golden Gate Park is host to as many as 10,000 invasive African clawed frogs so voracious they’re a threat to the entire state’s rivers and bays. They’ve consumed the pond’s other frogs and fish, and have taken to eating each other…”