An LSU AgCenter water resources scientist is testing whether a plant native to Lake Pontchartrain can be used help keep water clean in and around the lake.

Carol Franze, who has a joint appointment with Louisiana Sea Grant, said the submerged plants, known as Vallisneria Americana, take up sediments and pollutants in water.

“The plants grow well in fresh water, but must be totally submerged to stay alive,” she said. Franze is using coconut fiber mats in predator-proof cages to grow the plants 18 to 20 inches below the water surface in a pond at the Agricultural Center’s Hammond Research Station.

The goal of the project is to measure the amount of nutrients the vegetation removes from the pond and to grow and sustain populations of this threatened species for transplanting into suitable habitat in and around Lake Pontchartrain to keep water in compliance with the 1972 Clean Water Act, Franze said.

The project includes regular water sampling to measure water-quality above and below the vegetated areas.

Franze said 4-H Clubs and other student groups will be involved in transplanting these plants into the lake and nearby tributaries. In addition, she said, these groups and their teachers will be taught how to grow the plants in greenhouses or freshwater ponds and the plant’s role and function of these plants in the ecosystem.

The project is funded by the Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Program, Franze said.